Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Hotdish
Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a “hotdish” making kick. I’ve made more hotdish in the past 2 months, than I have in the past few years.
By that, I mean I’ve made it twice. LOL.
The first time was on the night of the US election.
I planned ahead for comfort food, and decided to make a hotdish for my Minnesotan husband.
This was in addition to my MAD HUNT for anything even remotely resembling Totino’s pizza here. That whole thing was ... something.
The Hunt for Crappy Pizza
I’ll never understand why he looks at Totino’s as an ideal comfort food. I look at it as a round of cardboard with like a tablespoon worth of cheese on it, and like 2 sad pieces of pepperoni on it.
I think calling it “pizza” is a stretch, but hey.. that's what he wanted, so I was gonna make it happen! I just had no idea how difficult a task it would be!
Pizza culture up here is different from in Minneapolis.
We don’t have anywhere near as many of the chain restaurants, and those we do have are spaced pretty few and far between.
What we DO have is a *ton* of independent pizza restaurants. Hamilton is very very Italian, and the pizza here is ridiculously good. Quality dough, cheese, toppings... the meats are particularly fantastic.
The downside - if you can call it that - is that when you decide you need to find a crappy pizza to satisfy a craving, it’s actually incredibly difficult to. I went to something like 5 grocery stores - most discount type chains - including a Giant Tiger.
The crappiest pizza I was able to find was Dr Oetker. As frozen pizza goes... that’s nowhere near what I was looking for. They’re pretty decent!
Anyway, after following a tip from another expat American, we found that Walmart brand individual pizzas are THE crappiest, and come pretty close to the Totinos... “experience”.
Anyway, figured I’d put that out there in case any of your find yourselves on a similar mission, in Canada!
I digress. Comfort food was both purchased and cooked, and the night went about as well as could be expected.
What is Hotdish?
While “crappy pizza” is a pretty standard thing to understand, “hotdish” may be a new one to some.
It’s casserole. (“It is NOT! Don’t put that blasphemy in there!” - My husband, on checking this entry over before posting)
One thing I found interesting about Minnesota was how there was this culture of ... having something that the rest of the world has, putting a different name on it, and considering it a unique thing.
There are two main ways this would manifest, in my experience there:
Duck, Duck, Goose
Yes, the kids game.
Adults were OBSESSIVE about how it’s not “goose”, it’s “gray duck”.
There was a lot of regional pride in how switching out one word made their version superior to the children’s game that the entire rest of the world knows.
There were even fake “history” memes floating around, claiming it to be the direct translation of the “original” game, in Sweden.
The Swedes do not agree, but don’t let facts get in the way of manufactured “evidence” to support a claim of a *ahem* children’s game making the people playing it superior.
Seriously, I’m not even doing justice to how this whole thing went over there. Adults not only discussing Duck Duck GOOSE on a regular basis, but wrapping up so much identity, pride, and passion into it.
It was an interesting time, living there!
If you say “casserole” when describing a casserole in Minnesota, you will be “corrected” that it’s “hotdish”.
AT first, I thought it was with regards to a very specific form of casserole, but then someone tried to tell me that my Shepherd’s Pie was hotdish, and... no. No, it’s Shepherd’s Pie.
Basically, you need a protein, a vegetable, a binder, and a carb. The binder is generally a can of some kind of condensed cream soup, usually mushroom.
The carb is usually tater tots, but can be other things as well... in theory, anyway. I don't think I've seen any in person that use anything other than tater tots, despite the claim about my Shepherd’s Pie.
I think the most popular combination (so far as I've seen/heard) tends to be ground beef, green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and tater tots.
Not the most attractive dish ever, but definitely a comfort food. It's cultural staple there, no potluck is complete without one.
I'll be honest, I was a bit confused when my husband first explained it to me. No seasoning? It sounded pretty bland, so - using his basic guidelines - I came up with my own version - Midwest Goes Southwest HotDish.
... and I was swiftly informed - by friends, not him - that this was not hotdish.
Yes, there was a protein, vegetable, binder, and carb. It followed the rules as I knew them.
... but there were jalapenos, poblanos, pepper flakes, salsa... etc.
My husband jokes that the 3 seasonings in Minnesota are salt, pepper, and ketchup. Personally, I’d add “ranch dressing” to that - if ketchup counts - but I digress.
He looks back on his kitchen before me as being “extra fancy... because I had Mrs Dash!”.
Anyway, this is all to say that I’m not making any claims about this being an “authentic” hotdish, as I am not an authority on the manner, and there are nuances that I do not understand.
This may or may not count, I don’t know. I’m not sure if the smoked paprika is a disqualifier!
Authentic or not, this is tasty, easy to make, budget-friendly comfort food... And really, isn’t that what really matters?
Variations for This Tater Tot Casserole
I’ve written this recipe out to be as “authentic” as possible - as I know it to be - and it should be non-offensive to most 🙂
That said, I do tend to make this a bit different for our household.
I use more smoked paprika and mustard powder than called for, which is why I suggested adding more to taste, before putting it in the pan.
In my outsider opinion, anyway 🙂
Feel free to swap out the mustard powder for a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard, or something with a bit more kick - Horseradish mustard, a bit of Russian mustard, etc.
I use fresh broccoli for this, but you don’t have to.
You can use frozen broccoli - aim for about 3 cups. Just defrost and drain it before adding it to the pan - you won’t need to cook it before adding the soup.
If you’re not into broccoli, you can always use cauliflower or green beans. Again, aim for about 3 cups of it, and defrost it first if using frozen.
More Midwest Inspired Recipes
Looking for some more recipes inspired by my time living in Minnesota? Here's a few for ya! (Oh ya, you betcha?)
Share the Love!
Also, be sure to subscribe to my free monthly email newsletter, so you never miss out on any of my nonsense.
Well, the published nonsense, anyway!
Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Hotdish
- 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts chopped
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Medium Onion Chopped
- 4 Garlic cloves pressed or minced
- 2 heads Fresh Broccoli Chopped
- 1+ teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Mustard Powder
- 2 Cans Condensed cheese soup
- 2 cups Shredded sharp / old cheddar cheese
- 2 lb bag tater tots (800 g bag Tasti Taters)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9x 13" baking dish with pan spray of choice, set aside.
- In a large pan, brown chopped chicken breast in olive oil. Season with a little salt and pepper.
- Once chicken is browned on all sides, add onion and garlic. Continue cooking until onion starts to go soft and translucent.
- Add broccoli, smoked paprika, and mustard powder. Continue cooking until broccoli turns brighter green and starts to soften a little.
- Stir in cheese soup, making sure to evenly coat everything. Taste, season with salt, pepper, and/or additional smoked paprika or mustard powder if desired.
- Pour mixture into a 9 x 13 casserole dish or baking pan.
- Sprinkle shredded cheese over mixture.
- Arrange tater tots in a single layer on top of the cheese.
- Bake for about 1 hour, or until the tots are golden and crispy.
- Serve hot!