I have a secret.
I love tater tots.
I know- shocking. I hope we can still be friends.
Just as hilarious and ironic is that while I write this post, I am waiting for the delivery of 50 heritage breed chickens that my husband and I are raising for part of next winter's meat supply. Equally funny is that I've spent years creating wholesome and nutritious meals and baked goods, from locally and seasonally sourced products. Regardless, every now and then I crave crunchy, fluffy, artificial, factory-made, tot goodness.
4 cups tater tots, thawed
1 large onion
2 cups green beans
1-2 fcups shredded cheddar cheese
3 pounds ground chuck
For the gravy:
1/3 cup meat drippings
1/3 cup all purpose flour
5-6 cups chicken stock, heated to boiling
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400. Place the tots in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and process until the tots are broken into little pieces. Meanwhile, mince the onion and green beans. (I did this step in a food processor.)
Mix together the meat, tater tots, onion, beans, and cheese. Using an ice cream, or portion scoop, form the mixture into balls, place on a sheet pan prepared with parchment paper. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. (My meatballs were larger and needed the time. If yours are smaller, you'll need less time in the oven.)
Once they're done, remove to a plate and scrape the drippings into a sauce pot on medium/high heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Add the stock and whisk until smooth and thick. The hotter your stock is, the fewer lumps you will have.
This method can be adapted to your family's needs, and what you have handy. For those of you with picky eaters, its also a deliciously sneaky way to get more vegetables into your children's diets! Have fun!
Opening the big Frigidaire, my eye fell on a half-empty bag of thawed tater tots. Snatching them out, I turned to my tablet to search for a recipe using the 4 cups or so of tots I had on hand. Amazingly, the only thing I could find under the category of "tater tot casserole" was roughly 37 different versions of tots, cubed white chicken, shredded cheese and canned cream of mushroom soup, mixed together, dumped into a pan, and baked.
Sad, I know.
During my time in culinary school, it was all the rage to take a classic comfort food, deconstruct it, and turn it into haute cuisine- suitable for a fine dining establishment. Having found nothing acceptable on the internet, I decided to create something new, using the same technique. Digging further into the crowded refrigerator, I emerged with several items that would do for my use. An idea formed in my mind and I ran with it: Shepard's Pie Meatballs!
Shepard's pie is a humble country dish, eaten historically throughout the British Isles. Essentially a meat stew covered with mashed potatoes and baked, shepard's pie can be adapted to any kind of meat, with any kind of dozens of vegetable add-ins- depending on what you like and what you have available.
In some cultures, meatballs are also considered comfort food, but for my family, they are more of a luxury, since they take so much time to assemble. The following recipe uses only what I had on hand. I also thought I'd make a complete meal by serving the meatballs over pasta with gravy, but of course they can go into rolls, over rice, polenta, or even more mashed potatoes with any kind of sauce- or not!