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Happy Hot Dish

By Mark Mulcahy

We all have them - you know, those guilty pleasure foods that are your go-to meals when you are tired or had a hard day or just want something yummy and easy to make. Mine are tater tots and potpies. Not necessarily together (but they could be, right?) I know what you're thinking: "tater tots and potpies?" And yes, it’s true. Don't be so incredulous - you have something along these lines too!

So now that I’ve come clean about that, I want to tell you about a new favorite comfort food I have been introduced to recently. It’s called hot dish, and apparently if you grew up in the Midwest it has been a wintertime staple for many generations. It's nothing fancy, but it sure is good!

Basically it's an easy, one-casserole-dish entrée served at many special occasions that everyone talks about and loves. The common ingredients are often cream of mushroom soup, canned or frozen corn and green beans, beef, and a delightful crispy potato topping - usually tater tots, but not limited to them. Though these are the basic ingredients, the sky is the limit on what combinations you can come up with - they are as numerous as the fond memories they’ve created. So after trying my first hot dish, I wanted to make one of my own, using fresh organic ingredients. I did say anything goes, right?
Image of Organic Yellow Onions
The evening came for my first hot dish try and I dove in with Melissa’s Organic Produce and chicken. I started by pouring a nice glass of Syrah and preheating the oven. As I started chopping the Organic Onions to sauté, I called out to the kitchen,
“Can I use extra onion?”

“Can I do organic browned Brussels sprouts instead of green beans?”

“How about adding sautéed mushrooms?”
Yes! Yes! Yes!

Ah, I thought I really could do anything!!!

So I baked the chicken with cloves of garlic inserted into the breast, sautéed all the veggies until almost - but not quite - done, chopped the cooked chicken into bite sized pieces and tossed them in the casserole dish with the mushroom soup, and topped it with lots of tater tots and popped it in the oven. Yes, I could have made the mushroom soup and done an au gratin top - but remember, the idea behind hot dish is ease and comfort.
Image of Organic Romaine Lettuce
I made a small, simple salad with Melissa’s Romaine Lettuce and Carrots, and waited patiently. When the hot dish was ready, my friend took her first bite and I realized I had passed the test. Organic, hot, and delicious - now I’m hooked and you will be too, once you give it a try. Here is a hot dish recipe I adapted for my own. Happy hot dish season!

¼ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium Organic Yellow Onions, finely chopped
2 large Boneless Chicken Breasts, baked until nearly done (about 20 - 30 minutes)
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
½ pound Organic Brussels Sprouts
½ pound Organic Crimini Mushrooms
1 pound Frozen Organic Tater Tots

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add the oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the organic yellow onions and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms to the onions and cook until they are tender but still firm. Pour off any excess moisture and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer the sauté mixture from the skillet into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread the cream of mushroom soup over the top and mix together and top with frozen tater tots (they do make these organic too). Bake uncovered for 1 hour; the tater tots should be golden brown. Serve and savor to a round of smiles.
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