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Recipe Tin Project: Tater Tot Burger Dish

A retro casserole with some unusual additions.

The fun of The Recipe Tin Project (a project where I cook my way through a vintage recipe tin) is that you come across recipes that you otherwise wouldn’t find in this day and age – Jellied Chicken Gumbo or Grapenuts Custard, for instance. The not-so-fun part is that sometimes they’re things that fell out of fashion for a reason (savory jello salads, I’m looking at you). This Tater Tot Burger Dish is one with some questionable ingredients and I don’t see it making a comeback anytime soon, but nevertheless, it was a fun experiment!

Now, tater tots and ground beef seem like a pretty natural pair, but I was perplexed as soon as I saw the recipe card. Condensed milk? Sugar sprinkled over the vegetables? Surely there must be a good reason for their inclusion… or surely there is some sort of condensed milk out there that isn’t sweetened. But try as I might, I could only find sweetened condensed milk, and I couldn’t find any evidence that there was unsweetened condensed milk in a bygone era. I thought maybe the recipe creator meant to use evaporated milk, but I pressed on with what the card said rather than use my better judgement.

And my fears were realized. While this would be a totally tasty casserole if it relied on evaporated milk or cream or just basic milk, the condensed milk rendered it far too sweet and the additional sugar sprinkled over the frozen veggies was just mindbogglingly unnecessary. I’m all for a savory-sweet balance, but here things tipped way too far in favor of the sweet.

With a project such as this, you win some, and you lose some. (I’ll let you decide which category this one falls into.) The good news is it’s always fun to try out a retro casserole and with a few simple swaps this one could easily be a family-friendly favorite. I’ll always wonder about the inclusion of the added sugar and the sweetened condensed milk here, but it was a good reminder of how well tater tots pair with a meatloaf-like mixture.

Serves 6

10m prep time

1h cook time

4.5
Rated 4.5 out of 5
Rated by 2 reviewers
Ingredients
  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 package frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 package tater tots
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix meat, oatmeal, salt, pepper, egg, and milk together. Pat into an 8x8-inch baking dish.
  3. Cover with peas and carrots. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of sugar and pour mushroom soup over the top.
  4. Top with tater tots and bake for 1 hour.