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Hotdish is a variety of casserole which typically contains a starch, a meat or other protein, and a canned and/or frozen vegetable, mixed with canned soup. The dish originates from and is popular in the Upper Midwest region of the United States, particularly the states of Minnesota and North Dakota. Wisconsin hotdish typically adds an amount of cream and cheese to the mix. Hotdish is cooked and served hot in a single baking dish and commonly appears at communal gatherings such as family reunions and church suppers.
The history of the hotdish goes back to when "budget-minded farm wives needed to feed their own families, as well as congregations in the basements of the first Minnesota churches." According to Howard Mohr, author of How to Talk Minnesotan, "A traditional main course, hotdish is cooked and served hot in a single baking dish and commonly appears at family reunions and church suppers." The most typical meat for many years has been ground beef, and cream of mushroom remains the favorite canned soup. In past years a pasta was the most frequently used starch, but tater tots and local wild rice have now become very popular as well.
Hotdishes are filling, convenient, and easy to make. They are well-suited for family reunions, funerals, church suppers, and potlucks where they may be paired with potato salad, coleslaw, Jello salads and desserts, and pan-baked desserts known as bars.
Typical ingredients in hotdish are potatoes or pasta, ground beef, green beans, and corn, with canned soup added as a binder, flavoring and sauce. Potatoes may be in the form of tater tots, hash browns, potato chips, or shoe string potatoes. The dish is usually seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, and it may be eaten with ketchup as a condiment. Another popular hotdish is the tuna hotdish, made with macaroni or egg noodles, canned tuna, peas, and mushroom soup. Also common is a dish known as goulash, though it bears no resemblance to the familiar Hungarian goulash. Minnesota goulash is usually made with ground beef, macaroni, canned tomatoes, and perhaps a can of creamed corn.
Cream of mushroom soup is so ubiquitous in hotdish that it is often referred to in such recipes as “Lutheran Binder,” referring to hotdish’s position as a staple of Lutheran church cookbooks. The soup is considered a defining ingredient by some commentators.
Minnesota Congressional Hot Dish Competition
After the 2010 U.S. midterm elections, Senator Al Franken invited the members of the Minnesota congressional delegation to a friendly hotdish-making competition, to come together in celebration of the state before the beginning of the legislative session. Six out of 10 delegation members – Sens. Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Representatives Michele Bachmann, Tim Walz, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum – participated, with Klobuchar taking first place with her "Taconite Tater Tot Hotdish" and Walz taking second with his "Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Hotdish".
For the second competition in March 2012, Franken's "Mom's Mahnomen Madness Hotdish" tied with Chip Cravaack's "Minnesota Wild Strata Hotdish" for first place.
With 9 of the 10 members of the delegation participating in 2013, the winner was Congressman Walz's "Hermann the German Hotdish", which featured a bottle of August Schell beer. Sen. Franken has also provided a free PDF version of the 2013 Hotdish Off collection of recipes.
In 2014 all ten members participated, with Rep. Walz's "Turkey Trot Tater Tot Hotdish" winning. In 2015, again all ten participated, and Rep. McCollum's "Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Wild Rice" dish won.
In popular culture
Hotdish frequently appears, along with other stereotypical Minnesotan dishes such as lutefisk, in the radio program A Prairie Home Companion. Hotdish is also described in Howard Mohr’s book How to Talk Minnesotan. Hotdish is an integral element of the book Hotdish to Die For, a collection of six culinary mystery short stories in which the weapon of choice is hotdish.
Minnesota public television station, KSMQ in Austin, Minnesota, has produced a 2012 documentary video entitled "Minnesota Hotdish." providing a historical and humorous look at the popular church supper and family gathering staple.
Hotdish was also the main meal featured in the comedy-drama film "Manny & Lo".
- Harron, Hallie. (February 1996) "Heating up the heartland: Minnesota's signature hotdish combines heartiness, great taste and adaptability - includes recipes." Vegetarian Times.[dead link]
- "Frequently answered questions about the Hotdish Hoedown". 2007-01-12. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
- "Klobuchar wins congressional hot dish competition". KARE 11. Retrieved April 17, 2011.
- Fertig, Judith M. (1999). Prairie Home Cooking: 400 Recipes That Celebrate the Bountiful Harvests, Creative Cooks, and Comforting Foods of the American Heartland. Harvard Common Press. p. 373. ISBN 978-1-55832-145-8. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- Thorkelson, Berit (2006). You Know You're In Minnesota When...: 101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, And Eats Of The North Star State. Globe Pequot. ISBN 978-0-7627-3895-3. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- Mohr, H. (1987). How to Talk Minnesotan. New York: Penguin Books.
- Bachmann vs. Franken: Minnesota Pols Dish Up Rivalry at ‘Hotdish Off’, ABC News, accessed April 25, 2013
- Rep. Walz wins Sen. Franken's cook-off competition, by Taylor Seale The Hill, accessed April 25, 2013
- "Dish It Out Like a Politician", Winona Daily News, Winona, Minnesota, accessed May 11, 2013
- Dennis, Pat. (1999). Hotdish to Die For. Minneapolis: Penury.
- "Minnesota Hotdish: The Documentary," MinnPost.com, Minneapolis, Minnesota, accessed May 11, 2103
- Burckhardt, Ann (2006). Hot Dish Heaven: Classic Casseroles From Midwestern Kitchens. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 9780873515689.
- Cooney, Jeanne (2013). Hotdish Heaven: A Murder-Mystery Novel With Recipes. St. Cloud, Minn.: North Star Press of St. Cloud. ISBN 9780878396450.
- Dennis, Pat (2005). Hotdish Haiku. Richfield, Minn.: Penury Press. ISBN 9780967634432.