Hot Dish is apparently Minnesotan for casserole. And Tater Tot Hot Dish is like low-rent Shepherd’s Pie. Since I love Shepherd’s Pie, it’s no surprise that I love Tater Tot Hot Dish. Here’s my adaptation of Aimee’s recipe:
Tater Tot Hot Dish
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Brown 1# of lean ground beef (mixed with garlic, onion, salt, and pepper to taste).
3. Drain fat. Place in the bottom of a casserole dish.
4. Spread one can of soup over meat. Cream of mushroom is fine. (And is Aimee’s soup of choice.) So is cream of chicken. So is tomato.
5. Fill the rest of the casserole dish with tater tots.
6. Bake for approx. 45 minutes, checking periodically. Remove when top tater tots are nice dark golden brown.
7. A layer of cheese is optional. (Add cheese before baking.)
We’re having the Gingeriches over for dinner tonight. I’m making Tater Tot Hot Dish.
This meal will continue a sort of long-running joke with Jeremy and Jennifer. They prepare wonderful, delicious meals every evening, many of them quite elaborate. Left to our own devices, Kris and I eat lots of canned and frozen food. It’s no secret that one of our favorites is Hamburger Helper (especially Three Cheese Hamburger Helper). Jeremy and Jennifer find this, well, a little disgusting. Tater Tot Hot Dish is a sort of home-made hamburger helper. Except for the Tater Tots.
I e-mailed Dana to find out her family’s recipe for Tater Tot Hot Dish. I figured that since this is traditional Minnesotan fare, her mother would have prepared some sort of variation. What follows is an exploration of ethnic food, American style. (Amy Jo would probably dig this conversation.)
J.D.: For dinner Tuesday night, I’m going to make traditional Minnesotan fare: Tater Tot Hot Dish and Jello Poke Cake. Aimee has shared her family’s recipes with me; do you happen to have yours handy?
Dana: I fear you are on your own — I’ve never heard of either of those dishes, at least not by those names. I’m going to guess that the ‘Jello Poke Cake’ is basically Jello with bananas and whipped cream, which I have had, and which doesn’t really have any variations. Dunno on the Hot Dish — Hot Dish is basically just another name for casserole, and there’s millions of regional variations. The kind we usually had involved beans with a layer of fritos on top…
J.D. And you call yourself Minnesotan! :)
Dana: Well, sort of…
J.D.: Jello Poke Cake is a cake with holes poked in it, into which one pours jello. The frosting is either whipped cream or whipped cream mixed with pudding.
Dana: Nope, definitely never heard/seen/had that.
J.D.: I figured that since you and Aimee were practically neighbors [they’re both from Garrison Keillor‘s mythical Lake Wobegon region], you might share certain dishes. Still, you’re of Norwegian descent, yes? and I think she is of German descent.
Dana: Right. And also, it’s my Dad who is died-in-the-wool Minnesotan, not my Mom. As a consequence, most of our ‘ethnic’ food was not Minnesotan, but was actually Norwegian (Potato Cakes/Potato Lefse, Futimon, Kumla, Milkegrotte, Ebelskeeva, Krumkake, and stuff like that) (I’ve probably misspelled many of those, as I’ve only heard them, never seen them written).
Actual ethnic Minnesota food is a melange of Scandinavian, German, and Native American recipes (not a lot of Wild Rice in Norway or Germany), filtered through a few intermingled generations here in the state.
Also, there’s at least two semi-distinct traditions — The Lutheran’s hotdish traditions vary from those of the Catholics, for example. My Minnesota roots are Lutheran. If Aimee’s are Catholic, then that might also contribute to the variance in our cuisines.
Not that you probably care, but there’s another interesting dichotomy I’m aware of — Minnesota Lutherans have a recognizable sense of humor distinct from that of Minnesota Catholics. The Catholics are more dour, less jovial. This is a fairly gross generalization, but it’s apparently a widely known one.
J.D.: Aimee’s roots are, indeed, Catholic. Mystery solved! :)
Dana: Elementary, my dear Roth! The German Catholics and the Norwegian Lutherans, while sharing many cultural practices, still maintain many distinct differences to the trained eye.
I’ve been trying to think of foods that I would consider particular to Oregon or the Northwest. I’ve not thought of any. Then I realized this may be because I’ve never lived outside the region. I would have no way of knowing which of the foods I eat are regional, would I? Do any of you know what our regional foods are? Amy Jo?
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J.D. Roth said:
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