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How's Your Hotdish?

Beau Vondra, Rick Gion and Molly Yeh
Rick Gion
Beau Vondra, Rick Gion and Molly Yeh

"Prairie Plates with Rick Gion," features a discussion on a unique culinary tradition from the upper Midwest, particularly focusing on the concept of the "hot dish." The conversation, led by host Ashley Thornberg and Rick, delves into what differentiates a hot dish from a casserole, the cultural significance of hot dishes in the region, and the criteria that make a dish qualify as a hot dish—such as being baked, savory, and containing a creamy element that unifies ingredients like ground beef, noodles, corn, beans, or rice.

Rick shares his recent experience as a judge at the sixth annual Fargo Hotdish Festival held at Brujala, highlighting the diversity and creativity of the entries. The festival featured a range of hot dishes, from traditional to innovative, with Rick and his fellow judges sampling 14 different dishes based on criteria including taste, texture, and creativity. He mentions some standout entries, such as a hot dish with a Frico (cheese crisp) made with Gouda, and the most creative award-winning Italian beef hot dish by 701 Eateries, which adapted the classic Chicago Italian beef sandwich into a hot dish form.

Rick emphasizes the importance of hearty and savory flavors, balanced textures, and the creativity displayed in combining traditional elements with new ideas to elevate the humble hot dish. He also notes the local sourcing and quality of ingredients, such as fresh cream and cheese, as factors that contribute to the success of a hot dish, illustrated by the grand champion winner from Cows and Co.

The conversation reflects not only on the culinary aspects of the hot dish but also on its cultural significance in the Midwest, showcasing how this regional comfort food can bring together communities and inspire creativity among cooks. Through the lens of the Fargo Hotdish Festival, Rick and Ashley explore how this simple, communal meal continues to evolve while remaining a beloved tradition in the upper Midwest.