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Feature Thu Nov 20 2008

Hotdish? You Betcha

I called my mom in Minnesota earlier this week to say hello, and I could tell she was preoccupied - the banging dishes and "mmm-hmms" and "uh-huhs" gave her away immediately. I asked her what was going on, and she told me she was making rice hotdish for dinner that night - one of my most loved and hated meals.

tator tot hotdish.jpgI moved to Chicago a little more than a year ago and have discovered the term "hotdish" (sometimes known as casserole to the rest of the world) seems to escape non-Minnesotans. Who knew that some 400 miles away, something that is a part of normal everyday life for everyone who lives in Minnesota would be so foreign?

This is my attempt to bring the hotdish to Chicago, or at least to explain what the elusive (and stereotypically unappetizing) dish is and where it came from.

Hotdish is any of a variety of baked dishes popular in the Midwestern United States, and especially in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, northern Iowa, and western Wisconsin. It consists of a starch, a meat and a canned vegetable, mixed together with canned soup, which serves as a binding ingredient.

Hotdish was created when budget-minded farm wives needed to feed their families, as well as congregations in the basements of the first Minnesota churches. They needed to stretch the fare and go easy on expensive meat, while at the same time impress their friends and neighbors with a filling and tasty meal. On cold winter nights and days of below zero temperatures, bone-chilling winds and feet of snow, hotdish hits the spot.

In Minnesota, hotdish is popular for family get-togethers, church suppers and potlucks. This isn't because they are necessarily tasty, but because they're filling, convenient and easy to make. (Not to muddy the waters, but hotdish is often served with bars - pan-baked cookies or brownies.)

You don't need to have a specific recipe to make hotdish. A lot of the time my mom would use whatever leftovers we had - hamburger, tomato sauce, rice, veggies - and throw it in the oven. Before you empty the contents of your fridge into a baking dish, here are a few recipes to try out.

Rice Hotdish

1 can chicken with rice soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup minute rice
1 stalk celery - cut up
1/2 chopped onion
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup water

Brown ground beef with celery and onion until completely cooked and vegetables are tender. Drain grease and add soups, water and rice. Put into 9x13 baking dish and bake covered at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Chicken Wild Rice Hotdish

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 jar chicken gravy
3/4 cup water
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 cups cooked chicken or turkey

Cook 1 cup of wild rice according to directions on package. Mix soup and gravy with water, add chicken and cooked rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Back covered for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Tator Tot Hotdish

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/3 c. rice
2 lbs. hamburger (browned)
1 package frozen mixed vegetables

Mix all ingredients and top with tator tots. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.

 

grace / November 21, 2008 12:38 PM

Ah the memories...I grew up in SW Minnesota. The variety of hotdish concoctions is endless. One other note - if being served at a church supper or potluck, there's usually a "salad" in addition to the bars. In MN, "salad" usually involves jello...mmmmmm TASTY!

Ray / November 21, 2008 2:17 PM

Not to be smart or anything, but is that a typo in the last ingredient for Chicken Wild Rice Hotdish? Two cups of gravy, in addition to a jar of gravy, makes a whole lot of gravy! Perhaps you meant two cups of cooked chicken or turkey?

North Dakota born and raised / November 21, 2008 4:41 PM

Hotdish and bars...ah, home. People look at me like I'm insane when I say these words here, but oh, how I love them. I frequently miss hotdish and bars here in Chi-town. But my waistline certainly doesn't.

Kaitlin / November 22, 2008 6:12 PM

I did - nice catch! The recipe will taste much better now. :)

Ray / November 23, 2008 1:12 AM

It does actually sound pretty yummy.

cletus warhol / November 24, 2008 10:12 AM

Now all you need to do is organize a lutefisk boil! Although I'm not sure local environmental laws will allow it.

Dave / November 24, 2008 4:22 PM

Also not to be a smartass, but shouldn't the recipe for tater tot hotdish include tater tots?

Dave / November 24, 2008 4:24 PM

Wait, I'm an idiot. Read the whole thing, Dave.

Sean / June 30, 2010 7:55 PM

@Dave, read the recipe eh. I quote, "Mix all ingredients and top with tator tots. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours." Reading comes highly recommended, oh yea, I see now you read. ;) Get it on now, though use ostrich or buffalo and not beef. Add in a layer of bacon over the taters and as they cook the juices absorb into it all, not just any bacon though, preferably hickory smoked.

Cheers and beers!

Rick / July 15, 2011 1:01 PM

I've still yet to find a hotdish that actually tastes good lol. I'll try this one and maybe it will work. None of the foodie blog s like to make em so I guess I'm mostly on my own... Thanks for the post!

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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