Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two Gluten Free "Feed-a-Crowd" Recipes, Topped off with a Small Serving of Hotdish Homily

At our church, our potlucks are not really pot luck.  Everything is very orchestrated to ensure a successful gustatory experience each time.  This year I'm assigned a hotdish.  The instructions state that we should prepare at least six quarts; usually the ladies prepare the hotdishes in large roasters.  And for any of my non-Minnesotan readers who don't happen to listen to Garrison Keillor, hotdish is the Minnesotan term for casserole.

Since my husband is one of the several at our church who need to eat Gluten Free, whatever I bring is usually Gluten Free.  But this year I'm assigned hotdish and one of the hardest things to make Gluten Free is hotdish.  Think about it.  What's in hotdish?  Most all have some sort of creamed soup, right?  So there's the first challenge.  No creamed soups.  Since I usually make a white sauce to replace cream soups, even in the pre-GF days, that's not too hard for me.  But in the volume I need to bring, early on a Sunday morning, thickening hot milk is not something I want to mess with. 

Secondly, many hotdishes have pasta and that's right out the window.  Yes, I could purchase Gluten Free pasta for the occasion, but it's pretty expensive.  And even the ones that work well enough to be a fair substitute for traditional semolina pastas, can overcook very easily.  When that happens, they fall apart into mush.  What if church goes long?  What if I have to bring 3/4 of my roaster home and serve it all week for leftovers?   It could easily produce a less than satisfactory result.

Rice is always good, but it also comes with the same risks that pasta does, in that it gets very gluey if overcooked or reheated.  So that leaves me potatoes and I'm sorry, but I don't relish the thought of peeling and chopping that many potatoes on a Sunday morning when I'm getting 9 kids rolling for church and have to teach Sunday school.

So I've been up against a challenge this year to find a good GF hotdish I can bring when called upon.  I'm going for something with hash browns, so I can be lazy and use a pre-packaged food item.  The first time I tried a lasagna type dish made with hash browns instead of noodles.  It was good tasting, but kind of soupy.

This weekend was some good practice for me since I had two opportunities to hone my art.  One on Saturday for a funeral and another on Sunday for a Baptism dinner.  And I'm happy to say they were both successful.

On Saturday I tweaked the lasagna type one so it was less soupy.  And for Sunday's I did a creamed hamburger with hashbrowns.  Perhaps you'll never have reason to cook in this volume, but with a little creativity, you can shrink them to the size you need.

But before I get to the recipes, as a little closing note to the Garrison Keillor comment above, I have this story to tell.  I am not a native Minnesotan.  When I was young, we ate casseroles.  But our pastor's wife, who was a native Minnesotan, made hotdish.  I always thought that was such a funny thing to call them.  I even remember asking her once why she called them that and she just laughed and gave me a hug and told me that that's what they were called where she grew up.  Little did I imagine that I'd one day be making hotdish as a pastor's wife in Minnesota.

At some point, during Joe's seminary years, the term hotdish slipped into my vocabulary.  I know it was during that time, because when we moved to Chicago for Joe's vicar year, our physician, during a well-child appointment, asked about Jeremy's eating habits.  I mentioned hotdish during my answer and Dr. Brown started to chuckle.  He said he could tell I was from Minneosta because of the word hotdish.  I kind of laughed and asked if he was familiar with that term.  He responded that he would not have known what I was talking about had he not been a long time listener to Garrison Keillor's radio show.  I think that was the moment at which I knew I had succumbed to Minnesotan-ness.

Please check all labels on purchased items to ensure they are Gluten Free.

GF Hash brown Lasagna Hotdish
  • 3 qt ground beef
  • garlic salt
Brown the ground beef and put in the bottom of a large roaster with the pan juices.  Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt (perhaps 1 tsp). 
  • 1 c ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 lb grated mozzarella (approx 1/3 of a 2 lb bag)
  • 1 medium onion diced 
  • 1 large can (28 oz) diced stewed tomatoes
Blop/sprinkle the ricotta cheese over the meat.  Layer the mozzarella and the onion over the ricotta.  Top with the stewed tomatoes, pouring a bit at a time here and there, so it is evenly dispersed over the other items.  Use a rubber scraper to spread it if necessary.
  • 2 lb frozen hash browns (approx)
  • Salt and pepper
Pour a layer approximately 1 1/2" thick over the tomatoes.
Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally over the hash browns (perhaps using 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper)
  • 1 1/3 lb grated mozzarella (rest of bag)
  • basil and oregano
Layer the cheese over all and sprinkle the top with the herbs.
Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours at 350F.

Creamy GF Ground Beef and Potatoes
  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 large carrots diced
  • 3 large celery stalks diced
  • 1 c ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 qt heavy whipping cream
  • 2 lb frozen hash browns
  • 1 lb grated mozzarella
  • dried sage leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Brown ground beef and pour it with juices into the bottom of a large roaster.  Salt the meat liberally (1 tsp?).

Sprinkle half the diced vegetables over the meat.  Coarsely crush about 1 tsp worth of dried sage leaves and sprinkle over veggies.  (If you don't have sage leaves, sprinkle a moderate amount over the veggies.)

Blop/sprinkle the ricotta over the veggies, spreading around a little if necessary.  Pour 1 qt whipping cream over the contents of roaster.

Spread a thick layer of hashbrowns over the cream (1 1/2").  Salt and pepper the hashbrowns (maybe 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper).  Sprinkle remaining vegetables over hashbrowns.

Top with grated mozzarella.  Drizzle remaining 2 c cream over everything.

Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours at 350F.

No comments: