Not Your Mama's Tater Tot Casserole



1 lb. ground sirloin
1 lb. ground chicken breast
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt & Freshly ground black pepper
1 (10¾ oz.) can cheddar cheese soup
2 (10¾ oz.) cans cream of potato soup
Splash of milk
2 (15 oz.) cans peas with pearl onions
2 c. shredded Colby jack cheese
1 (32 oz.) bag tater tots

Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, combine the ground sirloin and ground chicken breast, stirring and breaking up the pieces to combine. Brown the combined meat over medium heat until thoroughly cooked through. (Note: When using leaner meats like ground chicken or turkey breast and/or ground sirloin, it is not necessary to drain and rinse the meat as it is already quite lean. You’ll know that the meat is cooked through when nearly all of the liquid in the bottom of the pan has cooked off.) During the last minute or so of cooking, add the minced garlic and stir to combine; let the garlic cook in the mixture, stirring frequently, for a minute or two. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over the meat when it is done cooking and stir to combine; remove from the heat.
Drain the peas with pearl onions in a colander to drain off all of the liquid. In the same pan as the cooked ground meat, stir in the cheddar cheese and cream of potato soups. To thin out the mixture a little bit, if needed, add a little bit of milk. (You don’t want the mixture to be really soupy, because it’s going to cook and thin out a little more anyways.) Fold the peas with pearl onions into the mixture and pour into an 11  x 8-inch baking dish (2 quarts). Using a spatula, even out the mixture, and then sprinkle the top with 1 cup of the shredded cheese; arrange the tater tots on top of the cheese-covered mixture and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until the meat and vegetable mixture is heated through and the tater tots are golden brown. Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, return to the oven and bake an additional 5 - 10 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted. Serve hot.