'Iron Chef,' Congress-style: Delegation competes over hottest ‘hotdish'

Call it “Iron Chef,” congressional-style: The first annual Minnesota Hotdish contest took place Wednesday afternoon in the office of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), and the competition was fierce.

The goal was to create the best version of a tasty treat native to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It’s called hotdish, one word, and according to food writer Hallie Harron, the only requirements for a hotdish are that it be a casserole containing starch, protein, a binding liquid (often cream-of-mushroom soup) and a crunchy crust. 

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Competing for the coveted Hotdish trophy (a Pyrex casserole dish with a plaque in the bottom) were Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Franken, and Reps. Michele Bachmann (R), Betty McCollum (D), Keith Ellison (D) and Tim Walz (D).

The blind judging was performed by former Reps. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) and Gerry Sikorski (D-Minn.) and MinnPost reporter Derek Wallbank. 

At the start of the competition, Franken joked that for those familiar with Minnesota cuisine, hotdish is best accompanied by “Jell-O salad, bars and pop.” Bachmann donned an apron with a Minnesota Twins logo on it for good measure.

With a combined total of 51 points from the judges, Klobuchar won the day with her “Taconite Tater Tot Hotdish.” But the lawmaker made sure to give credit where it was due: her staff.

A spokeswoman for Klobuchar said a group of staffers had prepared numerous hotdishes, and that the senator had joined them in tasting, and ultimately selecting, the tater tot dish.


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