How to make Minnesota hotdish in a pinch

The best ingredients are always the ones you already have.

This story is part of GoMN's 2017-18 Winter Guide.

The daily feats required to survive a Minnesota winter need heavy-grade fuel, and fast. Your ancestors somehow got by without Alexa, but they couldn’t live without hotdish, aka variations on meat-and-potatoes casserole that have anchored tables for nearly as long as tables have existed.

Hotdish goes well beyond tater tots – not that there’s anything wrong with them. Even in more-desperate, less-planned moments, it’s a dish that helps the scraps left in the deepest corner of the freezer find purpose.

First, look around at what’s in the fridge and pantry. Bricks of ground beef, cans of corn, leftover mashed potatoes, bags of frozen potatoes (especially tots), frozen peas, and cans of creamy soup come in very handy here. But if you’re a farm-to-table sort of person who actually does have fresh things handy, even better.

Fresh peas, a basic handmade béchamel/white sauce (see below), and freshly ground beef go a really, really long way with hotdish. But none of those things are necessary. You’re hungry and that walk isn’t going to shovel itself.

Recipe: Minnesota Hotdish

1. Check your inventory:

a. Some meat, veggie meat, or even fish.

b. Some potato, whatever you’ve got – even frozen French fries will work.

c. Vegetables, of some sort. If cream of mushroom soup can be a vegetable, then certainly the saddest bag of frozen peas or green beans from the back of the freezer can be too.

d. Binding elements. If you already added creamy soup, you’re covered. Grated cheese of any sort.

Note: To get fancy, make a basic béchamel with 2 T butter, 2 T flour, 1+1/4 C milk, heated, and salt and pepper. First, melt the butter, then stir in the flour and cook until it bubbles, add the hot milk, boil, then simmer for 2-3 mins. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Cook your meat/protein.

3. In a casserole dish, spread that meat/protein on the bottom. Then add your vegetables.

Then pour cheese or soup, then the potatoes on top.

4. Cook at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until browned and bubbling.

This story is part of GoMN's 2017-18 Winter Guide.

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