The land of the Nana. Well, and her (and my) relatives.
Nana was born and raised in a little town south of the Twin Cities called Owatonna. I’ve only been there once but from what I remember, it’s a cute little town. Hopefully I’ll get to visit again this summer—there is rumor of a family reunion on the horizon. But I’m not here to give you my life history, I’m here to talk to you about the hotdish.
From what the cousins told me, a hotdish involves canned soup, hamburger, and some gross canned or frozen vegetables. And tater tots. I like tater tots.
Here are some of the Minnesota Cousins—along with 2 of my aunties, and 2 of my great-aunties (Nana’s sisters!)
They got together last summer for a mini-reunion (yes, without me!) and I think that’s when the real reunion ideas started rolling. That, and the miracle of Facebook, where I could get back in touch with the family I haven’t even seen since I was 12. That’s a long time ago, man.
I can’t wait to go there and see everyone again. But in the meantime, I thought maybe I’d recreate the dish that tortured my cousins throughout their childhood.
Except, there will be no canned soup in my version–well, besides stock. That doesn’t really count, now, does it? I’m keeping the tater tots though, because I like ‘em. There’s just some kid food you don’t grow out of, and for me, tater tots is one of those foods. My friend Kim, she still likes Spaghetti-O’s! G likes Steak-Ums. I don’t even know what that is. My Zaney likes Campbell’s tomato soup. And Zak’s with me–tater tots all the way.
First thing’s first. We have to make the sauce–this is what will replace the Cream o’ Mushroom. You have to start with a roux. I’ve got 1/4 cup of butter, melted and mixed in 1/4 cup of flour. Cook it for a couple of minutes–this is a blond roux.
Slowly whisk in a small can of beef stock–it’s about 1-1/2 cups.
I added some red wine too–about 1/2 cup. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook until it thickens slightly and set aside.
Next, in a large saute pan, melt 2 Tbsp butter and saute some thickly sliced mushrooms. I used a big bag of already cut mushrooms because of my arm thing, but you can get whole ones. You could just quarter or halve them too, the big pieces would be good and meaty.
Don’t forget to season them with salt and pepper. When they’re cooked through, set them aside in a bowl and return the pan to the stove.
Next in the pool is the ground beef. I used fairly lean beef for this since I knew I was making a sauce. You could use ground turkey for this, or even that soy crumble stuff. Or even omit the meat if you’re of the vegetarian variety.
If you use the meat though, just leave it sit there for a couple of minutes so it browns properly. Once it’s browned, you can break it up more and stir it around. Season it with salt and pepper.
Now you can add the aromatics–I’ve got onion, carrot, celery and garlic. I also added some dry thyme (my plant is kind of dormant), but a sprig of fresh would be great too.
Cook until the vegetables are about cooked through, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle on a bit of flour and stir it about.
In goes a handful of chopped parsley, and you can add back the cooked mushrooms.
Some frozen peas, if you like, and then pour in the gravy. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.
Pour the meat and vegetable mixture into a baking dish.
Cover with tater tots!
And bake at 400* for about 20 minutes, or until the tots are golden brown and crunchy and the meat and vegetables are hot and bubbly.
Look, Cousins! It looks pretty appetizing, doesn’t it?
Ok, I’ll admit, it’s not beautiful. But it tasted good, and was a perfect antidote to a cold and rainy day. Add a nice light salad with some peppery radishes and you’re set.