Five Great Minnesota Versions of Hotdish (a.k.a. Casserole)

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turkeytetrazzini.jpg
Flickr user mesohungry
Turkey tetrazzini, the bane of every single Thanksgiving weekend in the state of Minnesota.

As winter approaches, with its occasional rain and frigid mid-50s-high temperatures, people break out the sweaters, boots and think about hot, stick-to-your-ribs food. In the winter, a lot of baking happens and a lot of lasagne, but when it's chilly out, I think of the time I spent in Minnesota and Iowa -- and about hotdish.

What, exactly, is hotdish? It's a casserole, except in Minnesota, the casserole is the dish it comes in, and hotdish is what goes inside. It's nearly always made from some kind of starch (nothing fancy -- rice, noodles or potatoes) and meat, often ground beef, held together with cream of mushroom soup, so ubiquitous in the state it's often referred to in church recipe booklets--yes, that still happens--as Lutheran binder. Cheese makes a regular appearance, and canned or frozen vegetables such as corn, peas or green beans may be mixed in.

While some hotdish has spread -- tuna-noodle hotdish is common throughout the United States, and the turkey tetrazzini pictured is nearly universal after the turkey sandwiches and just before the turkey soup in the pantheon of Thanksgiving leftovers -- nobody does hotdish like Minnesotans. Here are five of the state's finest.

5. Plain (Regular) Hotdish

regularhotdish.jpg
Flickr user grandgrrl

When someone says they're having hotdish for supper and won't elaborate, this is what they mean: the basic model, constructed of ground beef, some kind of tomatoes (for example, canned tomato sauce, or maybe tomato paste mixed with tomato juice), pasta (usually elbow macaroni), cheese (often Cheddar, but sometimes Velveeta), salt and pepper. There's no Lutheran binder in this one; it's more like the world's least-interesting baked ziti.

4. Green bean hotdish

greenbeanhotdish2.jpg
Flickr user hamburger_helper

Everyone knows this one! It's green beans and Lutheran binder with Durkee brand fried onions on top. It's spread from its Midwestern roots to take over Thanksgiving tables all over the country. I've tried to gussy this up by using fresh Blue Lake green beans and making my own cream of mushroom soup, and it sucked. Alton Brown's tried it, too, and it doesn't work. It has to be canned for it to taste right.
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18 comments
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DanGarion
DanGarion

I actually do the Martha Stewart version of green bean casserole and have had lots of good comments on it.

NathanPralle
NathanPralle

The only one I haven't had is knoephla.    The rest, ya betcha. 

Marymeals
Marymeals

I used to beg to stay for dinner at my best friends house when her mom was making tater tot hotdish! Cause my mom was from the east coast and didnt make hotdish. You brought back some great memories Dave! ~ Mary from www.marymeals.com

Sasha
Sasha

You know that it doesn't have to be cream of mushroom soup, right? It could be cream of anything.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

True, but CoM is by far the most common. I love cream of celery, though... especially in chicken Divan.

Bill Roehl
Bill Roehl

I'm sure the Flickr users who licensed their photos as non-commercial just love when you use them w/o paying them--like CityPages did to me. Nice jerks.

Jeff Overley
Jeff Overley

I'd like to add what my family referred to generically as chicken casserole. Chicken breast, cream of mushroom, Swiss cheese and bread crumbs. It's right up there with the all-ingredients-from-a-can version of green bean casserole.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Add broccoli to that and you have what my family calls chicken Divan.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Grew up on that one too!  Also with pork chops...

909Jeff
909Jeff

For my green bean casserole I stir fry the green beans with some chopped up bacon and diced onion add some fresh chopped mushrooms right before I mix in cream of chicken and mushroom and a hand full of jack cheese transfer from the pan to a casserole dish cover with cheddar and fried onions and bake... 

My favorite part besides eating it is to watch the lactose intolerant family members fight for the bathrooms an hour later. 

Ole Gustafson
Ole Gustafson

"My favorite part besides eating it is to watch the lactose intolerant family members fight for the bathrooms an hour later."

Do they also eat dog shit and arsenic? Sounds like you've got some pretty stupid family members.

909Jeff
909Jeff

And it sounds like you have no understanding of levity.  I actually dont have any lactose intolerant family members.  

But hey, you enjoy your thankgiving of Salt Cod, Hákarl, and Skyr 

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Mmmm... salt cod and skyr... maybe not together though. Hákarl, as Carrion Fairy says, is less a food than a manhood test and puberty ritual. See also: lutefisk, surströmming.

Carrion Fairy
Carrion Fairy

Hey, Salt Cod and Skyr are delicious! Halkarl, on the other hand, should be a cleaning product.

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