Hungry for more? We posed these questions to author Burckhardt
Q: What made hot dishes popular? Ann Burckhardt answers: First of all, they are easy to make, often of ingredients the cook already has in the cupboard or refrigerator. A casserole will stay hot for an hour or so, ready for the late arrival at ho...
Q: What made hot dishes popular?
Ann Burckhardt answers: First of all, they are easy to make, often of ingredients the cook already has in the cupboard or refrigerator. A casserole will stay hot for an hour or so, ready for the late arrival at home or for serving at a buffet party or a potluck get-together. And there's usually enough for second or third helpings or even lunch the next day.
Q: If you could boil the Midwest hot dish down to one rendition, what ingredients would it contain?
A: Ground beef; a vegetable, preferably a green one; a starch of pasta, rice or potatoes; and cream of something soup to bind it all together. A topping of buttered crumbs or shredded cheese is awfully nice.
Q: Why is the Midwest known for casseroles?
A: A combination of things. Midwest thriftiness: Casseroles are great for using leftover meat and vegetables. Convenience and time-saving: When the main dish is in a casserole, the cook doesn't have to keep track of the meat, the vegetable and the starch in separate pans and bowls. Many cooks now work full time outside the home. But in the 1950s, when casseroles became so popular, many cooks were still living on Midwest farms, working with their men, milking cows, farrowing pigs, gathering eggs and growing huge gardens, yet they needed to feed big appetites. And having just one dish meant less dishwashing in those pre-dishwasher days.
Q: What would we do with canned condensed cream soups without casseroles?
A: Lots of people still use canned cream soups as soups. I add whole kernel corn to cream of chicken soup to make delicious corn chowder. Many a week, I make a pot of cream of vegetable soup to take to the nearby Burnsville food shelf to feed our crew of workers. I mix cans of cream of chicken, celery and mushroom soup and add canned peas, kidney beans, wild rice, green beans and, occasionally, canned tuna or chicken.
Q: How did we come to make hot dishes?
A: The convenient casserole resulted from the drive for efficiency and timesaving in the kitchen. They first showed up in cookbooks of Anglo-American women in such institutions as the Federated Women's Clubs, according to Thomas Isern, a North Dakota State University history professor.
Q: Can you suggest some food substitutions to make a hot dish healthier?
Ann Burckhardt answers: The quickest way to make a hot dish more nutritious is to cut the meat or other high-fat protein ingredients such as cheese in half and double the amount of vegetable. A cupful of soup/sauce will hold two to three cups of meat and/or vegetables. Nuts are now being touted as a good source of healthy fats and fiber, so I suggest adding a handful or a half-cup of almonds, cashews, walnuts or peanuts. Since canned soups are extremely high in salt, which is a cause of high blood pressure, you can cut the salt by substituting a homemade cream sauce for the cream of whatever soup.