We went to a wonderful potluck dinner Sunday night. I was introduced to our host’s daughter as “Rachel. She’s a food blogger.” Can I just say how cool that made me feel?!
I wonder, is it just me, or does food taste better at a potluck (especially if there’s fried or BBQ’s chicken)? At our meal, there was: BBQ’d chicken, 2 kinds of sausage, green bean casserole, my newly invented Tater-Not Casserole, and for dessert one of the best fruit crisps I’ve ever had (my husband agreed – he said he hoped I didn’t mind, but he liked it better than mine. I didn’t, because I did too.)
I don’t know if this was wise, but I decided to not try out a new recipe for this event, but to come up with a new dish and serve it to people we hardly knew (and hoped would be invited to hang out with again). I’d written down a few ideas, I’d researched what was in Tater-Tot Casserole, so knew in general the elements I needed (potato, creamy, vegetable, maybe meat), but I hadn’t really planned it out. Dinner was at 5, and at 3:40 I figured I should get started (um, 30 minutes ago, but it was a nice day, so we went for a walk with the dog). Fast forward through all 5 burners on at once, potato on every kitchen surface, piles of cheese, all pans dirty, husband taking photos, husband doing dishes (heart), bechamel not thickening, forgetting about the balsamic, not burning the bacon… to a completed dish, with zero minutes to spare before we had to be out the door.
It had broccoli on the bottom, which was covered with cheese sauce (or bechamel, if you want to pretend you know what you’re talking about like I do), topped with a combination of hash browns and mashed potatoes that had been mixed with the rest of the bechamel, which was topped with bacon, caramelized onions and garlic, that was topped with reduced balsamic vinegar (that thankfully didn’t burn in the frenzy). I had tasted most layers individually, but not the finished product. I just figured that almost anything is better with bacon, so if it was bad, maybe no one would know. Judging from the two scoops that were left in the 9×13 dish, it was surprisingly edible.
This recipe is for Kristy W., who requested my version of Tater-Tot Casserole.
- 8 medium red potatoes, grated
- 1 1/2 C mashed potatoes (I used leftovers that I had in the freezer)
- 4 C broccoli, cut in chunks
- 2 C sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 C Greek yogurt
- 2 C 1% milk
- salt, pepper
- 1 T chili powder
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 T agave
- 2 T flour
- 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 T
- 2 strips bacon, chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 C balsamic vinegar
- Grate potatoes. Rinse and wring out water (using a clean tea towel – beware, this will leave potato all over the towel, use something else if you don’t want this to happen!). Heat 1/4 C oil in large pan. Add potato and cook covered, stirring occasionally and scraping crispy bits off the bottom, about 15 minutes. Add mashed potatoes and heat through.
- While potatoes cook: Cook bacon. When it’s almost done, add onion and agave. Cook 5 min, then add garlic.
- Also while potatoes cook: Steam broccoli (1 C water in bottom of pan, broccoli in steamer basket, cover and cook about 5-10 min – until broccoli is tender).
- Another thing to do while potatoes cook: heat 2 T oil, add 2 T flour; whisk and cook 30-60 seconds. Slowly add milk, whisking as you do. Add chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Once it’s thickened, add yogurt. Turn off heat and whisk in cheese.
- And the last thing to do while the potatoes cook: Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil. Do not let it burn! Just simmer until it’s thickened and syrupy.
- Taste the bechamel (cheese sauce) and add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
- Assemble: grease a 9×13 pan. Add broccoli and toss with 1 C bechamel, mix the remaining bechamel into potato mixture and spoon over broccoli layer. Top it with onion and bacon mixture and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
To make this simpler, leftovers can be used: broccoli, hashbrowns, mashed potatoes, even the bechamel can be made ahead of time and reheated. Balsamic can be made in large batches and stored in the fridge. Bacon can be cooked and crumbled and frozen. If you use leftovers, assemble like above and heat in the oven until it reaches at least 160F.
Oh, you could also use Tater-Tots if you wanted to make really simple. 🙂