This dish is the combination of two of my favorite dishes: chicken pot pie and tater tot hotdish (a super popular classic potluck dish in my region (I live on the North Dakota-Minnesota border.). It is everything you could ever want on a cold winter's day! You've got veggies, protein, and carbs in one warming dish that can feed a crowd. And it's got tater tots, one of the jolliest foods in the world!
Technique tip: It can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator until it's time to stick in the oven. It can all be made in the same pot (use an oven safe skillet, assemble in the skillet, and then stick the whole thing in the oven). It's a great healthier alternative to a casserole that uses canned creamed soup since you're essentially making your own creamed soup here by making a bechamel sauce, and you can use this method of making a bechamel sauce for tons of other dishes (e.g. add cheese and pour it over noodles for homemade mac and cheese).
Swap option: Use gluten free all-purpose flour for a gluten free option, use chicken breast and skim milk for a lighter option, use sweet potato tots for a slightly healthier tot.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter and add the onion and carrots and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring until soft, about 10 minutes.2.
Stir in the flour so that it gets evenly distributed. Add half the milk, stirring continuously until thickened, and then repeat with the other half of the milk. Stir in the chicken soup mix, peas, chicken, thyme, and a few turns of pepper and simmer, stirring often, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.3.
Transfer the mixture to a 8x11-inch baking dish (or other 3-quart oven-safe dish) and then cover with tater tots. Bake until the tots are golden brown, begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve with ketchup, if desired.