My buddy Anthony Campbell loves the outdoors, is an old ink-in-the-blood newspaper guy and like me, doesn’t miss too many meals.
He’s the editor of a wonderful small town newspaper that, when I was in college 30 years ago, was part of our “Community News” class studies. It’s the epitome of local, hometown news. It’s written in conversational tone: Merle telling the guys at the cafe about a deer hunt, or the local courthouse trial, or someone’s friends from out of state visiting for the summer holiday.
One photo I recall from college in the paper was of a dead possum on the side of the road. The state striping crew didn’t remove it before laying the paint stripe down. Caution stripe right over the deceased marsupial. Classic. But that’s local news. That’s what people would talk about.
Campbell writes an outdoors column now and then. Deer, fishing, small game, whatever he gets into. He’s also compiled a book of his turkey hunting columns. Anyone who hunts gobblers knows it’s an addiction and he’s roped in pretty hard.
C’mon man, let’s eat!
Campbell’s lovely wife is a fine cook, and one of their favorite dishes is Tater Tot Casserole. I asked Campbell if I could reprint it, albeit using ground venison instead of beef, and he graciously agreed.
This may be the easiest thing to whip up. It took me about 20 minutes to sauté the onions and brown the ground venison, and then mix those with the other ingredients in the casserole dish. It would be super at deer camp for a trove of hungry hunters or teenagers.
Ground venison is, of course, one of our favorite things because of its versatility. You can make tasty jerky snacks with it, create some awesome sausage with a smoker or turn up the volume at holidays with awesome venison appetizers. Everyone loves to use it for deer chili, obviously, and venison burgers are super duper anytime of the year.
Venison Tater Tot Casserole
Ground venison, 1.5 pounds
Small onion chopped
1 12-ounce can Cream of Mushroom soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 ounces sour cream
Salt, pepper to taste
Tater tots, unfrozen and uncooked
Saute diced onion with ground venison.* Drain if needed. Mix the venison and onions with the Cream of Mushroom soup, cheese, sour cream and desired salt-pepper. Mix these ingredients well, then layer in casserole dish.** Layer the tater tots on top.*** Bake at about 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until tater tots are crispy.
* I added about a tablespoon of olive oil with the onions and venison, mostly out of habit. My wife had some dried oregano flakes and dried Italian seasoning on the counter. I added about a teaspoon of both.
** We have some Corningware casserole dishes but I opted for our oval ceramic dish (see above photo). It’s thicker and I think retains a little more heat, so you could trim the cooking time. But whatever casserole dish works best for you is the one to use. And if you suggest anything to your wife while she’s cooking, beware. She may bean you with a spoon.
*** I added an extra thin layer of shredded cheddar between the mix and the tots, and then another sprinkle of cheddar on top of the tots. What can I say? I love cheddar. It also bakes well atop the tots.