As an incentive for the kids, a sure hit at a potluck dinner, or a nacho-like snack for parties, this Mexican tater tot casserole has flavors that please almost everyone. Top-quality ingredients in your salsa and fresh sour cream will promote the taste from popular to outstanding, so be sure to make enough. With a diverse crowd, you can cook a pan of mild, one of medium and one of spicy or use two rows of tater tots as walls between sections. Don't skimp on the cheese!
This dish combines all your favorite taco flavors with popular tater tot crunch to provide a dish which can be served like a casserole in whatever portion sizes you'd like. It makes a nice family-sized dish but, as you'll see, it can be made potluck-sized with a few sauce variations to make it a crowd-pleaser. For the family-sized casserole, you'll need these:
The tater tots can be cooked separately before they are added to the dish if you want to provide extra crispiness to the final product. They do just fine if you let them cook into the mix straight from the package, though. As a variation, consider substituting loose or formed hash browns
Flavorful beef is the base ingredient for this dish -- make sure it's cooked until there's no pink left. Chop up a yellow onion and dice a clove of garlic, add them to the browned beef. Stir in taco flavoring, which can be homemade or in prepared form sold in recipe-sized envelopes. Add the drained black beans and Mexican corn and simmer for ten minutes.
Toss the ground beef and bean mixture with the tater tots and all but a quarter of the cheese. Spray the bottom of a pan about 9x13 inches; glass looks nicer for direct to table or potluck delivery. Coat the pan with a third of the can of enchilada sauce, then spread the tater tot and beef mixture and press it down gently. Spread the rest of the sauce on top.
Guacamole can play a part in your recipe, or it can be a star depending on the kind you select. Simple, smooth avocado is delicious by itself, but guacamole can include chunks plus a bit of fresh onion, lime juice, pepper, garlic, and cilantro to announce itself when diners take a bite of your casserole.
While enchilada sauce spreads the spicy, saucy tomato flavor throughout the dish, salsa as a top layer adds a fresh combination of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and herbs which makes your casserole taste like you used ingredients from your own garden. Make your salsa or buy prepared, but make sure that it has a fresh taste, so the casserole has that build-it-yourself taco energy.
Use your favorite cheeses or a classic Mexican blend. You mixed some into the ground beef already, and you'll add some to the top five minutes before cooking is done. A typical dish for the home will use one 12-ounce bag of cheese divided for the two destinations, but your family may shout for more.
Most fans of Mexican food look for the sour cream either as a side or a topping on the prepared dish. You can do the same, but make sure either way, there's plenty for those who are looking for it. It provides flavor, counters the spiciness, and offers a cool contrast to the warm dish.
Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F for 40 minutes, then pull the dish out and add the remaining 1/4 of the cheese to the top. Put the casserole back in for five minutes to melt and slightly brown the cheese. Before serving, top with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa, or just provide them as sides.
This presentation works better if you're doubling the recipe and using a larger food-service-sized baking dish. Use three different types of enchilada sauce to separately coat the bottom of the pan and top of the mixture respectively. Provide two rows of tater tots to divide the three flavor sections, and let your diners know that they have a choice depending on where they scoop. You can vary the salsa accordingly to coordinate, too.
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