Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole

casserole

Who needs an easy weeknight meal? Everyone, yes?!

I think we have all seen variations of a tater tot casserole – meat on the bottom, covered in cheese, topped with tots and baked.  This is no exception, but I am pretty proud of it.

I like a good Sloppy Joe now and then, the tangy almost-BBQ style sauce is a familiar, comforting flavor.  However, a Sloppy Joe sandwich presents a problem to me… soggy bread.  I am a hard pass on soggy bread. So to me, replacing bread with tater tots was a moment of brilliance. 😉

Will was challenged with the sauce recipe.  He played around and this one is our hands-down favorite.  It does closely resemble a BBQ sauce with the tang and sweet heat and utilizes ingredients that we consider pantry staples.  Perfect for a weeknight throw-down dinner.

Here’s my challenge to you: please enjoy this Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole.  But then, think about the ways you could change up the meat (Italian sausage or ground turkey anyone?), the sauce (is that jar of marinara in the pantry calling to you?) or the cheese (what about a Pepper Jack?) to enjoy a different flavor profile. You could also sneak in some veggies by adding beans or corn as you are sauteing the meat and veggies. Customize the dish to the likes of your family – and let me know how you do it!

Weeknight dinner – COVERED!


Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole

  • 1 pound ground meat
  • Bell or poblano pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1-2 T flour
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (pretty much a 20 oz bottle)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more as needed
  • 1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Frozen tater tots
  • Green onion, sliced for topping

Preheat the oven to 375.

Saute the ground meat, pepper and onion in a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.  As for the pepper – we like a little heat and tend to use poblano peppers in place of green bell peppers.  Coming up, the sauce also calls for red pepper flakes so you can adjust the heat level easily by either using bell peppers here or adding/removing the red pepper flakes later.  Customize the heat levels to your taste!

*Heads up here – you are going to bake the casserole after it comes together.  If you have one available, an oven proof skillet is great way to go here.  You can transfer it right into the oven and not mess with another dish later. I love our Calphalon cookware for this very reason!  If you don’t have an oven proof skillet available, spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray and set it aside for now.

As the meat mixture is cooking, grab a bowl and mix up the sauce ingredients. Whisk together the flour, ketchup, garlic, brown sugar, chili powder, dry mustard, red pepper flakes and Worcestershire.  Once it is all combined, check for seasoning and add salt & pepper as you like.

When the meat is browned and the veggies are softened, stir in the sauce mixture.  Simmer the mixture on low heat for about 10 minutes and check again for seasoning.

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At this point, if you are not using an oven safe skillet transfer the mixture to your prepared 9×13 pan.

Top the casserole with the shredded cheddar cheese, then the frozen tater tots.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the tater tots are toasty and brown.

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Top with the sliced green onions and enjoy!

How will you enjoy this casserole?  Traditional Sloppy Joe?  Or change it up to something like Mexican taco flavor or Italian red sauce and mozzarella cheese?  Let me know!

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Full Recipe

Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole

  • 1 pound ground meat
  • Bell or poblano pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1-2 T flour
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (20 oz bottle)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more as needed
  • 1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Frozen tater tots
  • Green onion, sliced for topping

Preheat oven to 375.

Saute the meat, peppers and onions in a couple tablespoons olive oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.

When the meat is browned and veggies softened, stir the sauce mixture into the meat.

Simmer over medium-low heat, about 10 minutes.

Pour in a 9×13 pan if not using an oven safe skillet.

Top with shredded cheddar and frozen tater tots.

Bake 40-45 minutes.

Top with green onion and serve.

Crawfish Etouffee… but really, Swamp Fries

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Will and I love a good road trip.  It’s one of the best things ever to get in the car and go exploring for the day or pack up for a quick weekend getaway to a more familiar location.  We will make a run to the Hill Country for a boot fitting, aim a little more South to find a new Texas winery, find restaurants or farmer’s markets in Houston, load up Silver Sadie Wonderdog for an overnight beach trip, or head to dozens of other places just a drive away.

One of our favorite roadtrip getaways is in Lake Charles.  Say what you like, but I am a sucker for a good penny slot machine or some video roulette.  Craps and Blackjack tend to call Will’s name. Depending on the weather, our favorite place to stay offers a lazy river to float during the day and a lovely wine and tapas bar with live piano music to wind down in at night.  All that said… it’s never a trip to Lake Charles without a visit into town to Steamboat Bill’s.  The pistolettes are perfect.  The gumbo is amazing.  The winner though?  The Swamp Fries. Cheese fries smothered in shrimp etouffee.

Will may have been just a touch hesitant the first time we ordered them.  Etouffee goes on rice, right?!?  Y’all.  We get these every stinkin’ time now.  The etouffee is so tasty and pairs so well with a crispy, hot cheese fry.  We’ve since made them at home with our own version of a crawfish etouffee and every time they take me right back to Lake Charles.

Did you just hear that slot machine ding???


Crawfish Etouffee – Swamp Fries

  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • ½ cup bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup celery, diced
  • Salt, pepper
  • Cajun seasoning – such as Salt-free Tony Chachere’s
  • ½ stick butter
  • 2-3 drops Tabasco (more, to taste)
  • 1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tsp garlic
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 4-6 cups seafood/chicken stock
  • 1 lb crawfish tails, peeled and deveined
  • 2 bay leaves
  • french fries, shredded cheese, sour cream and green onion for serving

Etouffee is a fairly simple recipe that takes just a little bit of time to bring on big flavors. It’s great post-crawfish boil to use up some leftover tails but you can easily sub in small shrimp instead.

To start, season the diced veggies with salt, pepper and cajun seasoning.  In cajun cooking, these three veggies are known as “the Cajun trinity”.   This combo of veggies is essentially the base for most cajun dishes and more often than not, added to roux as the beginnings of gumbos, soups, stews and jambalayas.  Typically, the bell pepper is the traditional green bell pepper – we often use red, yellow and orange peppers though for their variety in sweetness and color.

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Melt the butter in a skillet until it browns and begins to smell nutty.  You’ll see the fats in the butter starting to foam around the edges as well.  Add the seasoned veggies and saute until they begin to soften.  Add Tabasco, worcestershire and garlic to the skillet and saute another couple of minutes.

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Add the flour to the veggies and cook until it is light brown in color.  Whisk in the stock slowly and carefully to avoid creating lumps in your roux.  Add the crawfish tails and bay leaves.

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Simmer 20-30 minutes, until the etouffee has reached your desired thickness.  Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves when you are done simmering!

You can go traditional and serve with rice…

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…or you can go SWAMP FRIES!  Plate your french fries and top with shredded cheese.  Pour the etouffee over the fries and top with sour cream and diced green onions.

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There you have it – one ticket to Steamboat Bill’s Lake Charles.  Enjoy the ride and let me know how your penny slots pay off 😉


Full Recipe

Crawfish Etouffee

  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • ½ cup bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup celery, diced
  • Salt, pepper
  • Cajun seasoning – such as Salt-free Tony Chachere’s
  • ½ stick butter
  • 2-3 drops Tabasco (more, to taste)
  • 1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tsp garlic
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 4-6 cups seafood/chicken stock
  • 1 lb crawfish tails, peeled and deveined
  • 2 bay leaves

Season chopped veggies with salt, pepper and cajun seasoning.

Melt butter in skillet and brown until it smells nutty.

Add chopped veggies, saute until beginning to soften.

Add tabasco, Worcestershire and garlic to veggies, saute another couple of minutes.

Add flour to the veggies and cook until it is light brown in color.

Whisk in stock carefully to avoid lumps.

Add crawfish tails and bay leaves.

Simmer 20-30 minutes, until it has reached your desired thickness.

      *Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves.

Serve over rice or french fries.

Crawfish Cornbread

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Crawfish boils are one of the best things about springtime. Typically they involve warmer weather, piles of peel-and-eat mudbugs, various veggies that have soaked up all the good spice, dirty rice, lots of napkins, drinks and good friends.  Minus the warm weather, we had all that this past weekend.

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Towards the end of the night, I start hoping for leftovers.  That’s because something tasty comes the day after a boil… Crawfish Cornbread.  This recipe comes from a family friend of Will’s and it has now become a post-boil tradition in our little home. It’s easy to make and makes a potentially forgotten and leftover mudbug shine as a new dinner option.

Fun fact:  Will also won the Friday Night Feast event at a local cookoff with this recipe.  It’s award-winning cornbread!

Do you love a good crawfish boil?  What’s your go-to for leftovers?


Crawfish Cornbread

  • 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp Cajun spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 C cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ C chopped green onions
  • ½ C chopped bell pepper, or small can of diced green chiles
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 lb crawfish tails

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a large bowl, or using a mixer, combine the cornbread mix, melted butter and eggs.

Stir in the creamed corn.  Add the baking soda, Cajun spice*, salt, pepper and shredded cheese.

*For Cajun spice, we tend to use something along the lines of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.  If you are into making your own blends, I like to follow the recipes for Emeril Lagasse’s seasonings.

At this point, I usually take the bowl off the mixer stand and do the rest by hand. Stir in the chopped veggies and the crawfish tails.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9×13 baking dish.

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Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Easy, right?!

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Full Recipe

Crawfish Cornbread

  • 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp Cajun spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 C cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ C chopped green onions
  • ½ C chopped bell pepper, or small can of diced green chiles
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 lb crawfish tails

Mix all ingredients and pour into a prepared baking dish.

Bake at 375 for about 45-50 minutes.