Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hotdish Pizza

My mom's menu rotated according to days of the week and we knew which day of the week it was by the smells coming from the kitchen. Weekends were my favorite when tacos, burgers, and pizza took turns at our table. Sundays were Mom's night off and we kids served ourselves peanut butter toast and canned fruit cocktail before settling down with the Wonderful World of Disney.

During the rest of the week we dined on a steady wholesome diet of meat, vegetables, fat, and starch. Hotdish night brought all of those elements together in one baking dish. Wednesday nights my nostrils filled with the essence of SPAM and I could hardly wait to dip my fork into the scalloped potatoes (made with cream-of-something soup) that puckered all crispy and golden around the pink meat product.

Most of us who are born in the Midwest acquire a taste for hotdish. The taste, or at least the experience, defines us as natives. Never had hamburger macaroni tomato-soup hotdish? Oh you must not be from here. Not familiar with tuna peas cream-of-mushroom hotdish topped with potato chips? Your life hasn't yet begun! No hamburger wild-rice cream-of-celery hotdish in your past? I pity your ignorance.

Is our collective Midwestern reach for hotdish a gift from Scandinavian ancestors who enjoyed white unseasoned food? Or did hotdish reverence develop here because long winters necessitated preserved food? In Minnesota we are, after all, the center of canning and processing companies: General Mills, Pillsbury, Land O'Lakes, and SPAM.

The loose definition of hotdish is a casserole made with canned soup. I love hotdish, or perhaps I love the idea of hotdish. Yet, as an adult I harbor an aversion to recipes that include canned soup. Thankfully this distaste only gets in the way of my hotdish pleasure if I am making casseroles at home. To make due I've found ways around canned soup. White sauce made with roux heals a multitude of canned sins. However, if family or friends add soup to their hotdishes, who am I to judge? Pass the SPAM and potatoes, please!

Tater Tot Hotdish Pizza combines three of my favorite things in one dish: pizza, tater tot hotdish, and stroganoff. No canned soup was harmed in the making of this dish.

Tater Tot Hotdish Pizza
Serves 4 - 6

Dough for 10 to 12 inch pizza crust, uncooked
6 provolone cheese slices (about 1 ounce each)
25 tater tots, cooked according to manufacturer's instructions and halved
1/2 pound ground meat (chicken, beef, pork)
1 cup mushroom, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup yellow or green pepper, diced
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 cup green beans, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
2 green onions, diced
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian cheeses
Olive oil, salt, and pepper

Roll dough to very thin round and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Place provolone slices evenly across dough and dot with tater tots. Bake in 425
degree oven until cheese is melted and crust begins to turn golden.

Cook ground meat in large saute pan and season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms just begin to release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add onion, peppers, thyme, and Worcestershire and continue cooking until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes more. Add green beans and cook 1 additional minute. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and green onions.

Spread meat-veggie mixture across par-baked pizza and top with shredded cheese. Return pizza to oven and bake additional 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Allow pizza to rest about 5 minutes before slicing.

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