We spent the weekend in Lansing, Michigan, for the Michigan State Science Olympiad Tournament. My son has participated on his middle school team the last two years. This has been a great thing for him. It was his birthday Friday so we had cake an ice cream in the hotel lobby for him with the other Science Olympiad kids and parents that were in the hotel. We always struggle with birthdays for him. He has had a class party twice. Once when he was 3 and the other he was 11. When he was little we would do family events so we could invite parents and kids from the neighborhood or we knew from other places to celebrate with us. He never really felt he had friends to invite. This was the first year he actually said to us, “I have friends.” It made me smile and tear-up when he said that.
Though his team only placed in two events it was a great learning experience for him this year. He had a day where everything that could go wrong, went wrong and he was frustrated. But, by dinner time he was over being upset and could look back on the day and say he learned something new and was ready to think about next year. A meltdown did not happen today, he was able to slowly start to see that he could only go up next year and he was able to look at the day objectively by the end and say, “I did what I could to do my best but somethings just don’t work out.” YES! And he was already thinking about what he didn’t know for his events this year such as “If two powders are mixed together how can I test them to know what they are if I cannot differentiate between them?”
So, dinner was late and my take on this recipe was born out of necessity. I had asked my partner to take out ground beef for dinner tonight. When I arrived home there was a package of Italian sausage thawed and no ground beef. UGH! So after a quick panic I thought well it can’t hurt to try it. I changed the recipe a bit and this is what we had. This recipe is based on the Cowboy Casserole from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary (click for link to original recipe).
Okay, this looks horrible when it is served. It has a gray/brown dog food look about it. Even sprinkling it with parsley and some extra cheese did not improve its appearance. But, it tasted fantastic. The Italian sausage added another who new flavor level to this dish. The kids actually like it better made like this than with ground beef.
I served this with green beans and a green side salad to complete the meal.
Italian Sausage Cowboy Casserole
- 1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage, cooked and broken up into small bits
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (15.25 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 6 tablespoons of flour
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 1 cup of heavy cream or 1/2 and 1/2
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded ( I use whatever I have on hand – last night a bit of Munster, Cheddar and Mozzarella)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 bag (30 oz) frozen tater tots
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.
- In a large skillet cook the sausage until no longer pink. Remove the sausage from the skillet and drain off all but 1-2 tablespoons of the fat. Add onion and cook until tender and translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Place into a large bowl with the drained meat and set aside.
- While meat cooks, in a saucepan over medium-low heat melt the butter. Slowly whisk in the flour until it become thick. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Then slowly whisk in the chicken stock and then the heavy cream. Allow to cook until it becomes thick like gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool.
- In a small bowl combine the mixture from step number 2, Worcestershire sauce and sour cream. Whisk until smooth.
- Add to sausage mixture and stir to combine. Add corn and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Gently mix to combine. If mixture is too thick add extra sour cream to make is spreadable in the pan.
- In the prepared casserole dish layer half of the tater tots on the bottom, pour the sausage mixture over the top and then layer with the other half of the tater tots. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake at 350 for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy.