© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What makes a good hotdish? Food Network star Molly Yeh weighs in

What makes a good hotdish? While judging the sixth annual Fargo Hotdish Festival, Food Network star Molly Yeh said a hotdish has to have four main components — something meaty or protein-y, veggies, sauciness, and a fun topping.

The festival, which happened this month at Drekker Brewing Co., is a celebration of upper-Midwest culture and cuisine. It's also a friendly competition among Fargo-Moorhead area restaurants to see who can create the tastiest, most creative spin on the classic Midwestern dish.

Rick Gion, Prairie Public’s Major Gifts Manager and local food enthusiast, served on a panel of three judges — alongside Yeh and Sioux Falls chef Beau Vondra — to crown the festival winners. Listen to Gion's conversation with Molly Yeh above as they discuss the hotdish highlights from this year's event.

Interview transcript:

Rick Gion: I’m here with Food Network Star Molly Yeh. She drove down from Grand Forks to judge the sixth annual Fargo Hotdish Festival. What brought you down here today?

Molly Yeh: Hotdish! [laughs] No, I think just seeing the different interpretations of hotdish is inspiring and just the fact that there are -- how many different did we count? -- 14 different hotdishes here and they are also wildly different. And so the fact that there is this dish that all of us know and love, and that there can still be variations made on this dish, I think is just so exciting and inspiring. And they were all really good.

Gion: What makes a good hotdish?

Yeh: All right, so you have a hotdish you wanted to have the four main components, right? You've got to have something meaty or protein-y. I've done a bean dish before. You've got to have veggies. You've got to have something to hold it all together, so it's got to have that sauciness. And you've got to have a really fun topping, so, of course, obviously the most iconic is tater tots, but I think it's I saw some great toppings around here.

One of them had like three types of French's Onions and then there were French's Onions-flavored potato chips, and French's onions-flavored Funyuns… there was just a lot of Funyun energy happening on that one. I think that having that “quirky” element goes a long way, where it's sort of like a conversation-starter just right off the bat. You see it on top and you're like, “That's hilarious!” I think a hotdish doesn't take itself too seriously, and it kind of knows that it's ugly, but that it's also delicious and really comforting.

Gion: It is still a piece of art, and art can be ugly and it can be beautiful.

Yeh: That’s so profound. Yeah, I mean, I think it depends on how you're arranging your tater tots. Are you a straight -- like rows and columns -- tater tot guy, or do you just dump them all on?

Gion: Well, I've seen you with your tater tot hotdish and it's very organized.

Yeh: That that's the one thing that my husband has taught me about cooking is that in his family the tater tots have to be organized. At Bernie's, though, we just like deep-fry the suckers and throw them on top. And I think the fact that they're deep-fried as opposed to baked to crispiness that allows them to be piled up and they maintain their crispiness.

Gion: Sounds delicious. Making me hungry again after trying 14 hotdishes.

Yeh: Are you serious? [laughs]

Rick: Well, yeah, I mean it sounds like you were inspired today a little bit. Anything you may try at home or at the restaurant?

Yeh: Okay. In my line of sight right now is this Chicago-inspired hotdish which has a giardiniera on top and I thought that that was a really delicious, really refreshing interpretation of that crunchy element on top. When you think “crunchy element,” you're thinking something fried, or you're thinking a chip – or, we saw wonton strips here today, too -- but I thought that having that element be something pickled and acidic and crisp as a vegetable was a very nice balance to heavier innards, so I like I like that. I like that touch. Eating it felt less “deathist” than some of the other hot dishes.

Gion: I did too and it kind of cut through it -- cut through the rich.

Yeh: Cut it – yes, yes.

Gion: Well, thanks for being here today Molly and doing this interview. Well, we're going into the judges’ chambers now.

Yeh: Oh gosh, let’s get our boxing gloves on. Let’s fight. [laughs]