Grim’s Grub: The True Taste of Minnesota Identity – Pine and Lakes Echo Journal


Minnesota prides itself on calling things by their true names, including “duck, duck, gray duck,” “pop” and, of course, “hot dish.”

Now, one could argue that since the word “saucepan” traces back to the Greek word “kuathion” – for “little cup” – this is the proper term. But to that I say, beauty before age!

And we Minnesotans know that a well-prepared hot dish is a beauty—well, from a flavor standpoint.

While Americans have been preparing common dishes consisting of meat, vegetables, and starches tossed into a pot and cooked probably since the nation’s inception, the name “hot dish” didn’t come to the fore until around 1930.

The hot dish has Minnesota’s most stereotypical origin story.

Going back to the 1930s and earlier, a popular form of fundraising was the sale of the community cookbook. These were often organized by a school, a chamber of commerce or, most often, a church.

Such is the case here. If I gave you three guesses as to which denomination published the first hot dish recipe, you’d have two to spare. Knowing that the church was Lutheran, you would have a good chance of guessing the surname of the author of the recipe!

The woman who changed epicurean history just over 90 years ago was none other than Mrs. CW Anderson, who submitted her recipe, titled “Hot Dish”, to the Grace Lutheran Ladies Aid cookbook in Mankato.

It looks like something like a hamburger aid or a goulash, neither of which are my hot dish of choice, but it showed that you can make something out of nothing.

The basic hot dish formula is simple: proteins, starches, vegetables, optional sauce and cheese, bonus points for a crispy topping. Perhaps the king of all hot dishes was born in 1956, three years after Ore-Ida invented commercial tater tots. It has become an important staple for the state.

Hot food is such a big part of who we are that since 2010 there has been a Minnesota Congressional Hot Food Contest, won by the likes of Rick Nolan, Tom Emmer, Betty McCollum and others.

McCollum’s 2019 award-winning recipe added a spicy Hmong twist to the classic tater tot hot dish.

Mrs. CW Anderson’s original hot dish from 1930

  • 2 pounds of burger
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 box of macaroni and cream
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped
  • 1 can of peas
  • 1 can of tomato soup
  • 1 pint of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Fry 2 pounds of hamburger. Fry, but not until golden, two large onions. Boil a box of Creamettes in salted water until tender. Put the fried hamburger, the onions, the creamers in a baking dish, and add a bunch of celery cut into pieces, a can of peas, a can of tomato soup, 1 liter of tomatoes, salt and pepper. Mix everything and add enough water so that the liquid covers everything. Bake.

  • 1 bag of hash browns
  • 2 cans BBQ pulled pork, drained
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained
  • 8 ounces of sour cream
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Garlic salt to taste
  • Pouch of onion soup mix
  • Pepper to taste
  • 8 slices of bacon, cut into small lardons
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese
  • BBQ sauce, to taste

Butter a gratin dish. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Line your dish with half the shredded hash browns and sprinkle the onion soup mixture evenly over the top. Next, spread the sour cream in an even layer over the hash browns.

In a bowl, mix corn and mayonnaise until well coated. Spread it over sour cream and season with garlic salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl, combine the two cans of pulled pork and toss to break up the pork pieces. Add barbecue sauce until coated to desired amount. Spread it over the corn layer.

Reserve about 1/4 cup bacon and 1/4 cup green onions, but divide the remaining bacon bits and onions into the remaining hash browns. Season with garlic salt and pepper and mix until fairly smooth. Put this on the pulled pork.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes covered, then another 20 minutes uncovered or until edges begin to brown.

Mix cheese with remaining bacon and green onions. After 40 minutes, sprinkle it over the hot dish, raise the temperature to 450 degrees and cook for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bacon is cooked.

2019 First Place Recipe by Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups carrots, grated
  • 1 small cabbage, quartered and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 bag of tater tots
  • ½ cup Umami seasoning
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • ½ tbsp pepper
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 egg rolls
  • 5 Thai chili peppers, optional

Add tater tots to cover the bottom of a hot dish.

Sauté the garlic for a minute over medium heat, then add the onion and cook until translucent. Add carrots and cabbage and cook until tender. Transfer the vegetables to a container for later.

Cook the ground beef well, then return the vegetables to the pan, including the chiles, if desired. Add Umami seasoning, salt and pepper and mix. Transfer the mixture to the hot dish dish and cover the tater tots.

Whisk the cream of mushroom soup with the milk and pour over the hot dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

While the hot dish is cooking, cut the egg rolls into wedges and fry until crispy, then crumble the rolls on the hot dish five minutes before the end.

Travis Grimler is a weekly editor for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He can be reached at 218-855-5853 or [email protected]

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