Somewhere deep in the crevices of my mind lives a farm girl with messy hair, muddy overalls and well-worn leather boots. Maybe that’s why tater tots hold a dear place in my heart. No one can resist a plate of these crispy, salty little barrel-shaped potato concoctions. They’re good any way, any time, but I like them best on top of shepherd’s pie. Juicy, seasoned beef and vegetables topped with crispy, cheesy tater tots are everyone’s favorite thing for dinner any night of the week. Hold on to your chuckwagon, folks, because we’re making Cowboy Skillet tonight!
Cast Iron Basics
Before you start cooking, you’ll need a good cast iron pan. Every household should have at least one and, I say, at least one, because you really should have another one reserved for baking.
Cast iron may be one of the earliest forms of cookware, but, surprisingly, it could be intimidating for the home cook. It’s heavy and can rust, but, with proper care, your family will fight over it when you’re dead.
Most cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned, which means the metal has been treated with a vegetable oil or wax to prevent it from rusting while it sits on the shelf, waiting for you.
The skillet will actually get better with use, because the flavors of food cooking will soak into the metal over the years. For this reason, sweet and savory things cannot be cooked in the same pan. So, spend the 20 bucks and get yourself two, one for cooking and the other for baking.
A cast iron skillet is inexpensive, tough, durable and nonstick if seasoned properly. They’re ideal for searing steaks at high heat. Food cooks more evenly, so it’s less likely to burn in a cast iron pan. Plus, you get the added bonus of boosting your iron intake.
Cast iron is very heavy. Take extra care when handling cast iron cookware. This sounds silly to mention, but better to be silly than you break your foot.
The handle will get as hot as the rest of the pan. Again, seems obvious, but, these days, we’re used to grabbing the pan handle without giving it a second thought. Cast iron will burn you. Always have a tea towel or oven mitt handy.
Cast iron cookware is not dishwasher friendly. It will rust if you get it wet. The best way to clean cast iron with by scrubbing it with oil and salt, wiping the residue with paper towels. Do not use dish soap unless you love the taste of soap.
Feeds: 6 starving wranglers
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Bake: 15 mins
5 cloves garlic
1 lb crimini mushrooms
1 lb pasture-raised ground beef
splash of Worcestershire sauce
splash of cream sherry
1 tsp fresh oregano
1 Tb tomato paste
2 tsp red pepper paste (optional)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 lbs or 4 cups tater tots
1 cup shredded cheese
sour cream, BBQ sauce or Ranch dressing
fresh avocado slices
Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the skillet.
Peel and chop an onion.
Sautee til brown.
Mince the garlic and set aside.
Once the onions have darkened in color, add the garlic.
Finely mince the mushrooms and fry along with the garlic and onion.
Add meat, if using, and cook til nicely browned.
Add Worcestershire sauce, cream sherry, oregano, tomato paste and red pepper paste, if using and a bay leaf.
Season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and simmer 15-20 mins, if you have the time.
Heat the oven to 400*F.
Add frozen peas to the mix and top with frozen tater tots.
Grab an oven mitt and transfer the skillet to the oven.
Bake 20-25 mins til the potatoes have turned golden in color.
Use an oven mitt to take the skillet out, top with shredded cheese and return to the oven another 5 mins, just to melt the cheese.
Remove from the oven.
Slice the scallions and sprinkle over the skillet.
Serve with sour cream, BBQ sauce, ranch dressing and/or avocado slices.
Don’t eat meat? No worries. Omit the meat and Worcestershire sauce which contains anchovies to make it vegan. Crimini mushrooms minced finely are meaty enough to make this dish hearty.
Can You Hear the Fiddle?
Food just tastes better when cooked in cast iron. A cast iron Dutch oven comes in handy for making bread at home. The skillet, though, always brings to mind a couple of cowboys sitting around a campfire. An old pan imparts interesting flavors from past dishes. Start yours off with this Cowboy Skillet tonight. It’ll just keep tasting better every time you make it. This here is meat & taters done right, y’all!