I’ve been frustrated by a recent lapse in journalistic rigor. Many political reporters disclosed Amy Klobuchar’s recipe for the Taconite Tater Tot Hot Dish but none ventured into the kitchen to bake it. I decided to try.

My project was quickly beset by the same cleavages that have torn apart America. I wanted to shop at C-Town. My wife insisted on Whole Foods. I wanted Campbells Cream of Mushroom, her vote was for Amy’s Organic Cream of Mushroom Bisque with Arborio Rice.

This middle American dish, which could have united us, was instead turning into a source of division. Part of the equation: the same kind of coastal food snobbery that got Trump elected. My wife believed that the corporate food monopolists put in preservatives and exacerbated global warming. McCain’s Tasti Taters had cottonseed oil and pyrophosphate, while the Alexia Organic Yukon Select boasted 0 g of trans fat.

I made two batches, one with the organic ingredients and the other without.

Both put a smile on my face and immediately made me want to take a nap. You lay down a thick ground cover of beef, onions, cream of mushroom, and cream of chicken soup. On top, you place a layer of cheese and then the tater tots. Ingeniously, the tater tots on the top seal in the gloopy concoction below, crispy on the top, soupy below.

In truth, they were hard to tell apart. In a blind test, Amy, my wife, was initially unable to choose, and then went with the one in the metal dish, the one with the fancier, healthier ingredients. “This has a more authentic character,” she said. But really, it was hard to tell. Perhaps we’re not so different, after all.

The dish tells us a great deal about Klobuchar. It’s middle of the road in some ways, but the use of Pepper Jack instead of Monterey Jack shows a desire to excite. On the other hand, while delicious in the first few minutes, it soon started to harden and become less charismatic.

Next time, we’ll use Ore Ida tots with the locally produced raw milk cheese. We must see not a blue America or a red America, but a golden, crispy, gooey America.

P.S., here’s the recipe from Senator Klobuchar:

  • – Ground beef (1-1.5 lbs)
    – Cream of mushroom (1 can)
    – Cream of chicken (1 can)
    – Onions (1 small)
    – Garlic (couple cloves)
    – Salt
    – Pepper
    – Pepper jack cheese, shredded (8-12 ounces)
    – Tater tots (1 package)

Brown ground beef, drain off fat. Sautee onions and garlic.

In a large bowl, mix together beef, onions, garlic, both cans of soup, salt and pepper. Spread evenly into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Cover with about half of the shredded cheese. Then, place tater tops in one layer over the entire pan.

Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, or until tater tots are crisp. Cover with remaining cheese and bake until cheese melts.

Steven Waldman

Follow Steven on Twitter @stevenwaldman. Steven Waldman is the president and co-founder of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. He is the author of Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom. As senior adviser to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, he was the prime author of the landmark report Information Needs of Communities.