Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Phone Booth/Clown Car Casserole

*Warning: Post contains references which may make author seem older than she appears.

Who here remembers phone booths?  Not in relation to Doctor Who, but those mostly-glass boxes on street corners that would more often than not have no phone book and a telephone that did not work?  I remember them too, but I never used one because by the time I would have had somebody important to call, they'd gone obsolete (the phone booth, that is.  Not the person I wanted to call).

Apparently, waaay before my time, it was a fad to pack as many people as possible into a phone booth.  It looked something like this:

Photo courtesy of
I can't think of anything I'd rather do less than cram myself (along with 20-30 people I don't know very well and who probably haven't been tested for diseases) into a space that is designed for one person, maybe two, and a decent amount of oxygen.  This here is NOT the choice way I'd spend my crazy college weekend.

But it was the Fifties, so...

While we're discussing cramming, how about the image of clown cars?  You know, about 20 gaily dressed clowns emerging out of a teeny tiny little car?  They just keep coming and coming and coming...right?  Same weird concept.  Random rubbing up awkwardly against people, but this time, they're wearing wigs and garish makeup and huge shoes.

Apply this stuffing/cramming/crowding/overfilling concept to a casserole.  How many random vegetables can one person stuff into a Tater Tot Casserole?  That's the the answer I went in search of earlier this week.

For the record, I could live the rest of my life without eating TTC.  Not that I hate it, but it's just sort not what I'm about anymore, you know?  However, my two sons (14 and 9) love Tater Tot Casserole, and I try to honor their request about every fifth time they ask.  The recipe itself is pretty basic...cream of mushroom soup, milk or sour cream, hamburger, green beans, and tater any mixture/layer/configuration you can think of.  Some recipes I saw online omit the green beans.  Some omit the hamburger.  But none of them dare leave out the tater tots.  The only representative from the vegetable category is the green bean, if it's included, and the tater tot...and that's a stretch.

Obviously, this dish is in need of some renovation, yeah?

On the bottom is a layer of french cut green beans (an entire 1-lb bag).  I grated some carrots and diced onions for a mirepoix of sorts.  Then, Spencer browned these veg and the hamburger while Elliot mixed together a can of cream of mushroom and a cup of homemade pumpkin puree (which I'd done way back - what? - last month?)  That's the orange cast in the mix you're seeing there.

The boys then layered the tots on top.

The males in my house would now be perfectly content to eat this casserole as is.  However, it wasn't enough vegetable for me.  So, I sauteed a bit of garlic with some turnip greens I had in the fridge for a quick little side dish.

Clown Car Stats are as follows:

Original vegetable count: 1 (Green beans - I AM NOT counting the tater tots)
New vegetable count: 4 (Onion, carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans)

The next time I try this, I think I'll go for six...really pack that phone booth.

1 comment:

  1. Waaaaay better than the original!

    I have a friend from Minnesota who refers to this as "Tater Tot Hot Dish." Usually, we are in-sync with our Midwestern food, but replacing "casserole" with "hot dish" makes me think she's totally off her rocker.