Pot pie + tater tots = tot pie
Every now and then, an idea comes to mind that won’t go away. That’s what happened with this recipe. The idea popped up one day in a conversation about chicken pot pies and tater tots. It wouldn’t be denied. I think most sportsmen agree that venison is tasty, and many people enjoy tater tots. So it was natural to combine the two.
Winters in the Carolinas typically aren’t harsh, but some days, the weather gets raw. So it’s nice to have some warm, comfort food. This is comfort food at its best. It’s another way to use some of the venison harvested before deer season closed.
Most years, I feature a soup or stew in January. Those can be left in the hunting shack in a crock pot, set to serve when you return from a morning or afternoon afield. This takes a little more time to prepare but warms well. So leftovers can still be carried to the hunting or fishing camp. And it’s just a little more fun to eat. Most hunters like venison, creamy soups and tater tots. This recipe combines those in a mixture that is good. It’s also good for you, and tends to create humorous conversations regarding the combination.
This is a good recipe for new venison eaters
Many hunters would eat venison at every meal. But children, wives and other significant others often require more variety. This is a nice option that often gets youngsters or squeamish adults to try venison because they like tater tots. It’s a nice, full-flavored mixture. The recipe includes fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers and cream of mushroom soup.
This recipe is good anytime, but especially so for those cold, winter days. It’s a good substitute for chili while watching basketball on TV. I make this with ground venison. But I expect it would also be tasty using the trimmings from cleaning and processing a deer that are usually saved as stew meat. As with any recipes, adjust the seasoning or any ingredient to suit personal tastes. This mixture makes two pies. And the reason you need to make two will become fully apparent once you taste it.
Venison tot pie
Welcome to another fun installment of Captain Jerry’s fun foods from game and fish. I guess it’s possible to not enjoy this, but you would have to not like either venison or tater tots. They’re pretty much the two ingredients that shouldn’t change. But you can adjust the others to better suit personal tastes.
My wife laughs whenever I mention using tater tots in a recipe. But she began slowly coming around to liking this when I showed her how the tots formed the pie crust. She still picks out all the jalapenos, which is one of the reasons I use brightly colored bell peppers instead of green. I also think the brightly colored bell peppers tend to be milder and sweeter than the green ones.
A friend said I was only making venison chili and pouring it into a tater tot crust. That’s an interesting idea but isn’t correct. This has more of a beef-stew flavor, but I think chili would be an excellent filler for the tater tot crust.
This dish is very filling
This is filling and warming, which makes it ideal for a meal or snack on a cold, January day. If you would prefer a more robust taste, add another jalapeno, some cayenne pepper or maybe some hot sauce. I add the hot sauce on my plate. This goes well with Valentina and Trader Joe’s Chili Pepper sauces. The Trader Joe’s sauce has more of a vinegar base, while there is almost no vinegar taste in the Valentina sauce.
If everything isn’t eaten at the first meal, this reheats well. But it seems to respond better to a slow warming at 250 degrees in the oven. The microwave tends to make the tater tots a bit soggy. I warm this slowly and let it take 30 minutes or so to get up to temperature in the oven.
I prefer to cook the stove-top part in a cast-iron pot. It works better for browning the meat, sautéing the vegetables and bringing the ingredients up to temperature while mixing the bouillon throughout. Cast iron distributes the heat; there aren’t hot spots right over the burner rings at medium and medium high settings.
Keep this recipe in mind and give it a try sometime this winter when you would ordinarily cook a soup or stew. I guarantee it will warm you up and it’s a good hearty and filling combination.
1 pound ground venison
1 large bag of tater tots
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pack of fresh, sliced mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large sweet onion
1 bell pepper, red, orange or yellow
2 jalapeno peppers
4 slices mild cheddar cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Roasted Beef Base
Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning
Coarse ground black pepper
Non-stick cooking spray
9-inch, deep-dish Pyrex pie plate, deep frying pan
Lightly defrost 5 cups of tater tots (until they are soft enough to compress). Preheat oven to temperature suggested in tater tots’ instructions. Spray pie plate with non-stick coating, then cover bottom with tater tots and compress to approximately half thickness to form the bottom crust. Use partial tots to fill any holes. Stand tater tots on end around edge of pie plate and add 6 to 8 loose tots in the bottom of the plate. Cook tater tots two-thirds of the time suggested in the instructions.
Chop the onion, bell pepper, jalapenos and mushrooms. Mix garlic with venison and season with Cavender’s and black pepper, then lightly brown venison in deep cast iron frying pan. Remove venison from pan and set aside. Pour off venison drippings except for enough to lightly cover the bottom of the frying pan. Season peppers and onions with Cavender’s and black pepper (to taste) and sauté in venison drippings. Add mushrooms to peppers and onions and stir often for a minute or two.
This dish makes up a complete meal
Drain the tomatoes and add them, the cream of mushroom soup and the Better Than Bouillon to the vegetables in the frying pan. Stir the mixture well, then slowly stir in the venison until all is mixed well. Cook on medium, stirring often, until warm all the way through. Spoon the venison and vegetable mixture into the pie plate to the top of the tater tots ringing the pan and bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the tater tots.
Cover the pie filling (but not tots) with cheese and place the extra tots saved from earlier on the cheese, then put the pie back in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and allow the pie to set for 3 to 5 minutes before serving. Serve while warm.
This is actually a complete meal in itself. I like salads and usually begin with a green salad or lettuce wedge. A warm roll or slice of hearty bread is also a good addition. I usually forgo the bread and save room for a slice of warm pecan or apple pie for dessert. Don’t forget a scoop of ice cream on the pie.
Click here for more recipes from our Cooking on the Wild Side column.