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November 1, 2007 | 4 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I'm a college student and have no idea how to cook. My girlfriend is from Minnesota and raves about this mysterious meal called "hotdish." What is this hotdish and how do I cook it? I need to impress so please tell me your best! I'm depending on you because you're the only Minnesotan I "know."

Thank you for helping me in this dire emergency.


Hotdish is casserole, Patrick. It's a meal in one dish, vegetables and grain and perhaps meat, and its good peasant cooking and it exists in every culture. Surely you ate it growing up. It might have rice or noodles and it needs some sauce and then you add what ingredients you are moved to add. Be inventive. If you want to start with a classic, do the tuna noodle hotdish, which employs a can of cream of mushroom soup (don't add water), a can of tuna, a bag of egg noodles, and perhaps a package of frozen peas. Cook the noodles, glop in the soup, add the tuna and peas, and if you want to be fancy, crush some potato chips for a topping. Then there is hamburger hotdish. Brown the meat, season it with Worcestershire, glop in a can of chopped tomatoes, and combine it with noodles. Or rice. And add whatever else you think might be tasty. (But not tuna.) For more and better ideas, Google "casserole" or look for recipes on the sides of Creamette noodle packages or Campbell soup cans.


that's for the fancy stuff, dear patrick. the positive side is, that you just have to get rid of a empty can or two. the negative side is, that you have to get rid of an empty can or two...

i'm german speaking. we call a casserole "eintopf". it's very easy to make. you call yourself a college student, so you must know sompthing about phisics, the phisics of cooking that is. carrots are hard, potatoes are too. so is cellery-root. they are cooked first. which is not true, i am lieyng here, because first are the onions. and even "firster" is the pot. which has to be hot on the stove. start with the hot pot and add some good oil. then throw a good measure of diced onions into it, and some garlic. it may be the whole bulb (one can suck them "thingees" out, when the dish is done. they will be soft and sweet. add the meat now, if you have some, and let it roast a bit. then the vegetables, if you need any. it's about how hard they come. carrots first, broccoli-flowers last. chards and leafy stuff the very last.
let it simmer in its own juice for a while, or add a little liquid, chardonnay is fine, until done...

e voilą, vous avez un casserole magnifique.

Hi Garrison,

I am so glad you explained hotdish! I have read your books and was always puzzled by the references to it. I was like what the heck is that? My mother makes the best tuna casserole in the world. But I also want to tell you that your books have made me laugh and cry when I read them in public. It can be embarrassing but I love your writing. I wrote my Uncle Dave once and told him about how you said nothing we do for our children is ever wasted. He's my godfather and when my father left, he really was there and he brought me my first bigwheel and my Barbie stuff. I sent him a letter around christmas and he cried when he got it. It really lifted his spirits. One of his lifetime friends had died the week before and he was discouraged. So, see, nothing you write is wasted either.

Heidi A. Dietrich

Canned tomatoes in hamburger hot dish? No! You need a can of Veg-All. Mixed vegetables. Keillor lied to you, Patrick.

here's a recipe for a rural michigan hot dish-
we call it Church Lady Hot Dish.
Throw a pound or so of hamburger or venison in the frypan & cook until brownish & crumbly.Add a big onion & brown in the burger grease.
Oil an oven safe bowl - at least 1 1/2 quart size. Heat your oven to 350.
Dump the burger/onion into oiled bowl. Now in the frypan-no you don't have to wash it first- make a slurry of 1 can of cream of mushroom soup,1 can water & 1/2 can of rice.Put a lid on & let it cook about 15 minutes until water is absorbed.Now dump this & 1 can of drained VEG ALL(mixed vegetables)in the bowl. Top with TATERTOTS(or french fried onions or breadcrumbs or cheese.Bake about 20 minutes or until topping has browned a bit.Enjoy with people you like.

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