It’s best to think of the hotdish recipe as a ratio: one part meat (fake meats, like seitan, or even fish will work just fine) to one part starch to one part vegetable. A binder is helpful—a can of creamy soup is the juggernaut of the genre—but not necessary. I’m boldly omitting it here because: bacon fat.
- In a frying pan over medium-high heat, sauté the bacon until it browns. Remove the bacon from the pan, reserving the fat in the pan.
- In the same frying pan over medium-high heat, cook half of the onion in the reserved bacon fat until it is softened and slightly caramelized, then add all of the corn and cook until it is very lightly caramelized. Add the bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. A dash of hot sauce is good here. Set aside.
- Lightly sauté the other half of the diced onion in the olive oil or butter (or bacon fat if any remains) and then add the garlic. Add the ground beef and the tomato paste, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Here is ostensibly the only potentially difficult part of this recipe, since it relies on having leftover mashed potatoes around. Good ones. But if you don’t, don’t panic: This is where the Tater Tots come in.
- In a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch casserole dish, layer the beef and then the corn mixture. Add the potatoes and spread them like cake frosting, or alternatively add enough Tater Tots to completely cover everything underneath. Bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.