By Minnie Apolis
Growing up in Minnesota generally involves having to sit down to something called hotdish for supper, and at church suppers, and at family potluck buffets.
I won’t draw out some long tease over what it is, since I’m sure you could look it up on the internet before you got to the end of the article.
So without further ado, the basic instructions for the Minnesota Hotdish:
Mix together the following in a large bowl:
Two cans cream of mushroom soup
1 lb. cooked ground meat
2 cans of vegetables (your choice)
Stir ingredients together
Salt to taste
Pour into baking dish (round or square, your preference)
Sprinkle with canned French-fried onions, onion rings or Chow Mein noodles
Bake at 400 degrees until a brown crust forms on top.
That is the basic framework, folks. But there is tons of room for infinite variations on a theme.
For example, ground meat is often hamburger. But you can just as well use tuna, wieners, turkey, or even Velveeta. Instead of cream of mushroom, you could use cream of celery soup or cream of chicken soup. Or heck, even tomato soup if you want!!
You can substitute potato chips, like my mom used to put on top of the tuna casserole. Some people used crushed soda crackers or other crackers, but a lot depends on the contents of the casserole to make it work. Personally I don’t think it works with anything but tomato soup as the sauce.
In more recent decades, another popular alternative is to top the dish with a layer of little tater tots. This has the advantage that it browns very nicely in the oven, thereby letting the cook know when the dish is done. You think I am making this up, but you can go online and find a classic recipe for the Tater Tot Hotdish right here: http://www.minnesota-visitor.com/minnesota-hot-dish-recipes.html
And if that were not incredible enough, the local grocery under previous ownership used to regularly offer premade mini tater-tot hotdishes for sale – just heat and serve!!
Now, everything hinges on a successful combination of vegetables. Peas and carrots are a classic veggie combo, but there is much to be said for green beans and carrots, too, or peas and potatoes -- as well as cheese and tomato in any form.
If that link above only serves to tantalize your taste buds then you are in worse shape than I thought but seriously – perhaps you might be in the market for an actual cookbook of these priceless recipes.
Cookbook: The Great Minnesota Hot Dish, by Theresa Millang, $12.95
(I am not selling these, nor am I getting a cut of any sales. I just link this item to prove that such things do exist.)
After reading all this you might be scratching your head wondering if these are really casseroles or if perhaps they just don’t qualify for some reason.
The answer to that is the hotdish
hardly qualifies as decent food – um, arose during the post-WWII era as the embodiment of what the organized housewife lovingly prepared for her busy and growing family. This was an accomplishment when the average workingman made perhaps a dollar an hour, more if he had a skilled trade. So this was working class fare. A casserole was something eaten by people with a certain attitude, people with aspirations or maybe I should say pretensions. See?