Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Growing Up Lutheran - Hot Dish

Hot Dish - if you are all or part Scandahoovian heritage as I am, you  know what hot dish is, the bastard offspring of leftovers and a can of cream of something soup.

It's common in Scandahoovian cooking and a veritable staple in the Lutheran Church Basement dinners that were a big part of my childhood. Hot Dishes were an easy, economical way to put supper on the table as well as use up leftovers on hand.

Ever have a craving for a warm, hearty hot dish? You too might be part Scandahoovian. Here is a short test.

1) Lutefisk is to food as ___________ is to fun:
A. a singles cruise with the Democratic party
B. Hazardous Waste Clean up
C. a colonoscopy

(2)  Finish this sentence.  "Did you hear. . .
(A).  'bout the new spice store  in Ballard
(B.)  'bout the new instant decaf coffee
(C.) 'bout the lutefisk spill over at Abbediengveien Way ? Geese are still dropping out of the sky.

(3) You have gotten into a disagreement with the customs agent at Oslo and accidentally call him a Quisling. What do you do now?
A. Hold up the Scandahoovian/English tourist dictionary and apologize profusely
B. Pray he didn't hear you
C. Nothing. Die with your boots on

(4) For the your favorite  in self defense technology you reach for:
A.   A 1911 in .45
B.  A Colt Python
CAssault Herring 

For me, hot dish was, and still is, comfort food. Some of the earliest discoveries of the hot dish were going to ladies church functions with my Mom, held in the basement of the Lutheran church. Of course there were always the baked goods, rolls, breads cookies. The smell of fresh cardamom bread takes me back there in only moments, and I still make it for Sunday breakfast sometime and there is no better assortment of wonderful Christmas cookies than in the Scandahoovian kitchen.

But what sticks out in my memory today, was all of the hot dishes laid out by the women on the tables, invariably covered with tater tots, bacon bits, shoe string potatoes, chow mein noodles, cashews and almonds (but only for Confirmations) , hard boiled eggs or crushed potato chips. Macaroni (especially the Creamette "Salad-ettes") was almost always involved and well cooked (al dente is for wimps!)

Of course, there was a "Cream of" soup as a binder for about everything. Cream of Asparagus, Cream of Mushroom. Cream of Chicken. Cream of Herring (OK, maybe that was celery).  The food was fairly bland, most cupboards only containing only cardamon and cinnamon, salt and pepper, onion salt, MSG or Lowrey's it seemed. It was also quite pale, lots of macaroni and chicken and cream of soup will do that, even the non white food (meatballs, meatcakes) having a thick blanket whitening agent on it (white gravy).  As kids we ate it all up, the ones with the crushed potato chips on them being our favorite and often requested on "liver and onion night" when Mom would make us something of our own to eat while Dad enjoyed his favorite.

Of course, the adults at the Lutheran basement gatherings tried a little of everything, the highest compliment being that you almost went snow blind looking at someone's casserole. If you were polite you would ask for the recipe, which in Norwegian translated to "Wow, how do get perfectly good food to taste like this?" People always asked my Mom was the recipe. My Mom was a Deputy Sheriff. Mom had auburn hair and was 5 foot 10. She got asked for her recipes a lot.
Of course there was always the accompanying jello salad, often made in decorative molds. Including the infamous green one that included shredded carrots and mayo (shudder). The church ladies would be quite competitive in the jello molding division. I did discover that you could mold the jello quite creatively if you cooled it with liquid nitrogen (available anywhere fine artificial insemination products are sold), creating something that would rival an ice sculpture. But Mom said No. (she also said no to the 8 mm Mauser for Show and Tell as well.)

But now, although jello as main course is only a quivering memory, I still like hot dish. But I add some HOTR touches, that the Lutheran Church women never would have thought of. Comfort is good but I don't want my food to be so bland as to be hypoallergenic.  I think Mom and the ladies would approve.
It starts with Homemade Cream of Cluck Soup . It's less than the cost of the canned stuff and 10 times better, as well as having MUCH less sodium (I just don't like the taste of most canned products because of the sodium). It's the perfect base for hot dish made from leftover roast chicken. Roasted garlic gives it a very nice, rounded flavor.

Make it ahead and freeze it and then just thaw out what you will need for a recipe. I bet if you look in your refrigerator you have the makings of a hot dish.

Hot Brass Hot Dish.
1 can of store soup or 1/4 recipe of the homemade cream of cluck
8 ounces sour cream
1/3 cup milk or half and half
a couple shakes of crushed red pepper
1/8 to 1/4 tsp Lowery's or your favorite Seasoning Salt (I also like Penzey's Ozark seasoning)
a grind or two of black pepper
a generous 1/2 teaspoon of chopped roasted garlic (or 1/4 tsp of  jarred minced) .
2 cups leftover roasted chicken
1 and 1/2 cups mixed vegetables, thawed if frozen or barely steamed.

Mix and put in a 13 x 9 pan, cover with shredded sharp or smoked cheddar (I didn't measure, just a light sprinkle on everything).

Make a box of Stove Top stuffing as directed (on the "sit 3-5 minutes part" of the directions go for 3 minutes or slightly less, as it will dry out on baking). I used the chicken flavored mix and added two pinches each of parsley and sage. I also replaced half the water with leftover chicken stock, but water will work just fine. Dollop or spread it out on top of the creamy chicken mixture and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes

It's not going to win any photo contests, but it was really good (with or without a jello sculpture of a 1911).

click to enlarge the photos, it's prettier close up.


  1. Once married to a first generation Norweigan. I'll eat fiskaballs, but never lutefisk. She liked to eat at Ivar's.

  2. Well Seasoned Fool - being only 1/4 Scandahoovian, I couldn't do the lutefisk, but I've heard that if you spray "Pam" non stick spray down your throat you can get it down easier.

  3. StoveTop is so much more interesting than macaroni. And as much as everyone gets down on boxed food, I just can't give up ST Stuffing. In general - I would never use it for Thanksgiving.

    That actually looks good, so I'll add that to the recipe file pile. Thanks!

    P.S. As for jello, that was the first thing I left behind forever once I moved out on my own. I swear everything came with jello back then. I do remember the green mess, LOL.

  4. I'm beginning to think that we are related in some way shape or form. Almost every post I relive things I have done...Ya Sure ya betcha. Talk hot dish down south and you get that deer in the head light look. Same when you say pop vs soda.

  5. As someone who witnesses people inflict lutefisk on themselves every Christmas, I like to think I'm something of an expert on the topic.

    I don't eat it myself - well, I have a bite once every five years or so just to remind myself I'm half Norwegian) - but the world has come a long way from the chemical warfare of boiling lutefisk in cheese cloth.

    Now, we bake it. It sorta almost comes out crispy on the edges when you do this (it still looks like fish jello) - but at least when they bake it.... it doesn't *smell* like the boiled stuff did. And your kitchen isn't a no go zone for a week.

    Maybe in another thirty years we'll just switch over completely to Swedish meatballs. Don't ask me why we call them that, none of us have any swede blood....

  6. ...hehehe, your "hot dish" equals my "casserole"

    ...oh yeah, stove top is piled deep in the pantry, equal partners to rice, and pastas in said

  7. Not so sure on the Hot Dish, but that photo of the cardamom that looks divine! Got a recipe for that?

    How's your 4-legged partner doing, Brigid?

  8. Sounds like the Baptist church, except for the Lutefisk... :-)

  9. made a Ballard joke. It's like watching an old episode of Almost Live.

    Went to a girls house once, and was offered lutefisk. There was no second date.

  10. Hot Dish - Kind of like our Catholic Meatload. It's part of our penance.

  11. Where I grew up as a kid, we thought "The Beverly Hillbillies" was a documentary. The lutefisk reminds me of a neighbor, Roger, who was trading work with another neighbor. When they went in at noon for dinner, they were having raccoon.

    Roger's famous comment: "The longer I chewed it, the bigger it got."

    I'm pretty sure it beats possum, though.

  12. available anywhere fine artificial insemination products are sold= lmao. Thank you! I really need a good laugh too! Thanks for sharing the cream of cluck. Southern living had a cream of mushroom. I'm with you in the I can give up lots of processed and/or boxed stuff but Stove top is good stuff!

  13. I met Hot Dish, taverns, "a little lunch" (the large meal between dinner and supper) and "a jello" when I flew in the mid-upper Midwest (note that I lived a little south of the Lutefisk Line). Those I could manage, but the sour cream raisin pie was too much. Wonderful people who always treated me well, even if I was "a heathen Methodist." They did warn me to beware of those Missouri Valley Lutherans, though, because everyone knows that Lutherans are fast!

  14. Well Seasoned Fool - I worked as a receptionist for a freight forwarder down on Western Avenue right after high school, while going to college nights. I got hired because I was eye candy who could type 80 wpm and swear in Norwegian. It was better than working at McDonalds, I can say that and there was a little Ivers stand nearby where I could get fish and chips for lunch.

    naturegirl - Thanksgiving usually gets my cornbread stuffing with bacon, but stovetop is one of the few "instant" foods I just love.

    Rob - Dad's English/Scot/Irish but both Mom and Stepmom (after Mom died) were full blown Scandanavian.

    Jon - Dad called the other night all excited that one of the ladies form church that organizes Senior things took him to the Lutefisk festival downtown. He had quite the time.

    Ken - I still prefer my Mom's Tuna Hot Dish recipe with the crushed potato chips to a lot of gourmet foods (she made the white sauce from scratch though, with lots of butter and some cracked pepper).

    Monkeywrangler - if you look on my lower sidebar, there's a recipe. Thanks so much for the dog ramp, look for an email!

    Old NFO - I'm home but three 14 hour days in a row, and dealing with some health issues with the family that will require my popping out there sooner than planned, meant dinner was half a protein bar and an apple.

    greg - I had to sneak Ballard in there, for my readers from the Seattle area who would so get that.

    Uno mas - I know it was a typo but "meat load" SOOOO fit.

    mushroom - "the longer I chewed, the bigger it got". If I wasn't so tired I'd have cried from laughing so hard.

    Sarah - I just don't like the taste of the sodium (I've never actually had a margarita) though I'll make dishes with it for others who enjoy that, but the Stove Top I'll always have on hand.

    Alma Boykin - I wasn't a big fan of that sour cream raisin pie either, but I loved all the tarts and pies and cakes Mom made with rhubarb.

    Off to bed folks and thanks for cheering me up, it's been a long wee

  15. Nope, Catholic Meatload.

    Take a Meatloaf, and leave it in the oven for an extra half-hour - hour (just to make *sure* it's cooked) and you have the traditional Catholic Meatload.

    You can find them at the Parish Pot Luck right next to the 20 baked bean dishes. :)

  16. We had macaroni, I think we were too poor for Stovetop anything. I had homemade pizza long before the storebought kind ever crossed our threshold or my tongue.
    Tuna Casserole, and something called "Seven Layer Casserole", which was rice, canned corn, canned tomato sauce, onions, green bell pepper, ground meat and bacon, in layers and baked for an hour. Good and filling for teens and pre-teens. With three boys we never knew what leftovers were.
    Oddly, though, whenever my mother had to bring something to a church or school function, she brought commercial potato salad with a hard-boiled egg sliced with one of those slicing jigs laid across the top and heavily dashed with sweet paprika.


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