Casserole magic: Molly Yeh's cozy "totdish" is a midwestern classic with a modern twist

This tater tot hotdish is like a weighted blanket for your tastebuds

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published December 22, 2022 6:01PM (EST)

Tater Tots (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Tater Tots (Mary Elizabeth Williams)

In "Quick & Dirty," Salon Food's Mary Elizabeth Williams serves up simplified recipes and shortcuts for exhausted cooks just like you — because quick and dirty should still be delicious.

I was late to the casserole party. I grew up in a very small, and frankly, antisocial household. I think I was in college before I even had lasagna.

Though the pleasures of baked, bubbling things were supposedly an acquired taste, I took to them right away. There's no better reason to make it a casserole night than when it's cold outside, and you want to gather loved ones close for something cozy (preferably involving tater tots).

In Molly Yeh's second cookbook, "Home Is Where the Eggs Are," the "Girl Meets Farm" star takes the midwestern classic hotdish and offers a variety of relaxed, modern interpretations for hungry families. It goes without saying that her already famous tater tot version makes a prominent appearance. Tater tots are, after all, the only thing better than French fries.

Traditional hotdish typically involves canned soup along with meat, a vegetable and some form of starch. Yeh's version stays true to its convenience food roots but relies on a speedy homemade sauce. To adjust for my family's preferred tastes, I've made a few small tweaks (substituting ground turkey for ground beef and edamame for frozen green beans) and skipped making a roux.

In an effort to get everything in the oven even faster, I also make the sauce while the meat cooks. I may not be midwestern, but somehow, hotdish makes me feel nostalgic and incredibly American.

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As an added bonus, it's easy to transport this hotdish to a potluck. You can freeze it ahead to break out when you don't know what to make for dinner, or throw it together in a flash for a fuss-free evening. Whichever journey you choose, when you're rushing around in an end-of-the-year frenzy of things to do and places to be, tater tot hotdish is a sanity saver.

Here's the best endorsement I can offer this delicacy: I recently made it one evening after I'd been to the doctor for a bunch of blood draws, and I swear it brought me back to life. Topped with a very vigorous shake of chipotle Tabasco, "totdish" is like medicine, and followed with a chocolate mousse chaser, it's definitely an antidepressant.

* * *

Inspired by "Home Is Where the Eggs Are: Farmhouse Food for the People You Love" by Molly Yeh

Tater Tot Hotdish, aka "Totdish"
Prep Time
 10 minutes
Cook Time
 30 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (See Cook's Notes)
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 cup frozen edamame
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth and 1 cup pale ale (or 2 cups chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (See Cook's Notes)
  • 1 bag (32 ounces) tater tots
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 4-5 slices Swiss cheese



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring every so often, until it softens, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the meat and salt and pepper, continuing to stir now and then to brown. Add the edamame.
  4. While the meat is cooking, heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the broth (and ale, if using) and then the cream, stirring to heat through and thicken a little.
  5. When the meat is browned, evenly pour it into a 9x13 baking pan. Top with the broth mixture. (If you're going for it, top with the Swiss cheese.)
  6. Top the mixture with the tater tots, evenly laid out in the pan.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or so, until the tots are crisp and golden. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

Cook's Notes

You can customize this all sorts of ways, adding in your own favorite proteins and veggies.

If you don't have any fresh thyme handy, substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. You can also swap the vegetable oil for olive oil.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Comfort Food Food Hotdish Molly Yeh Quick & Dirry Recipe Tater Tots