Food & Drink

Some like it hot — especially in the winter

By From page A5 | December 19, 2012

Back in September, I promised to write about Hot Dish when it got cold, which has finally happened. It’s perfect timing, actually, since it’s the perfect dinner solution in these last busy weeks of the year.

While every Hot Dish is a casserole — mixed foods baked in a vessel — not every casserole is Hot Dish. To be technically Hot Dish, a casserole must have both protein and starch, some sort of sauce and a separate topping. Bear in mind that:

* Taste buds still apply! The foods you choose should either complement one another (pasta and cheese) or contrast (green beans and almonds); and

* Hot Dish is not the place to hide nasty fridge remnants. Throw them out and start with good, fresh ingredients.

There are several schools of Hot Dish, and I’ve tried to select recipes that illustrate styles and techniques that you might want to use. All of the following recipes are sized to fit an 8-by-8-inch Pyrex baking dish, and would serve four in my world, where everyone is expected to eat a big salad alongside dinner.

If you use a different shape of baking dish with the same volume, you may find that you need to increase or decrease your topping amount and cooking time a bit. If you use a different-sized dish, you’ll probably need to adjust amounts on everything.

* Tater Tot Hot Dish: The classic Minnesota version of Tater Tot Hot Dish uses ground meat, cream o’ something soup, onions and Tater Tots. In my opinion, there are enough ground meat hot dish recipes in the world. Hence this vegetarian version, which is sort of my Mom’s Iowa Baked Beans in a three-car pile-up with a truckload of Minnesota Hot Dish.

Beans & Puppies Hot Dish


2 cans vegetarian baked beans — Heinz are good
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
Handful of finely minced raw onion
1 bag Cascadian Farms Spud Puppies, frozen

Putting it together:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oiled casserole dish, mix together all ingredients except Spud Puppies. Pack Spud Puppies close together across the top of the dish. Bake, uncovered, 1 hour.

* Bread baked on top of meat: Includes such things as pot pies and chicken n’ biscuits. This version is non-traditional in spices, but classic in structure. In a pinch, the same topping can be baked over the contents of a can of chili.

Chili Cornbread Hot Dish


1 pound ground beef or substitute
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can (14-15 ounces) fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 or 2 chipotle chiles en adobo, minced
1 1/2 cups grated smoked cheddar
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup masa flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Putting it together:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook ground beef in a large skillet until barely done, crumbling it well in the process. Remove from pan and reserve. In the same pan, adding a bit of oil as needed, cook onion and bell pepper over medium heat until barely tender. Add garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes and cook briefly to develop flavors. Stir in tomatoes and chiles. Pour into oiled casserole dish. Top with cheese.

* Pantry Hot Dish: In some circles, we’d be considered showing off by using fresh vegetables and white sauce instead of the soup. We’re willing to take that risk.

Chowder Hot Dish


1 onion, minced
2 cups sliced celery
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound red potato
2 cups whole milk
a good pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 cans tuna, well-drained and flaked
1 bag frozen peas
16 saltine-type crackers
1 tablespoon butter

Putting it together:

Scrub and dice the potato into ½-inch cubes. In a small sauce pan, cover diced potatoes with milk and bring to a simmer. Add a pinch of salt and bay leaf and let cook 10 minutes. In a separate pan, sauté the celery and onion in the butter until barely tender. Reduce heat and add the salt and dill. Reduce heat to low and add oil. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Drain potatoes, reserving hot milk. Remove bay leaf. Stir hot milk into celery mixture in a thin stream. Cook over low heat until sauce thickens. Stir in tuna, potatoes and peas and pour into greased casserole dish. Crush crackers to form irregular crumbs, not too large, and spread evenly atop mixture. Dot with butter. Bake until bubbly and browned, about 25 minutes.

Julie Cross

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