Monday, May 21, 2018
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Food

For the Super Bowl, serve this Minnesota classic

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    New England Seafood Mac & Cheese Hotdish.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
    Buy This Image

  • FEA-superbowl30-23014765-JPG

    New England Seafood Mac & Cheese Hotdish.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
    Buy This Image

  • FEA-superbowl30-23014767-JPG

    Philly Cheese Steak Hotdish.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
    Buy This Image

Super Bowl LII is being played in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes and one of the top producers of wild rice (the state’s official grain), and its motto proudly states that it is the Star of the North.

But more important than any of that, Minnesota is the home of hotdish.

Hotdish may look like a casserole, smell like a casserole, and even taste like a casserole. Made with a protein, a starch, often some vegetables, usually Tater Tots as a topping, and cream-of-something soup, it gives every indication of being a casserole. It’s a hot dish to help ward off the bitter cold, a hot dish to warm the soul. But may God have mercy on your warm soul if you call it anything other than a “hotdish” — one word — in Minnesota.

Hotdish is so integral to the state’s identity that former senator Al Franken created the Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition in 2011, inviting his fellow senators and representatives to celebrate their homey cuisine and culture in an annual bipartisan cook-off. Last year’s winner was Rep. Collin Peterson’s winning entry, the Right To Bear Arms Hotdish, which featured bear meat that one of his staffers had hunted. 

As then-Senator Franken said when welcoming entrants, judges, and guests to the festivities last March (the seventh and presumably final event, given his recent resignation): “What this is all about is being neighbors, sharing food, sustenance, hearty prairie dishes.”

Hotdish, therefore, is perfect Super Bowl party fare to feed your family and friends.

Served with a salad and bread, it makes a complete meal. Baked ahead of time and kept warm, it’s hot (of course), hearty, and can be ready before the national anthem is sung, so you won’t miss any of the game, the ads, or the half-time performance.

Now remember: This is not fancy food. If you try to elevate it with a béchamel sauce instead of a can of condensed soup, then it becomes more of an haute dish than a hotdish. It loses its character and its classic comfort-food charm. In fact, cream of mushroom soup has been referred to as “Lutheran binder” for its ubiquitous use as a base for the sauce in hotdishes served at church potlucks in Minnesota, and there are some who feel that it is hotdish heresy to omit either the soup or the Tater Tot topping.

Joy DuShane, who retired in December after working at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce for more than two decades, moved to Apple Valley, Minn., to be near family. She confirmed that the “most prevalent hotdish is the Tater Tot hotdish.”

According to her daughter’s copy of The Great Minnesota Hot Dish: Your Cookbook for Classic Comfort Food by Theresa Millang and Karen Corbett, there are various hotdishes for different occasions. For example, company hotdishes should be more sophisticated, including seafood but excluding tuna. There is also a protocol for hotdishes brought to baby showers, funerals, potlucks, brunches (these should absolutely include eggs), and those designated “for when the neighbor is sick.” And don’t forget “a bubbly fruit cocktail hotdish” for dessert, Mrs. DuShane read. Or the complementary side dish hotdish.

“They’ve branched out a bit in hotdishes,” Mrs. DuShane said, going beyond the familiar favorites to experiment with unusual ingredients, exotic spices (such as Cajun, she noted), and contemporary flavors. And, undoubtedly, by including the Super Bowl as a hotdish-worthy event.

If there’s a hotdish for any occasion, then there can also be a hotdish for any football team to commemorate that the big game is being hosted in Minnesota.

The Philadelphia Eagles should be represented by their city’s most sensational sandwich, the Philly cheese steak: a hoagie bun topped with thinly sliced beef, sautéed onions and peppers, mushrooms, and cheese. Former presidential candidate John Kerry committed a faux pas, and incurred significant ridicule, when ordering his with Swiss while campaigning during the 2004 campaign. Provolone, on the other hand, is accepted by many.

But “Cheez Whiz is the only way, in my opinion,” said Natalie Dielman, programming specialist at the Way Public Library in Perrysburg and a native of Philadelphia. “You just don’t get the proper meltiness with provolone.” And so, the Philly Cheese Steak Hotdish includes all the essential ingredients: seared beef, colorful peppers, caramelized onions, cream of mushroom soup, a topping of golden bread crumbs. And, of course, the requisite Whiz.

The New England Patriots play in Boston but represent a wider region that is noted for many foods, including creamy clam chowder and luscious lobster rolls. So why not mix those shellfish into one of the great casseroles of all time — macaroni and cheese — to create a perfect Minnesota-style hotdish? Pasta shells, condensed cheese soup, clams, crab, shrimp, lobster, and a sea of burnished brown Tater Tots (a variant on the potatoes in the famous “chowdah,” as it’s pronounced in the team’s hometown) all come together in a Northeast-meets-Midwest marvel: New England Seafood Mac ’n’ Cheese Hotdish.

So, take a tasty trip to Minneapolis for your Super Bowl party this year. These team-themed hotdishes will be hot stuff.

FEA-superbowl30-23014765-JPG

New England Seafood Mac & Cheese Hotdish.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

New England Seafood Mac ’n’ Cheese Hotdish

2 tablespoons butter

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 18.8-ounce can chunky-style New England-style clam chowder

1 10½-ounce can condensed cheddar cheese soup

Milk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 ounces pasta shells, prepared according to package directions

1 7-ounce container Maine lobster spread

1 6-ounce can crab meat, drained

1 6.5-ounce can minced clams, drained

1 12-ounce package frozen salad shrimp, defrosted, drained

1 32-ounce package frozen Tater Tots, defrosted

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven. Sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Whisk in the soups. Fill the 10½-ounce soup can with milk, then stir the milk into the soup mixture.

Whisk in the sharp cheddar cheese and 2½ cups of the mild cheddar cheese. Season to taste with the black pepper.

Stir in the pasta shells, lobster spread, crab meat, clams, and shrimp. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Carefully lay the Tater Tots in rows over the top of the pasta. (You won’t need the entire package.)

Place the baking dish onto a baking sheet to catch drips. Bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the tater tots are golden. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake for 5 more minutes, to melt the cheese.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Source: Mary Bilyeu

FEA-superbowl30-23014767-JPG

Philly Cheese Steak Hotdish.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Philly Cheese Steak Hotdish

5 tablespoons butter, divided

½ pound thinly sliced deli roast beef, cut into strips

1 large onion, quartered, sliced

1 small red pepper, cored, seeded, sliced

1 small green pepper, cored, seeded, sliced

1 small yellow pepper, cored, seeded, sliced

1 cup Cheez Whiz, warmed until pourable, divided

1 18.8-ounce can chunky-style Philly cheese steak-style soup

1 10½-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup

Milk

12 ounces noodles, prepared according to package directions

1½ cups fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a Dutch oven and briefly sear the roast beef; set the beef aside, reserving the cooking pan.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the same Dutch oven and sauté the onion and all three peppers until tender and slightly caramelized. Return the beef to the pan.

Stir in ⅓ cup of the Cheez Whiz and stir in the soups. Fill the 10½-ounce soup can with milk, and stir the milk into the beef mixture. Stir in the noodles and pour into the prepared baking dish.

Spoon the remaining Cheez Whiz over the noodles, spreading it a bit to cover the top.

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a medium bowl. Add the bread crumbs and stir to moisten them, then sprinkle over the cheese.

Place the baking dish onto a baking sheet to catch drips. Bake for 30 minutes, until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Source: Mary Bilyeu

Contact Mary Bilyeu at 419-724-6155 or mbilyeu@theblade.com, and follow her at facebook.com/thebladefoodpage.

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