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Daughter of Hot Dish: Let's Discuss!!

So. Midwestern cookery is what I was weaned on, and as such I have an inordinate love for that composed, oven baked wonder: The Hot Dish. However, I am not certain what, exactly defines "Hot Dish," and what, if anything, differentiates it from good ol' plain casserole. Any ideas? I mean, I have had them w/ bases of every kind of rice, every kind of potato, any type of meat, and some sort of sauce. Usually it involves a gratin topping of some sort (even if you stretch the definition to include the crushed French's fried onion). What say you? And what's your favorite, and why?

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  1. By this definition, wouldn't Shepherd's/cottage pie be a hot dish, with the browned mashed potatoes on top? IF so, that's my fave.

    I think you defined it perfectly as it's enjoyed by my MI/OH relatives. I think of it as the midwestern equivalent to New England chowders/"American Chop Suey"/baked beans--hearty and not-expensive, warming food....but in the case of the hot dish, really an everything-in-one dish. The only equivalents I really see around here are not true equivalents.....things like chicken/ziti/broccoli and veggie and meat lasagna.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pinehurst

      pinehurst, I'm thinking that you kind of nailed the crux, because the issue is about semantics, colloquialisms, and local custom. Because while the Shepard's pie you mention is one of my all-time favorite dishes, I don't consider it a hot dish per se, but the only reason I have for that is that it has a pretty specific name and geographic base, e.g. the U.K. and let's not even get started on hotpot and the like. (No, I do not mean the Mongolian variety... :) Now, if those were frozen "Southern-style" hash browns, and you bound the meat w/ either a cream sauce or cream soup and they were on the bottom, then, to my convulted (or maybe not so much?) way of thinking, hot dish it would be. But it's not necessarily about ingredient quality, either; I've had something served as hot dish proper that was wild rice, beef stock, wild mushrooms, onions and cubed leftover beef, layered up and baked. And damn it was good, but she called it hot dish specifically, even though we were in CA where she COULD as easily have called it a casserole and that one would have been correct either way. So. Go figure. But hopefully this will engender some interesting discussion, unless the topic is toooo boring, in which case it will sink like a stone. :)

    2. :( I'm the product of centuries of East Coast residents. I never even heard the term "hot dish" until I joined CH. Never even had a casserole growing up. Family never even did the ubiquitous holiday green bean casserole until sisters married and picked up that unholy mess from their in-laws.

      13 Replies
      1. re: gaffk

        Also an east coaster by birth. I've only learned the term hot dish here. We knew of this sort of thing as casserole. Tuna noodle casserole was the only one served in my family and I hated it. And to be at a friend's for dinner, the word casserole struck fear in my heart. I think because people just didn't do them well.
        Some of the ideas blow actually sound pretty good.

        1. re: alliegator

          There are casseroles and casseroles. Some of them I just love, a lot of them are just kind of lazy-sounding.

          1. re: EWSflash

            Agreed. Some I've encountered online (I'm looking at you, Pinterest) scream "I'm to busy to give a crap what I'm feeding myself, family or guests today, so I'll just slop all of this crap together".

        2. re: gaffk

          Native Kentuckian here, and while I ate plenty of casseroles growing up, didn't hear of "hot dish" until maybe 10 years ago. Looking forward to educating myself about it via this thread.

          Reminds me of hub's relative in Bombay, who always serves me a "bake." I find that as funny at "hotdish"--words that really don't tell me anything a'tall.

          1. re: pine time

            Yes, I remember the first time I heard someone tell me that we're having hot dish, and I stopped in my tracks. Did the culinary world just resolve into "hot dishes" and "not-hot dishes"?

            1. re: Bada Bing

              Corollary: "loose meat." (Hope that's not de-railing this topic.) First time I ever heard that was on the old Roseanne TV show. Sounds far from appetizing, and like some version of sloppy Joe.

              1. re: pine time

                Very timely (for me) to mention loose meat! A few weeks ago I was watching Rosanne during a little bout of insomnia and I had to look it up. Doesn't exactly make me drool, either.

                1. re: pine time

                  It's basically as you say....just a nice, crumbly pile of seasoned, sauceless meat served atop a bun. Can't think of a single thing to recommend it, but I understand that the folk who hail from IA inhale those loosemeats and maidrites like nobody's business.

                  1. re: mamachef

                    and what the heck is a maidrite? I'm learning all sorts of new words here!

                    1. re: pine time

                      A maidrite is just a loosemeats sandwich (and no, that "s" isn't there by mistake - there's no such thing as a "loosemeat" sandwich) as served and t.m'd by the Maidrite franchise. :)

                      1. re: mamachef

                        I've been to probably 35 of our 50 states...IA may need a road trip. But not sure loosemeats would be on my agenda.

                        1. re: pine time

                          Well, if only for CH cred., you might want to try one but I wouldn't go out of my way to find it. OTOH, if you can find some true, IA dried beef (which bears ZERO resemblance to that chipped crap in jars), honey: you are in for creamed dried beef nirvana; served over biscuits or homefries. Oh HELL yeah.

                          1. re: mamachef

                            You had me at biscuits and homefries. Shoot, I'd eat a braised shoe over biscuits and homefries.

          2. Hot dish is also endemic to Indiana. My vote is that, yes, though I might not have thought of it if playing Categories, Shepherds/Cottage Pie is a hot dish.

            I base this on my native recognition of the hot dish, and also, on the version of cottage pie served in my company cafeteria.

            17 Replies
            1. re: DebinIndiana

              ???????

              I grew up in Indiana and ate many casseroles. I never ONCE heard the term "Hot Dish" until moving to Minnesota.

              1. re: sandylc

                Seconding Sandy: I've lived in Indiana (South Bend area) for 7 years and am quite confident that no one I know would have the faintest idea what "hot dish" means. It's hardly "endemic." But I'm not charging you with fibbing, Deb, of course. I think your experience must reflect some localized culture. Where exactly have you heard people use this term in Indiana? Just curious.

                p.s., I lived many years in North Dakota, too, so the item itself is endemic to one place I know well. :)

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  I remember that soon after moving to Minne-hoota years ago, I was invited to a potluck. I asked someone what I should bring, and she said, "Oh, just bring a hot dish."

                  I puzzled over that for quite a while, finally deciding that these strange and different Scandihoovian types like to divide their potluck offerings between hot items and cold items. That made a certain sort of sense, I thought.

                  Ha. Took me a few more years before I learned the real meaning of the term "hotdish" (I was pretty young, and hence was more often in a nightclub than in a church basement!)

                  1. re: sandylc

                    Do you think, sandylc, that there is also an inflection issue with "hotdish?" To me (growing up and living in MN) I hear a marked difference between bring a hot dish (id est, not a cold salad or something) versus bringing a HOTdish, the second term being run together as a compound word, with the emphasis on the first syllable?

                    1. re: cayjohan

                      Yes, surely that is true! And I am also sure, in hindsight, that the person telling me to bring a HOTdish meant a casserole - I was just too ignorant of Minne-hootan ways to know what she meant....!

                      Minnesotans, please don't be insulted by my poking fun - having lived quite a lot more than half of my life here now, I am one of you (?)

                      1. re: sandylc

                        Eh, no harm! We know how weird we are. And we're probably inwardly satisfied to have something (hotdish!) that stymies and enchants the rest of the foodie world!

                        ETA: the Scandinavian smörgåsboard includes a progression through fish dishes, cold dishes and hot dishes; I wonder what influence that has had on terminology in this heavily Scandinavian region.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          sandylc: we are old MN, from way way back, and I for one am not at all offended. Pretty hilarious, actually. You've lived there half your life; I've spent enough time there between college and visits to qualify too!! :) (By "we," I mean my fambly BEFORE my parents took a powder on the Frozen State. And we too have a nickname for the denizens there in: Skandaminneans, or Hoodasotans. :) Dunno why the last, but... :)

                          1. re: mamachef

                            mamachef, even surrounded by them, and being such, we call them Scandihoovians. We take the good with the bad, there. <scandihoovian grin here>

                            1. re: cayjohan

                              There are good things about the great white north; for one, we are unlikely to have earthquakes!

                              1. re: sandylc

                                Apparently you haven't heard about the oh so ominous St. Olaf's Fault!

                      2. re: Bada Bing

                        Also from northern Indiana. In my youth, when there were church dinners, the women (not everyone, mind, just the women) were often asked to bring a "hot dish." I do not remember ever hearing a call for casseroles -- I could certainly have forgotten.

                        I do also think that there is a different inflection in the "HOTdish" that I hear from some of you here. But, when we are asked to bring that hot dish, it is going to be some kind of creamy (most likely) or tomatoey starch-heavy main dish with meat.

                        BTW, I would say we don't have "pot luck" either -- I hear "carry-in" nowadays, and can't remember if that's always been the termnology or not.

                      3. re: sandylc

                        I first heard the term from a Minnesotan.

                    2. My personal belief is to be a true midwestern church basement lady will call it a "hot dish" is it must have cream of something soup as an ingredient. As they are the "purists" in this type of debate, that's why I never make one.

                      Kinda like bourbon and whisky. All bourbons are whiskeys, but not the other way around. All hot dishes are casseroles, but not vice versa.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: autumm

                        I always thought it was any type of casserole (only from what I read here, otherwise I would have no idea), but when my friend from North Dakota stayed with us, she saw I had some kind of Campbells cream of something in the garage, plus egg noodles, and apparently that's what hot dish is to her. Some kind of meat is required too; all I had was canned tuna. One night I went to take a nap and returned to her serving our husbands a "hot dish". They both seemed very happy. I make the same thing but it is called "Tuna Casserole".

                        1. re: coll

                          my 11-year-old daughter makes a hamburger stroganoff hot dish that she loves. It's done on the stove and has lots of other things like wine, beef stock, and sour creamt, but it does have egg noodles and cream of mushroom. It's her favorite dish. I am not a huge fan of the cream soups, but this stuff is awesome.

                          1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                            Sounds Screamin,' Sisterfunkhaus. I like to make something very similar. I like it hot; I like it cold; and I like it with little extra dabs of sour cream on top of every bite.
                            I'm not a cream soupaholic either - but for some things, simply nothing else will do. It was a monstrous shock to my dear departed Grandma when she couldn't find Campbell's Cream of Onion soup at ANY grocery when she moved from GA to the Midwest. :)

                            1. re: mamachef

                              Wow, I didn't even know that soup existed!!

                              But I just have to say that there is some award, or some special place in foodie heaven, deserved by someone who puts little dabs of sour cream on top of every bite of a dish that already includes sour cream <3

                              Sadly, as age advances, sour cream causes me to feel my arteries clogging, so I now (for cold applications) substitute Greek yogurt and haven't made stroganoff in quite awhile. But I haven't forgotten my lifelong sour cream love ... I remember.

                              1. re: foiegras

                                Oh, foiegras....I accept the award with honor!! *sniff* I can't believe they picked me....*sniff, sob* ..... :)
                                Ya know, Greek yogurt IS proof that G*d loves us and wants us to be happy, or at least wants us to have a perfect substitute for full-fat sour cream. I LOVE the stuff and use it in everything, up to and including as a base for some pretty fabulous salad dressings....
                                All is not lost.
                                :)

                      2. A gratin is a shallow baking dish, and also the food baked in it. Gratins usually have bread crumb toppings but not necessarily cheese. There are fruit gratins whose topping is crumbs made from cookies or stale cake.

                        As I understand casseroles, they are at least twice as deep as gratins.

                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratin

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: greygarious

                          It also refers to the browned topping of "grated" crumbs, cheese or whatever. The cooking utensil was named for the kind of dish it usually contained, not the other way around, and is shallow because the whole dish must cook properly in a short enough time to prevent the gratinée on top from burning. But a dish may be prepared au gratin in any sort of cooking vessel. As I usually cook for just two, I've gotten quite a collection of gratin pans in which I bake (not broil) most of my side dishes … but now we're getting offtopic, because those are NOT "Hot Dishes" at all.

                          My mothers "green beans au gratin" (which she pronounced "awe grotten") might be a Hot Dish - usually canned French-cut beans in a cheese sauce baked in a glass baking pan - or maybe not, if we want to define Hot Dish as a main course. Tuna-noodle casserole most definitely is; aside from being a favorite to eat and make from childhood, I'll never forget Garrison Keillor and Jean Redpath harmonizing on his "Tuna Casserole" song, placing it squarely in the church-basement supper setting. Thinking about those very suppers of my Illinois youth, I can definitely see how welcome - and at home - a shepherd's pie would have been.

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            Well, you COULD bake a 3" deep potatoes au gratin, or escalloped potatoes, in a casserole dish, but it would not thicken and brown as appealingly as it will if it's spread out into a larger, shallow dish. I think of hot dish and casserole as largely synonymous, but always at least 2" deep. I never heard of hot dish before listening to Prairie Home Companion. Years ago, by sheer luck I noticed a listing for Jean Redpath's Robert Burns commemoration concert at a regional church that same day, and went. Her voice was in its prime at the time, and she had great spontaneous wit, as well. I bought several of her cassette tapes at the concert, and still enjoy them. It's been several years since I've heard her on PHC; her voice had weakened by that time.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              I got to meet Jean Redpath and hear her sing at a small dance/benefit for a drug control facility in Sonora CA, in 1971. The woman in charge of the place was an old friend of hers, and Jean used to come up for a quiet smalltown visit when she could. Delightful person, very much the same whether talking around a table or onstage. No wonder she was so at home on PHC.

                              Okay, back on-topic: the scalloped potatoes I grew up with were at least 3" deep, and cooked at a low enough temperature to avoid the browning - we referred to it as "scorching" - that none of us liked. The ones I make have a heavy enough coating of crumbs and cheese to keep the potatoes from getting browner than I want, while cooking long enough for the potatoes to soften and sauce to thicken.

                        2. Isn't it funny. My take is
                          Hot dish is to casserole as pop is to soda. Just a local term for an equivalent item.

                          I'm from the Midwest, but did not know about the term hot dish til graduate school in Iowa brought it into my vocab. Gotta love language and CHOWhound!

                          33 Replies
                          1. re: jill kibler

                            Right, jill? That's why I posted this. I love those idiosyncrasies too!

                            1. re: mamachef

                              OT, but why the question mark at the end of your first sentence? You're affirming not questioning, right? At any rate, nice to see you around, mamachef.

                              I have nothing to contribute to this discussion except to say that I've lived in Texas, Missouri, New Jersey and New Mexico, and never struck a "hot dish." Only learned about this oven miracle through CH.

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                PK, you're correct that it was an affirmation; specifically (but not pointed out) at her very last sentance. And it is nice to see you too, and great to jump back in!!
                                Whether or not you feel you have something to contribute, sir, I sorta expected you to show up here, mainly because of the wide-open interpretational nature of the theme. I say this with a tip of my cap to the man who has started topics which were likewise controversy-magnets: Chicken and Dumplings? Pot Pie/Potpie? :)
                                So here's what I think as of reading your post: you have TOO had hot dish; it just wasn't presented to you as such. :) Like Funeral Potatoes by another name, up to and including scalloped potatoes. :)

                                1. re: mamachef

                                  Ah, you recall my Pot Pie and Chicks and Dumps threads. I'm flattered! ;)

                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    Remembered? Oui, M'sieur. Heartwarming foods, combined with the potential for territorialism and controversy? It was in that spirit that I posted this one!
                                    Please to give my regards to the lovely Khantessa.

                              2. re: mamachef

                                But, then why are certain things like shepards pie left out in some minds?

                                Also, I can't remember ppl bringing a leftovers created hot dish to a pot luck! Ah well!

                                1. re: jill kibler

                                  Keyphrase in your first sentance: "in some minds." I am finding that for myself, there's a lot of subjectivity involved. :), along with all the other isms and local customs etcetera. Pretty interesting, innit?

                                1. re: mcf

                                  Yup. Grew up with sack and had to change to bag. Or, as my Wisconsonite husband says, "beg". I tease him when he says, "a beg of baggles" (translation: Bag of bagels)

                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    I've always called the brown paper thing at the grocery store a sack until the plastic bags came along.

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      Oh NO! NOT THE SACK/BAG DEBATE!!
                                      Ahahahahah! Only kiddin', folks: it's just that this opens up another ton of possibilities: who here knows a bag/sack as a "poke?"

                                      1. re: mamachef

                                        Hmmm. I've heard the term "a pig in a poke," which I now assume to mean a pig in a sack, which, in turn means to be in a bind. I've also heard of some green called "poke salad" (from the song Poke Salad Annie), which I now assume to be a green that you pick and put in a poke.

                                        PS--I always say sack rather than bag. It's a Texas thing.

                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                          Just found this:

                                          http://voices.yahoo.com/tradition-ins...

                                          Fascinating! I always thought poke salad was dandelion greens.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            No, I have this stuff growing all over the yard. Haven't tried making salad or salet) in the spring from it yet though. My husband hates it because it grows so fast,and tall, and makes me pull it all out whenever he spots some. It's poisonous most of the time, that much I know (important information!) and the berries are good for making ink. Hence the name, ink berries. now I will look at your link, because I always do everything backwards!

                                            Oh and I have deadly nightshade all over my yard too, I leave it because it's pretty and I don't have any kids or outside animals. Why can't wild grapes or beach plums appear spontaneously instead?

                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                              "Pig in a poke" is not "in a bind," but rather, "sight unseen." For example, I might say, "I found a great new product on-line, but I'm going to a local store to check it out. I just don't like buying a pig in a poke."

                                              1. re: DebinIndiana

                                                Thanks for that, I've heard the expression but I think it was in a Chevy Chase movie! Been using it ever since, even though I didn't exactly know what it meant. I imagined a pig with his head in a trough for some reason.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  European Vacation - it was the game show they were on at the start of the movie

                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                    Which is why I think of pigs in a poke, pigging out! Well I got the pig part right.

                                              2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                The reason I brought it up was: I visited a friend during college, and she hailed from the deep deep deeeeep South. Upon arriving, her daddy asked me to "hand him that poke," (meaning my bag) and I was totally confused but got it eventually, only to lose it all over again at dinner when her sweet momma asked me if I wouldn't like a little "poke salat," which I took to mean either paperbag or suitcase salad and declined until I figured out that one, too!

                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                  What does poke salat mean?

                                                  My own yard tends to get a plant called Poke which is basically an enormous weed with rows of berries. The berries, at least, are supposedly very bad news, intestinally.

                                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                                    The plant itself is also poisonous if not picked at the right size and then treated exactly right during prep - see my link above. Very interesting. You have to wonder how people figured it out, and why they kept trying!

                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                      Sorry I didn't note the link. Yeah, and one does wonder how some of our ingredients ever made it past the hurdles they put in the way.

                                                    2. re: Bada Bing

                                                      I believe salat is an old Dutch term, not related to salad.
                                                      If you pick the leaves before there is any purple in the stems, you can have a most delicious dish.
                                                      Strip the leaves from the stems.Boil the leaves in several changes of water , then saute them with some beaten eggs and bacon. Separately, chop the stems into 1" pieces, bread with egg/ cornmeal and fry in hot oil. The stems taste like fried asparagus.

                                                      1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                        I knew someone, born and raised in Milwaukee, who always said, "salat" for salad.

                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                          I always thought it was a Southern thing of sorts. In "A Confederacy of Dunces", didnt Ignatius' mother refer to "potatis salat"?

                                                          1. re: Fydeaux

                                                            I think it might be "olde" English...and there are a few pockets of holdouts?

                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                              Olde English or Low German, I think. At least, that was her mom's background. It was definitely a salad, of greens that totally resembled Dandelion but had a stronger taste. She dressed it with a hot dressing that she whipped up in her skillet: bacon, vinegar, sugar, egg yolk....essentially the old-fashioned "boiled dressing." And she added chopped egg and a lot of ground pepper. It was delicious.
                                                              Oh, and yes. They were "hill people," or "holler folks," as they put it - and they used a LOT of colloquialisms.

                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                Ah, my friend was from Milwaukee, which is full of German descendants...

                                                2. re: mamachef

                                                  Mamachef, I've written in another thread my puzzlement--even as a native Kentuckian--when I went away to college and the local Piggy Wiggly clerk said "ya'll be wanton that inna poke?" I didn't have a clue.

                                                  1. re: pine time

                                                    Hilarious!

                                                    I miss Piggly Wiggly. I used to try to get my grandmother to say it as many times as possible ... loved hearing it in her Texas accent.

                                                    Our old Piggly Wiggly now houses another business ... the lettering was painted on brick, and you can still see it faintly.

                                                    1. re: foiegras

                                                      I occasionaly visit a Piggly Wiggly near NE Minneapolis only it is now a Unique Thrift Store.

                                                      I remember when I was about 9 years old when my father left us double parked in front of the Piggly Wiggly. A man came by and told us we could not park there. I was so impressd when my 12 year old brother slid behind the driver's seat and moved the car out of the fire lane. I think I should share this memory with his kids.

                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                        Ah, your fond memory would be seven different crimes, ten social workers, and the lead-in for the evening news in these days...unless, of course, you and your brother were wearing helmets...ha.

                                        2. My take growing up (Michigan) was that Hot Dish is leftovers: a starch (mashed potato, frozen hash browns, tots, noodles, rice), a protein and a vegetable pulled together with cream of something (whatever is in the cabinet) soup and topped.with cheese and crunchies (potato chips, fried onions, crushed pretzels, crushed saltines, breadcrumbs or breadsticks).

                                          Shepherds pie, tuna noodle casserole, pot pie all follow a recipe and are in a sense the same as Hot Dish, but the combinations for Hot Dish are random.

                                          1. And don't forget the traditional wine paired with hot dish, coffee made in a multi gallon coffee maker! One of my favorites is a pseudo chicken Divan made with broccoli, boiled chicken, a disgusting (delicious) sauce made of cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, curry powder, and a squeeze of lemon, all topped with bread crumbs and cheddar cheese. It is sort of like King's Hawaiian rolls -- there has never been a confirmed sighting of a leftover.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: tim irvine

                                              LOVE this, tim. Oh how well I remember that particular "decanter. It was the baseline note in the symphony of smells: slightly burned, rich, and unmistakeable.
                                              Re: the casserole/hot dish/gratin :) you mention? I've had something very similar, and you know what? Not a thing wrong with it. Unfashionable? Easy? Retro? Yes to all those things, and also yes delicious!! I've said it a million and one times now: I'm a Chowhound, not a food snob. There's a time and a place for everything. Says the lady who is having tuna noodle whatever for dinner. :)

                                              1. re: tim irvine

                                                I will be making my annual variation (Costco chicken, cream of chicken soup, no curry) of this dish as soon as it gets really cold (and living in MN, it won't be long). It brings back good growing-up memories and, God help me, I really like it.

                                                1. re: Pwmfan

                                                  King Ranch Casserole shows up on the Frat-house table about once a month once the weather cools down. Loooove the stuff - nix the broccoli, add green chiles and cheese, layer w/ corn tortillas.....dinner is ON, and the kids love it. G*d bless Costco chicken. :)

                                              2. What I love about CH(ers): That people here "get it." Ya know? I mean: where else can you have a decent round-table discussion about something like this?

                                                1. I spent most of my life in Ohio and Indiana, and I think I recall 'hot dish suppers', referring to potlucks or church functions.
                                                  I'm wondering if my old Columbus, Ohio standby, Johnny Marzetti qualifies as a Hot Dish!?
                                                  Good to see you back, mamachef. (you may know me as jmcarthur8). I was wondering why I hadn't seen your posts in a while!

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                    Thanks for the welcome back, jmcarthur8!
                                                    This is where it gets so strange, what w/ the semantics and all - for some reason, I am equally comfortable referring to that particular mix as either a casserole or a hot dish, but there are some mixes that I can't consider as either/or; it has to be one or the other. And I am seriously beginning to see that this might be way more about my own prejudices, too! I am beginning to understand Alanbarnes' referring to me as a prescriptivist!! I remember "covered" or hot-dish suppers from the Midwest, but when we moved to CA, the term disappeared from the lexicon and it was forevermore the potluck supper. :)

                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                      I must say that Hot Dish was not in the everyday jargon of my part of Illinois, which was well south of the Scandinavian-settled northern regions that the term seems to have come from. I'm guessing that it would be more common when you get up to the part adjacent to Iowa, rather than Missouri. In our parts it was a Potluck; in Tennessee it was Covered Dish. When we did our MomFood Extravaganza for the L.A. CHers I used the term Potluck in the announcement and everyone knew what that meant … and most of what was brought would qualify as Hot Dishes.

                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                        Ooooooh, one of those evil prescriptivists. I also fall into that reviled category, and as a consequence, sleep with one eye open and a hawgleg under my piller.

                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                          I didn't realize HOW apt that description was until someone here offered the suggestion of "meat Hamentaschen," which was absolutely vile by name only, considering that I love and adore all manner of pasties, runzas, pierogi and suchlike. But to call it MEAT HAMENTASCHEN? That way lies madness.

                                                      2. re: kitchengardengal

                                                        I grew up in Ohio, and my mother's family is from Indiana. I never heard of a "hot dish" until I met people from Minnesota, and read a cookbook with recipes for community suppers from the Dakotas. I always heard them called casseroles. I've never thought too deeply about what constitutes a casserole, but I would call a casserole a bunch of savory stuff mixed together, baked and served from the baking dish.

                                                        Johnny Marzetti wouldn't be a casserole in my lexicon because it's not baked after it's made. Not the way I make it, anyway. I mix the sauce with the freshly boiled macaroni and serve it up.

                                                        Chicken tetrazzini, on the other hand, would be a casserole in my book.

                                                        1. re: nlgardener

                                                          I've always baked my Johnny Marzetti. There are many different recipes for it, but I started making mine in the mid 70s, trying to replicate the one they served at the Kroger deli in Columbus.

                                                          1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                            The recipes I've seen have called for baking after mixing. Either way, I like the stuff!!

                                                        2. What I grew up with would certainly would qualify as a hot dish but were called casseroles. Everything in the pool dishes with a cheese or breadcrumb topping. My first introduction to a dish called hot dish was by my sister. Someone made it for her. It is more of a method but i love it.

                                                          1lb of ground meat of your choice, the leaner the better
                                                          1 can creamed soup, your choice
                                                          8 oz package velveeta, sliced thick
                                                          1 small can of veggies, your choice
                                                          Half a bag or so of tater tots, frozen
                                                          Pat the raw meat into an 8x8 pan in an even layer. Spread creamed soup on meat layer. Drain veggies and sprinkle on soup layer. Lay slices of velveeta on veggies. Now this layer you can lay the tots on the side and use less or stand them up and feed more. Up to your crowd. Bake at 350° one hour and let stand twenty before cutting.

                                                          That is my first hot dish. Or am I wrong?

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: suzigirl

                                                            That sounds about right to me.

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              That is totally, totally definitely completely totally hot dish.

                                                            2. re: suzigirl

                                                              That is church basement lady approved hot dish.

                                                              1. re: autumm

                                                                And very similar to Student Casserole (AKA 3-Ingredient Casserole)

                                                                Same recipe, no veggies, cheese optional. We thinned the soup with a little milk or water. The cheapest feeds-four meal ever, and never turned down by starving college roommates.

                                                                I'm pretty sure no-one calls this a hot dish when made by students.

                                                            3. Tuna casserole with a can of peas and potato chips on top to be fancy.

                                                              Chicago Chili as Mom made it was crushed tomatoes, celery, onions, and lots of salt and water. Don't forget that shake of chili powder just before serving. It was soup, actually.

                                                              Italian casserole consisting of overcooked spaghetti backed with layers of hamburger and diluted tomato paste with oregano mixed in. The crunchy top was breadcrumbs and Kraft cheese.

                                                              No wine allowed in the cooking. Methodists.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                Depends on the Methodists. My little hometown church, no booze in the potluck dishes ever. Big-city (relatively speaking) church we moved on to? Well, they'd probably allow it, but they didn't do potlucks …

                                                                I think one of these was where I first encountered lasagna. Many years later the Silicon Valley graphics shop I worked in was just a big group of friends who'd worked at a lot of the same places for years, and we had at least two or three potluck buffet dinners a year. That was in the early '70s, the era of the Chile Relleno Casserole, which finally displaced Tuna-Noodle at the top of my list. Still make both.

                                                              2. I had to google hotdish! (I am from the northeast). My friend makes Mormon funeral potatoes, which has frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, diced onions, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, and cheese. Not the greatest ingredient list, but it is delicious and always the first dish to go at a potluck. I'm guessing this would qualify as a hotdish, but I'm not sure what would differentiate it from a casserole!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: ohmyyum

                                                                  It qualifies as many many different things: gratin, casserole, hot dish, funeral potatoes. See what I mean?
                                                                  And yep. Delicious.

                                                                2. First off ALOHA mamachef!

                                                                  Now if I can confuse things . . . originally being from California all such things were called casseroles. I had heard they had other names in other places, most often though it wasn't "Hot Dish", it was "Covered Dish." Shows like green acres or Andy Griffith might talk about a "Covered Dish Supper" down at the community hall or church basement. Is a covered dish the same as a hot dish?

                                                                  When I heard about a covered dish supper, I envisioned some kind of meal where each individual plate sat on the table with its own cover on it, sort of like you might get from room service. I was greatly surprised to hear it was just a potluck. There we go with another term.

                                                                  Figures it would be you bringing up all this stuff. LOL Welcome back!

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                    Mahalo, KaimukiMan! Always so nice to see you, bruddah!
                                                                    A covered dish and pot luck or potluck or hot dish dinner are all one and the same, and again it seems to be pointing heavily to regionality and colloquialisms. A funny aside, is that even the term "pot luck," however spelled, has evolved somewhat. Today, it generally means, to most people, a covered dish, contributory dinner for a group of people. Back in Gramma Mimi's time, it meant an impromptu invitation to dinner, as in, "why don't you drop by, and take pot luck?" Same meaning, at the end of the day; just a different, home-based invitation to eat whatever shows up.
                                                                    I think it's all pretty interesting - how it was presented to people, what they think of it in general, how turf-oriented it is, and especially, as always: why people think the way they do. :)

                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                      Utah folks don't have potlucks or covered dish dinners--they have 'pitch-ins'!

                                                                    2. I'm pretty sure that the full name is "Covered Hot Dish to Pass."

                                                                      I also believe that the defining characteristic is that the ingredients are measued in cans, boxes, and packages rather than spoon and cups.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Fydeaux

                                                                        Thank you, Fydeaux. I'd never heard it phrased like that before.
                                                                        My Gramma's recipes for various and sundry hot dishes were comprised w/ the usual units of measure; but then, she made her own white sauce and wasn't into convenience foods much at all - frozen veg., if fresh were unavailable, was where she drew the line. :) Mom, OTOH, came up w/ some wildly ingredient product-driven items.

                                                                        1. re: Fydeaux

                                                                          I remember reading that exact phrase, "Covered Hot Dish to Pass" in very old cookbooks and oral histories I liked to read as a kid. I wish I could locate the cookbooks, but they are buried somewhere in my folks attic. One day...

                                                                        2. I have been lurking on this thread for over a week. As someone who was born and raised in Minnesota, I'll throw in my two cents.

                                                                          First, the term 'hotdish' is synonymous with 'casserole'. I think all hotdish (I prefer to think of hotdish as an irregular noun where the singular and plural are the same) are casseroles, but not all casseroles are hotdish. Just from the name alone, I consider cassoulet a casserole but it certainly is not hotdish.

                                                                          Not all hotdish has cream of whatever soup as an ingredient, the same goes for cheese. Many hotdish contain cheese, many do not.

                                                                          In Minnesota, Johnny Marzetti is called goulash. It used to be a staple in school cafeterias, I don't know if it still is.

                                                                          There are some dishes mentioned here that might generically be considered hotdish, but not really referred to in that manner. The green bean dish often served at Thanksgiving has always been known as Green Bean Casserole, not hotdish.

                                                                          In Minnesota, the term 'potluck' is used to refer to the event, never a dish to pass.

                                                                          To sum this up, think of 'hotdish' as almost any Hamburger Helper (Chicken Helper, Tuna Helper, etc. if there is an etc.) meal, only usually cooked in the oven.

                                                                          51 Replies
                                                                            1. re: mamachef

                                                                              Oh, mamachef? Welcome back! I've missed you! Great thread!

                                                                              1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                It is a great thread! I am not even from the Midwest (grew up in the NE, college and law school up and down the a West coast, and now in Texas) and I never met a hot dish I didn't like! The term was one I heard from time to time all over the place. It is just such a nice, friendly concept. And being a Navy kid the background smell of coffee just adds to the aura.

                                                                                1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                  ((cayjohan!!) thank you!! Made any good spinach/chard pancakies lately? How's that family of yours?

                                                                                  1. re: mamachef

                                                                                    (((mamachef))) right back atcha! The chard is still in the garden, waiting to be sautéed and frozen for fritters, along with the OMG-worthy amount of zukes we raised. My Dad just passed away, so hotdishes are on our mind, but distance dictates elsewise (we're catering from a local cafe); still the proffering of hotdishes for our memorial has been staggering. To your OP, I would add that times of grief bring out the "hotdish" in the Midwest like nothing else.

                                                                                    Xxoo

                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                  Well said, John E.! I've been noodling over this for awhile, too, as a fellow Minnesotan. You nailed it.

                                                                                  I'd never heard of Johnny Marzetti until Chowhound, but I know the hotdish of which you speak. My small town never used cheese in it, but if one used the term "hotdish" without any other descriptors (like "tuna" or "tater tot"), the elbow mac/ground beef/tomato concoction would just be assumed. Our school also called it "goulash," and I was astounded as a young traveler to find out that "our goulash" was not the same as "other goulash!"

                                                                                  For what it's worth, I have never, ever in Minnesota heard Green Bean Casserole referred to as "hotdish" either; perhaps it has to do with green bean casserole being a "side" versus a main that contributes to the naming?

                                                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                    I think since the recipe was created and distributed by Campbell's Soup as Green Bean Casserole, the name stuck.

                                                                                    I too had not heard of Johnny Marzetti until Chowhound. I wonder how our 'goulash' got that name since I don't think there is any paprika in it and it does not resemble real goulash?

                                                                                    My elementary school cafeteria always had buttered bread for every lunch (although I think it was margarine). So on days when goulash was served I would make goulash sandwiches.
                                                                                    (I was a little weird with the school lunches. On Fridays we had either macaroni and cheese or fish sticks. They also had peanut butter sandwiches for those who didn't eat fish sticks. I made fish sticks and peanut butter sandwiches.)

                                                                                    My favorite hotdish from my youth was one my mother made up. She named it Camper's Hotdish since she made it up while we were on a camping trip (well, not really camping since we were in a motorhome). Her version started with Franco American Spaghetti (now Campbell's). She browned ground beef with onions and carrots, seasoned it with s/p and fennel seeds, then dumped in the spaghetti, a can of tomato soup, and a can of drained kidney beans.

                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                      For the heck of it, I googled images for "goulash" and most of the top results were indeed the elbow mac/ground beef/tomato variety. I wonder how we came to call it that in these parts? My young self was (pleasantly) surprised with gulyás in Hungary, but it definitely wasn't what I was expecting given the nomenclature growing up.

                                                                                      Agree on what Campbell's called the Green Bean Casserole. An aside: as a kid, if someone was serving something called a "casserole" versus a "hotdish," the dish in question automatically had a sort of up-market feel. Hotdish was hotdish, but a "casserole" (like the green bean dish) had a little extra sheen.

                                                                                      1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                        The only time I have ever run across Green Bean Casserole in recent years is at Thanksgiving and I generally avoid it because by the time I get through the line it doesn't seem to be too hot and I don't wish to eat lukewarm Green Bean Casserole.

                                                                                        1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                          Love this. On a side (but related note) that dish was served in Texas in, I believe, the '40's by a rancher's wife to the wife of the then-Shah of Iran, and referred to by their butler as "green beans and stuff."

                                                                                      2. re: cayjohan

                                                                                        Where I grew up in Michigan, 'goulash' was very common, hotdish not used--I learned that term from PHC as well. I remember my mother saying in a disgusted tone every time it came up that that wasn't real goulash!!

                                                                                        To this day, despite having eaten many different ethnic cuisines, I have still never had 'real' goulash, and just made 'our goulash' last week. (I use more interesting pasta, cheese, and herbs though.)

                                                                                        1. re: foiegras

                                                                                          The "goulash" that I had in the school cafeteria was made in my household growing up: if we didn't just call it "hotdish," we'd call it "Uncle Son Hotdish," for a family member's favorite. Ours had canned peas (never corn!).

                                                                                          Nothingnothingnothing in my childhood nomenclature surrounding "goulash" could have prepared me for the Hungarian deal. Different. Animals.

                                                                                          Not that there's anything wrong with Our Goulash. I can deal with celiac rather well, but man, oh, man, I do miss some good old Minnesotan goulash. HOTDISH might be my first foray into gluten-free noodles, because of this thread and of fond memories of cafeteria goulash.

                                                                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                            Peas? In your ghoulash? (I prefer that spelling.)

                                                                                            The ghoulash I remember had only ground beef, onions, celery if my mother was making it, tomatoes, and Creamettes. I bet I have not had this hitdish in over 25 years. Something else to make on the food bucket list.

                                                                                            Hotdish hasn't been a big part of my adult life. I may have done my children wrong.

                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                              Yep. Peas. We're Finns. That whole pea obsession (pea soup Thursdays!) runs deep! My fam would probably babble incoherently if someone used celery in the Ghoulash (grin), as my dad considered celery a seasoning, and seasoning was not to be tolerated. Peas it was.

                                                                                              And Creamettes. Always Creamettes.

                                                                                              1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                I love pea soup and make it a couple times of year, but it is the Julia Child version with a big ham bone and sauted ham as a garnish for the finished soup.

                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                  I don't know if they still sell them, because I don't live near one anymore, but those honeybaked ham outlets used to (and prolly still) sell their hambones for a few bucks. You could literally still carve a pound or two of meat from them and use the bone for a fabulous soup.

                                                                                              2. re: John E.

                                                                                                Creamettes? OMG. If that isn't a blast from the past. I remember dimly, from long ago, that Creamettes was one of the sponsors for a game show - maybe The Price is Right, or somesuch, What makes it funny is, I wanted those things SO bad, and didn't even know what they were, I just liked the name, ya know? "Creamettes." I figured it had to be G*dfood or something.
                                                                                                :)

                                                                                        2. re: John E.

                                                                                          Awesome lurkage; awesome post. Thanks for joining. You clearly know your stuff!!

                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                            John E.,

                                                                                            I agree with what you say except that only once did I attend a potluck where someone brought an actual "hamburger helper" dish. A "hotdish" required a "made from scratch" composition, although "made from scratch" was interpreted as permitting other premade/preprepared ingredients as components of the dish. So a dish could have French's canned fried onions, any canned cream soup, etc.

                                                                                            But another aspect of the potluck, in my experience, was that even a non-cooking lady (and it was almost always a lady) had two or three absolute winners up her sleeve. So everyone brought one of their absolute winner dishes and the table was filled with absolute winners. Whenever I went to a potluck, I was always astounded by the quality of the dishes. (How can that be--given that some people were bringing casseroles, such as I have described above?--Hey, most of those "hot dishes" were great!)

                                                                                            1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                              I only mentioned Hamburger Helper as a way for non hotdish people to understand the concept a little better. When I was a kid, my mom would make HH about twice a year as I recall. I know I have not eaten it since my single days when I still was not much of a cook.

                                                                                              As a kid, I was wary of other moms' cooking. So at these potlucks I would make a dash for my mother's hotdish and then fill in with fried chicken and other stuff where I could identify exactly what it was. I'm sure the other hotdish was good, I just was not going to find that out for myself.

                                                                                              1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                >>even a non-cooking lady (and it was almost always a lady) had two or three absolute winners up her sleeve. So everyone brought one of their absolute winner dishes and the table was filled with absolute winners.<<

                                                                                                ----------

                                                                                                I agree with this, gfr; it's been my experience as well. I didn't grow up with "fancy food," but rather with a large extended family and a small rural community that loved "get-togethers." That always meant potluck, and it always meant hotdishes aplenty. And yes, most of them were great. We all knew the real winners (and frankly, most of them were, per your thesis): ah, there's Mrs. Korpela's hotdish; there's that wonderful hotdish from Mrs. Tillman, and on and on. Great memories, there.

                                                                                                1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                  I know one non-cooking lady who did not have a winning hotdish up her sleeve. My 87 year old recently widowed aunt is a terrible cook. (I've mentioned her elsewhere.)

                                                                                                  When I was about 20 I drove up to their house (Osceola, WI) to go deer hunting with my cousins and uncle. My mother told me what my aunt would be making for supper. It was a hotdish that consisted of browned hamburger, onions, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of corn, a can of peas, and a few cans of SpaghettiOs. It was not as good as it sounds (no seasoning.) Since I was warned, I stopped at Burger King in Forest Lake on my way to their house. My mother was correct, I was glad I made the stop.

                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                    "It was not as good as it sounds"

                                                                                                    Now that cracks me up because there are few posts on Chowhound where one would even assume that would sound good...

                                                                                                    Actually, in another thread about hotdish, I actually quoted my husband, who grew up with hotdish, as saying "Hotdish isn't supposed to taste good. It's something your mom throws together in a hurry from what she has on hand."

                                                                                                    I'll see if I can find it.
                                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                      Ah, yes, here it is in context, in the middle of a discussion of what defines tater tot hotdish. I suppose, perhaps, it's only TTHD that isn't supposed to taste good.

                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8666...

                                                                                                      So, yesterday I asked my husband (who grew up with TTHD) what he thought were the essentially elements of TTHD.

                                                                                                      Him: "Ground beef, tater tots, corn or peas (whichever you had on hand), and condensed soup. At our house, you always sauteed onions with the beef, but that's not essential."

                                                                                                      Me: "How about canned green beans?"

                                                                                                      Him: "Green beans? No, never! That's just wrong. And definitely not canned."

                                                                                                      Me: "Cheese?"

                                                                                                      Him: "No. No cheese!"

                                                                                                      Me: "Does it have to be condensed soup? Can't you just make a white sauce from scratch?"

                                                                                                      Him: "Nope. Canned."

                                                                                                      Me: "Why not white sauce? Most people probably couldn't tell the difference anyway."

                                                                                                      Him: "Well, if you can't tell the difference, what's wrong with canned? Besides, it's supposed to be a pantry meal."

                                                                                                      Me: "Everyone has flour, butter, and chicken stock in their pantry."

                                                                                                      Him: "Look, it's not supposed to be GOOD."

                                                                                                      Me: "What? It's not supposed to be GOOD?"

                                                                                                      Him: "No, you never go, 'Yay, TTHD!'. You don't go, 'Boo, TTHD!' either. You just knew your mom was pulling together dinner from whatever she had on hand that night."

                                                                                                      So, there you go, folks. TTHD is not supposed to be good...

                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        Hilarious, TDQ! Love it!

                                                                                                        Tater tot hot dish has been a freakin' staple in my family's get-togethers forever, and everyone has an opinion about the mix, don't they? My father, a TTHD fanatic, detested corn in the mix ("corn is pig food!"). Ours had to be made with mixed veg, including green beans, but No Corn!

                                                                                                        And the ground beef? We always had to use venison. Great meat for TTHD.

                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                            Yep. Very lean; not a grease slick to deal with. And the whole TTHD preparation keeps the venison moist, which can be a problem with lean venison.

                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                          I will disagree with your husband about his saying hotdish isn't supposed to be good. My mother used specific ingredients for her hotdish and for some reason, she never made tater tot hotdish, probably because we got that for school lunch. I think what he meant is that hotdish usually isn't something to rave about or complain about, it just is.

                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                            Yes, that's exactly what he meant, which is what kind of comes through in the very last sentence of his in that dialogue.

                                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                              It's quite possible that your husband and I ate the same TTHD at the school cafeteria (although I am pretty sure I'm more than a decade older than you and your husband.) I seem to remember you mentioning a community cookbook shortly after I started posting here. (Think turkeys running down the street.)

                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                You mean the "crippled children's school, inc. cook book"? :)

                                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7554...

                                                                                                                There are rumblings about a Karen/Burmese chowdown this weekend on the MSP board, so keep an eye out. Don't know if it will happen, but if it does and you decide to attend, let me know and I'll see if I can dig out my copy for you to look at. But, I won't make you reciprocate and bring the old vacuum cleaner with the knife-sharpening attachment! :)

                                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                  I couldn't find the thread about the Karen/Burmese chowdown, is that taking place in the Twin Cities? I read that there is a large population of Karen in the hometown. None of my family still lives there. I was the most recent to leave and that was more than 20 years ago.

                                                                                                                  I'll be out of town this weekend for another college football game (nephew).

                                                                                                                  I have both Vol. 1 & 2 of that cookbook courtesy of my mother. I had forgotten which community cookbook it was that you mentioned on the Eat Your Books thread I started. I never did join that site. I thought it might have been a Dorothy Rickers cookbook. Ask your husband if his mother ever used that one.

                                                                                                                  I forgot to tell you that my father (or SIL) got rid of that vacuum, sorry about that. I couldn't even find a photo online which I thought was strange.

                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                      We only have vol 2.

                                                                                                                      I'll have to remember to ask my MIL about the Dorothy Rickers book. My husband doesn't remember it.

                                                                                                                      Too bad about the vacuum.

                                                                                                                      We'll catch you some other time for a chowdown.

                                                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                  I went and scanned the TTHD thread. I agree with your husband, no cheese in TTHD. The funny thing is that during the cool stretch in late July, I decided to make TTHD and instead of looking up a recipe in one of the community cookbooks, I went online and came up with the recipe you linked to in that thread. I used frozen corn and frozen green beans. I layered it and I was disappointed with the results. I was attempting to recreate the food memory from the grade school cafeteria, and it didn't do it for me. I don't know what I did wrong.

                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                    You might not have done anything wrong. There was a time when I was young that I would have killed for Chef Boy Ardee box mix pizza. I am sure that it has not changed much, if any. Yet a few years ago I tried it out of nostalgia and not only did it taste the same, it was disgusting and almost made me feel a little sick.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                      How interesting. I love Chef B's pizza kit and still make it fairly regularly. Canadian bacon and garlic are my toppings.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                        I still love those pizza kits (plain cheese) topped with with onions, green peppers, mozzerella and canned mushrooms.

                                                                                                                        So glad none of you know me in real life!

                                                                                                                        On the other hand, I have never had TTHD (and I'm a Minnesotan).

                                                                                                                      2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                        I remember buying TTHD at Byerly's deli once several years ago it was pretty close. I think I added too much vegetables. I think I'm going to only make it with ground beef, onions and mushroom soup with the tots on top and see how that goes. Frankly, my nostolgia for grade school cafeteria food really is more about the pizza burgers they used to make. I remember the teacher writing the recipe on the chalk board when I was in the third grade, we then had to write it up ourselves for our mothers. Apparently there was a demand for the recipe. I know it's still in my mother's accordian recipe file.

                                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                          John E., do you mix any of the tots into the meat/veg/soup business, or just put them on top? Our family's favorite rendition is fairly high on the Tots, with them mixed into the body of the hotdish, as well serving as the crusty topping. The elusive and indefinable Tot Flavor seems to add a lot to the whole affair.

                                                                                                                          (Aside: oh, those pizza burgers! Our school used a mix of ground Spam and ground beef. They. Were. Delicious.)

                                                                                                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                            I just put the tater tots on the very top. If I make it again, unless you and DQ talk me out of it, I'll mix the meat and soup up instead of just layering it. Maybe I didn't use enough soup.

                                                                                                                            About the pizza burgers, whenever I make them I also mix up ground Spam with browned hamburger, onions, and pizza sauce. The grated cheese is mixed in once the meat mixture is chilled. The grade school recipe called for using ground up bologna, but I think that may be because back then it was some sort of government commodoty and they were looking for ways to use. The thought of eating a bologna sandwish today makes me want to hurl.

                                                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                              The thing I have learned, and the thing I have griped about with cost vis-a-vis serving my family the Really Really Big Spatterware Roaster Full of TTHD, is: you need a Lot of Soup. It's inescapable. TTHD is a Go Big, or Go Home situation. <grin>

                                                                                                                              And yes: mix those Tots into the rest of the mix, then plaster more on top for the browning. Go big on Tots, too. In our family that means: buy twice more than a recipe calls for.

                                                                                                                              And one more thing - I seem to remember that venison is something you're familiar with. Try ground venison in TTHD. Great flavor.

                                                                                                                              1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                The last two Sundays I've been making food for deer camp. I made 7 quarts of vrnison chilli and 5 quarts of venison bolognaise. I'd make TTHD except that I don't think it freezes well and we don't have an oven.

                                                                                                                                I also made 8 pounds of smoked pulled pork, and pork chile verde. We eat pretty good at deer camp but it's mostly reheated since we (I) don't really want to start cooking at the end of the day's hunt.

                                                                                                                      3. re: John E.

                                                                                                                        Sad. I think some things are better left as memories.

                                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                          In Hotdish World, that rings very true.

                                                                                                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                            Ok, are you two trying to stop me from making TTHD? ; )

                                                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                              No! Do it!! :-D That's the beauty of hotdish: it's ever-evolving!

                                                                                                                    2. re: John E.

                                                                                                                      This just cracked me up, John E. "Hotdish usually isn't something to rave about or complain about, it just is."
                                                                                                                      Sounds like a Zen koan. "If you make a hotdish and throw it into the forest and no one ever eats it, is it still a hotdish?"

                                                                                                            2. re: John E.

                                                                                                              This squares with my own (North Dakota) sense of things.

                                                                                                            3. The first time I ever heard of the term "hot dish" was on "A Prairie Home Companion". You can buy a personalized one on their gift site. Too cute!!

                                                                                                              http://www.prettygoodgoods.org/produc...

                                                                                                              This covered casserole is made of durable, high-fired stoneware with an attractive cobalt-and-white finish. Your name or hotdish specialty is hand painted on the side so everyone knows you brought something. Dish has a 1½-quart capacity and measures 11 inches across.

                                                                                                              1. From my experience through one family in Grand Forks, North Dakota, hot dish was for them a stovetop item and no gratin topping--basically a homemade version of hamburger helper with ground beef, onions, cheese, macaroni, some tomato sauce, etc.

                                                                                                                Here is probably a worthy place to recount a memorable story. I was a military brat and therefore not from North Dakota nor really from anywhere, as we moved every three years. In California once I organized a potluck party for our entire apartment complex of graduate students, a VERY international crowd. The invitation was to bring some food from where you're from.

                                                                                                                I figured North Dakota to be as close to anything else to being where I'm from, so I called back there for instructions on how to make hot dish, which was not something I normally did. I was told, among other things, to get Velveeta, an ingredient I never used. When I went to the supermarket, I couldn't even find it, because I didn't know that it wasn't among the cheeses, but was instead a shelf-stable product located near the motor oil.

                                                                                                                Anyway, I used Colby cheese, and made it in the oven in a large pyrex pan given the quantity needed. There was ground beef, cooked onions, cheese, elbow macaroni, etc., in there. Other people brought their dishes from Thailand, the Middle East, India, UK, New York, you name it. Great foods. At least a hundred people there.

                                                                                                                NOTHING went faster than the hot dish! Hilarious.

                                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                                    I just saw,"shelf-stable product located near the motor oil."
                                                                                                                    Still laughing. And I use the stuff, too. :)

                                                                                                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                                      I love that story, Bada Bing, and it goes to show that you don't need to do anything exotic for people to appreciate good food. To me a "hot dish" and a casserole were interchangeable descriptions when I grew up in Northwest Indiana. (I was delighted to see that you also are associated with that area.)

                                                                                                                      1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                                        Thanks, gfr.

                                                                                                                        I see you've noted my remark upthread that I have been in northern Indiana for 7 years and am "quite confident that no one I know would have the faintest idea what 'hot dish' means," that is, in this specific Minnesota/North Dakota sense.

                                                                                                                        But I've since realized that, because I am an academic, almost everyone I know did not grow up here at all. (We go where the best job is, nationally or internationally.) So I mean to ask about here and there among the "natives" to see if my impression is actually correct.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                                          Here is a "native". I lived in Marion, Indiana, and also Indianapolis from 1959 until 1981. I NEVER heard the term "hotdish" until I moved to Minnesota. It was CASSEROLE in Indiana, at least in Marion and Indy.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                            I once had a co-worker who was raised in Goshen and then worked in Indianapolis before coming to Minnesota. I would say she would be considered a Chowhound because just a few weeks after her arrival she hosted a dinner party for the entire staff and significant others/spouses. (We were a staff of 6 at the time, a small start up.) Anyway, one of the dishes she made was a casserole. Somebody said, "I love hotdish" and the confused look on her face was funny to me. I basically told her the same thing that I wrote in my post above. (She and her husband had a nice little bungalow near the Marshall Ave. bridge, close to the river.)

                                                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                              Sounds familiar! You (we?) Minnesotans have strange ways! ha

                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                Hearing sandylc and John E, its seems clear I needn't bother second-guessing my sense of things here.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                                                  You nailed it at your international dinner party.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                    My kid went to a potluck with an international crowd recently in England, and he made juicy lucy sliders - I think he said they went over pretty well.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                      I'm sure they loved them. Is it possible to get an American style hamburger in England?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                        He says they are very into the promotion of "English beef" there - he didn't mention whether it is good or not, although he has made references to things like dairy products being tastier there.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                          I understand the average cheese, cream, and such is probably more rich than what is sold in the stores here. I know they will promote their homegrown beef because of the restrictions in Europe on imported beef due to foot and mouth and mad cow. I was just wondering if any of the restaurants and/or pubs were selling actual hamburgers.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                            I think so. He celebrated his birthday at an "American-Style Brewpub".

                                                                                                                      2. Sunny Anderson's shepherd's pie is my favorite. I change up a thing or two, but it is amazing. I posted about it on my blog and she commented. It was cool.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                          Must try that one, then. That IS cool. :)I look after a four-year-old from time to time. He's turning into my little sous-chef, though tourneeing is a bit beyond him at this point. :) At any rate, his favorite food in the world ENTIRE is Shepard's Pie, known to him as "Shemmerspah," and when he asks for it, he gets it. :)

                                                                                                                        2. "Boy, those French! They have a different word for everything."

                                                                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                                                                          1. I made allusion to this up-thread, and I am still thinking about the ethnic connection that might have something to do with the term "hotdish."

                                                                                                                            My family is largely of Scandinavian descent (Finnish and Swedish). The smörgåsbord tradition in those cuisines typically ran through a progression of eating: from cold fish dishes, to other cold dishes, then to hot dishes. The Scandinavian cuisines (at least those two I mentioned and am most familiar with) seem to be very oven-centric, hence a lot of casseroles in the offing. My own Nordic style Christmas buffet is littered with various casseroles traditional to the holiday. (To muddy things even further, the word in Finnish for "casserole" is "laatikko," the same word as for "box" and "drawer.")

                                                                                                                            I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts on the overlap of those regions calling it "hotdish" and those regions with a higher number of Scandinavian immigrants who might have adopted the "hotdish" term for casserole-heavy third round of the buffet table.

                                                                                                                            So curious.

                                                                                                                            15 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                              I've heard this interpretation of "hot dish" having been derived from the Scandinavian custom of heating dishes that are hot as part of the progression of the meal (I think in a book called Hot Dish Heaven). It's a good theory, anyway.

                                                                                                                              I think hot dishes or casseroles really fit into that farming lifestyle where you might need to be feeding large groups of people (farm hands) and need something warm, hearty, and that takes passive cooking time. Also, something all in one dish so you don't have too many dishes to do or have to have a giant serving line. I read this wonderful memoir called "Eggs in the Coffee Sheep in the Corn: My 17 Years as a Farmwife" that really drove that point home.

                                                                                                                              http://www.amazon.com/Eggs-Coffee-She...

                                                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                Hmmm...I found this. Moderately interesting, but inconclusive etymologically: http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/1462...

                                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                  TDQ: If you can find a copy of "The Egg and I" by Betty MacDonald (she of "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle fame) I'm sure you'll enjoy it - it details her years as a chicken farmers' wife in the PNW.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                    Oh, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! I loved her! I read about her when all of the other silly children were reading those books with pictures in them, ha.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                      Mrs. PW turned me onto peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. :) Bless her heart; how I adored that lady.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                        Never heard of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. No relation to Piggly Wiggly?

                                                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                          None at all, TDQ. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was a lady in a neighborhood who worked "magic" on the mischievious kids to correct their behaviors. They were charming, funny stories: kids who wouldn't mind; kids who wouldn't clean up; kids who were greedy; and she always came up with these marvelous, inventive ways to bring them around. I read them as a kid and read them to my own kids, and they are just classic and wonderful. But the Betty MacDonald book I recommended to you is just a pretty neat and VERY funny memoir of a woman who got in waaaaay over her head, trying to ranch chickens. Interesting aside: two characters in her memoir were Ma and Pa Kettle, who were indeed real people and became famous in their own right. (As I'm sure you know.)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                            I'm betting she's passed - if not, she is REALLY elderly. Let's see - her book about being in the TB sanitarium happened when she was in her mid-twenties, and that was in the mid-forties...so if she's living, she's in her mid-nineties.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                              Wow, she died in the 50's.

                                                                                                                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Ma...

                                                                                                                                              That memoir does sound fascinating, thank you!

                                                                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                I'll try to make this the last reference to that school in my old neighborhood (the community cookbook school).

                                                                                                                                                Prior to being a boarding school for handicapped children, it was a tuberculosis sanitarium. That sort of creeps me out. Of course so does the idea of a boarding school for kids who's only handicap is that they are paraplegics. One of my best friends in grade school lived at that school but went to regular elementary school during the day.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                  I love this kind of history, thank you!

                                                                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                              2. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                I was asking about your avatar. : )

                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                  <falls outta chair laughing. I think the bacon fizzy drink is prettier. :)

                                                                                                                                  2. Oh ya, so gud.

                                                                                                                                    cayjohan, DairyQueen, smithareeny , laughing here over your stories.

                                                                                                                                    Swedish here, Grandfather from Kansas by way of Illinois, Grandmother from the old country, Swedish Lutheran church dinners: hot dish = noodles, creamofmushroomsoup (one word) tuna, crushed cornflakes on top. S & P only. I think once upon a time hot casserole was made from scratch, not very adventurous but much tastier ingredients.

                                                                                                                                    It took me a long time to work backward to scand. food, but back in the old time people were far away from home, times were hard and convenience food seemed like a miracle - at least my aunts said so.

                                                                                                                                    and a round of Ollie and Lena jokes, hot weak coffee and cake for dessert.

                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: kariin

                                                                                                                                      "and a round of Ollie and Lena jokes, hot weak coffee and cake for dessert."

                                                                                                                                      -----

                                                                                                                                      You clearly know what you're talking about with references like those. <smiles>

                                                                                                                                      1. re: kariin

                                                                                                                                        My Swedish grandfather despised black pepper, he called it dirt. They were living in Sioux City, Iowa when his minister father got a call to serve a couple of churches in northwest Wisconsin. They could not afford the train tickets for the family and all of their possessions. So in 1903, my 3 year old grandfather rode in a covered wagon with his family the 400 miles to NW Wisconsin.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                          That sort of story is wonderful. I can't imagine traveling that way, but it must have been an adventure for your grandfather. Did he talk about/remember it?

                                                                                                                                          I began calling pre-ground pepper "gunpowder" as a child. I didn't understand why anyone would eat pepper until I began tasting freshly ground stuff later in life. To give my parents some credit, they did have a pepper grinder on the table, but she cooked with copious amounts of the cheap pre-ground stuff and that turned me off on all black pepper for a long time.

                                                                                                                                          Funny, I was known as the picky eater back then. Now I eat so many more things than my mother and sister - gee, quality and preparation DO count.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                            He died when I was quite young, so I never heard those kinds of stories from him.

                                                                                                                                            I am video recording my father telling stories about his family though. My paternal grandfather deserted the Tsar's army in 1910 and walked across Europe before finally buying a passport off some guy and stowed away on a ship heading for America.

                                                                                                                                            My mother used the gunpowder pepper as well, but she was a pretty good cook. I didn't start to use a pepper mill exclusively until about ten years ago. The difference is amazing.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                              And we sometimes think that WE have it hard in life...

                                                                                                                                      2. Well, kids: I've found the freakin' MOTHER of all hot-dish recipes; stolen w/ no permission whatsoever, w/ apologies to Jill Brown.
                                                                                                                                        Brown a pound of ground beef. If it's swimming in fat when it's browned, drain if you want to. Add 2 t. DRY minced onion. Now Pam a casserole dish. Combine half the meat w/ a can of cream of chicken soup, then add the rest of the meat and top that w/ a can of cheddar cheese soup. Cover THAT w/ 2 c. shredded Velveeta, and top THAT layer w/ 2 c. frozen tater tots, and let 'er rip in a 350 oven for an hour or so, 'til you've knocked down a few PBR's in the can. And yep, I did write "casserole dish" which in no way implies that this is a casserole, casserole-like, or casserole-y. This can only ever be a hot dish. :)

                                                                                                                                        17 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                            It seems to me if you held back the tots, and tossed everything else into a crockpot, you could all pass it off as a dip at the average Sunday football party. Bake the tots separately and dip them .

                                                                                                                                            Ghastly, really. HA!

                                                                                                                                            By the way, they didn't even pretend to include any vegetables, unless that's the role of the DRY minced onion.

                                                                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                              Probably been done for a for a football party, TDQ! At least in my extended family group. ;-)

                                                                                                                                              I have to out myself here as seeing this sort of thing pretty often growing up; id est, the vegetable-less hotdish. I'm going to hazard my guess as to why, at least in my little pocket of Upper Midwest rellies. In my family, hotdishes with All The Fixings (protein, starch, veg) were for get-togethers, and the potluck table. Hotdishes for everyday often did not have vegetables. They were served with canned veggies on the side. Home-canned vegetables, as my folk were fervent preservers. Our family alone would put up several hundreds of quarts of various vegetables every year, including enough green and wax beans to eat yourself silly four times a week and still not get through the year's take by the time the next harvest rolled around. Those jars of vegetables were served On Their Own, for the most part. This vegetable-less hotdish then lent itself more easily to frying for breakfast, with some eggs on top. My dad would have blown several gaskets if he had been served refried hotdish WITH GREEN BEANS for breakfast, but a starch and meat hotdish with eggs over easy? No problem.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                Wow! You learn something new every day! Fascinating, thank you!

                                                                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                              2. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                I NEVER had any hotdish that resembles that recipe in my entire life. I guess I was lucky my mother was a proficient home cook. I don't remember cheese making it into any of my mother's hotdish.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                  Y'know, we also never had cheese in our hotdishes, excepting the very few times my mom would try for something interesting, like a sorta-kinda-Mexican hotdish, which went over like a lead-balloon with my dad. Cheese was Velveeta, and it was reserved for sandwiches and as a salad component (<--gäh). Cheese in/on a hotdish was usually eaten in the form of funeral potatoes, or at the home of some norm-bucking hotdish maker.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                    My mother used Velveeta for macaroni and cheese. I never had the boxed stuff and didn't know it existed until I was in my 20s. She used Kraft Old English cheese to make a ham and egg brunch, a strata with ham, eggs, cheese, bread, and milk, but neither of those are hotdish.

                                                                                                                                                    With all of this talk of hotdish, I think my mom only made about three or four different kinds and rotated them.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                    I can't say Mom the Uncook was any kind of proficient, John. But I CAN say that I have never, ever eaten anything that sounded like this or had this ingredient list, in her kitchen or anyone else's. From the sublime back to ridiculous. Times two. Re: the cheese part, I think mom might have put green-can parm on top of tuna noodle casserole, but I'm just guessing. Otherwise....no.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                      My mother, who was a proficient home cook, did use and serve the green can parmesan. The only excuse was that in rural, middle America of the time, it would never occur to her to seek out the real thing at a high price back in the day.

                                                                                                                                                      I have since decided life is too short to use the green can stuff.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                        I nicknamed it sawdust at some point in ancient history.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                          Salted sawdust, kind of like the Vikings. I'm going to bed. : (

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                      I kinda do too, TDQ: except, I'm NEVER making this, so somebody else'll have to take it for the home team and publish proof. :)
                                                                                                                                                      It sounds like a meal you'd want to have a cardiac surgeon standing by for. :)

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                      mamachef, I would call this....."GLOP"!!!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                        Well you don't get much more 'merican than that. its enough to make you cry, right before you drop dead from eatin it. The kind of thing Honey Boo Boo's mama June would be proud to make. Don't even need no noodles for that one.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                          Riiiight? And boy does it beat the hell outta sketti w/ butter n ketchup. :)