Welcome Wagons

We moved from one small town to another, and in every town two important people made their way to our living room.  The first was a local reporter, usually arriving to question my parents about reports of small ponies roaming our backyard.  Our unusual family of five girls and two Great Danes always made a good cover story for the weeklies.  The second guest was the Welcome Wagon lady.  She arrived laden with a basket of treats donated by local businesses, and sat discussing community groups with our impatient mom.   Mom had no time for that kind of marketing and wanted nothing to do with commercials disguised as socializing.

My family had our own welcome wagon this weekend, minus the commerce.  We celebrated our nephew's wonderful new wife at a wedding shower, and prepared some of her favorite foods.  My contribution was this play on Tater Tot Hotdish.

Tater Tot Hotdish Bites
Makes 30 bites

1 Russet potato, peeled and boiled to tender then cooled
1 cup dried bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 white onion, grated
1/4 cup half and half (or milk)
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 to 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful (about 1/2 cup) green beans, boiled until quite well done
8 ounces mushrooms (I prefer Baby Bellas but use your favorite), chopped fine
2 tablespoons butter
1 and 1/4 pounds Jennie-O Lean Ground Turkey

32 ounces reduced sodium chicken stock or broth
30 frozen Tater Tots

Push cooked potato through a ricer or mash well.  Combine with bread, eggs, onion, half and half, ketchup, mustard, and seasonings in very large mixing bowl.  Chop fine the cooked green beans and add to mixture; set aside.

Melt butter in large frying pan on medium heat; add chopped mushrooms.  Season mushrooms with salt and pepper and allow to cook until they release their liquids, about 5 minutes.  Cool slightly then add to potato-bread crumb mixture. Season mix with a bit of salt and lots of pepper.  Gently blend in turkey; carefully mix until incorporated.

Roll large meatballs, about 1/4 cup each.  Place in greased cake pans with 1 1/2 inch sides.  Pour stock over balls to half the height of the balls.  Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven 45 to 55 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 160 - 165 degrees.  Most of the liquid will have absorbed into the meatballs; remove any of the reduced liquid and set aside.

Note: at this point you can freeze or refrigerate the meatballs and any sauce to serve later. 

Place meatballs on clean baking sheets; top each with a frozen Tater Tot and secure with a toothpick.  Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and return meatball bites to oven until Tater Tots are cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Heat any reserved reduction in saucepan.

Serve hot bites with reduction.


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