Behind the Lace Curtains-Sunday Dinner, All-American Hot Dish

Mention the name "hot dish" in the Midwest and you're sure to come up with a myriad of different recipes, but not doubt where the meal came from.  It's pure American Midwest, with Mankato, Minnesota being the accepted birthplace of the casserole, based on hamburger, macaroni and some sort of canned vegetable, in this case peas being the mother of all hot dish vegetables.  The recipe was first published in a 1930 edition of Grace Lutheran Church Ladies Aid cookbook and is testament of the resourcefulness of people living during the Great Depression, no doubt influenced by immigrants coming to American the generation prior to settle homesteads.

When I was in grade school, one of my favorite meals for school lunch was called Hunter's Hot Dish, which is much like the recipe below, but I remember it being a bit different, perhaps more vegetables were added.  That's fodder for future research.  Hot dishes are delicious, inexpensive, and stick-to-your-ribs meals that won't leave you starving an hour after you eat them.  They leftover fabulously, but I guarantee you won't have any with this recipe!  It comes from "Country Cooking With Loma and Friends", a cookbook organized for the absolutely wonderful Earth Science Museum in Loma, Montana.  If you can find a copy, get it!

1 lb. lean ground beef
One 8 oz. can whole kernel corn (do not drain)
1/4 c. ripe olives, pitted and halved (I used a can of sliced black olives)
2 c. water
1/2 t. salt (I always use kosher)
1 c. Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 c. onion, chopped (1 medium onion will do)
One 8 oz. can tomato sauce
4 oz. noodles (uncooked, about 2 c.) (I used macaroni)
1 t. dried oregano leaves
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Cook and stir the meat and onion in a large skillet until the meat is brown.  Drain off the excess fat.  Stir in the undrained corn and the rest of the ingredients.

To cook in a skillet: Heat the mixture to boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

To cook in the oven:  Pour the mixture into an ungreased 2-quart casserole.  Cover and bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Uncover and bake until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.  Serve hot.

I knew looking at the recipe that this would not fit in my Revereware skillet.  So, I used a small Dutch oven pot and prepared as instructed for the skillet version.  You will need to stir the mixture OFTEN, or the noodles can and will stick to the bottom!  This made about 1/2 of the Dutch oven pot and was good for 2 meals.

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