Minnesota – Land of Lakes, Land of Hot Dishes.
There is an effort underway to name the hot dish as Minnesota’s official food and to designate the fourth Sunday of every September “Hot Dish Day.”
By golly, what a good idea.
The effort started with Tami Bredeson, co-owner of the award-winning Carlos Creek Winery just north of Alexandria. She has been circulating a petition so the legislature will consider the request.
As Bredeson notes, “hot dish” is Minnesotan for “casserole.” It’s created “when you take wuddever da heck ya want, mix it up witt cream-a-wuddever soup, plop it in da pan, den bake it.”
Yup, dat about sums it up.
To sign Bredeson’s legislative petition, visit www.carloscreekwinery.com.
On Sept. 28, the winery will serve the world’s biggest hot dish – a Tater Tot one baked in a specially made skillet 5 feet wide. The dish will be accompanied by the world’s longest loaf of bread and the world’s biggest bowl of Jello. Uffdah!
Those who grew up in this state are just not real Minnesotans unless they ate hot dishes at least once a week. The hot dish is much-maligned, the butt of so much ridicule from culinary hoity-toits. OK, so tuna hot dish topped with crushed potato chips is no match for Lobster Thermidor. Who cares? It’s golldarned good. And lemme tell ya, it’s a heckuva lot cheaper.
We Dalmans grew up with hot dishes. Our classic standard, our weekly treat, was one we called “goulash,” even though it had nothing to do with the Hungarian dish of that same name. Mom was a goulash master. She made it with browned hamburger, onions, salt-and-pepper, Campbell’s tomato soup and elbow macaroni. That’s it. We kids devoured tons of that stuff year after year and never tired of it. Like all hot dishes, it was even better reheated a day or two later. I have tried many times, without success, to make goulash as tasty as mom’s. When I was in my 30s, I visited her and asked her to make it so I could watch like a hawk her every move to duplicate the process myself. Back home, I tried it. It was so-so. That was the last time I tried to make it.
For variety, mom would make other hot dishes: the tuna fish-crushed potato chip one, the hamburger stroganoff one and a chicken-cream-of-mushroom one with egg noodles. All of those recipes were handed down, almost as if through osmosis, by at least two generations of relatives. Hot dishes, rightly so, are often called “comfort food.” Easy, down-home, tasty, rib-sticking.
I’ve accumulated about 15 church cookbooks throughout the years, and I’ve made just about every hot dish in them. One of my hobbies is cooking, and I enjoy tackling complicated dishes now and then. But I’m not a snob. I’m proud to be a snowed-in Minnesotan who tosses together a hot dish on a winter day. Sometimes I get a craving for Tater Tot hot dish so bad I feel like a junkie needing a fix. However, my all-time favorite, other than mom’s goulash, is one I discovered in a church cookbook about 10 years ago: Chop Suey Hot Dish. Here’s the recipe:
1 onion, chopped
1 pound hamburger, browned, drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups sliced celery
2 cups water
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 small cans mushrooms, drained
1 can water chestnuts, drained, chopped
½ cup rice, uncooked (not Minute Rice)
Salt, pepper to taste
Chow mein noodles
In large deep skillet, brown hamburger and onion. Drain. Add all the rest of the ingredients and stir until well combined. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake 1 hour at 350. Serve over a bed of chow mein noodles.
That recipe is a mongrel concoction of East meets Campbell’s soup, but if you want to make it a tad more “Minnesotan,” you can top it with a layer of Tater Tots.
It’s good stuff. Darn-tootin’ it is.