Archived Story

Minnesota delegation cooks up bipartisan contest

Published 10:09am Thursday, March 13, 2014

WASHINGTON — Rep. Michele Bachmann stood at the front of a packed room, flashing a winning smile. With her Minnesota Vikings apron wrapped around her, she was campaigning one last time.

“I hope the judges will take pity on me,” the retiring Republican said Wednesday, a row of hotdishes behind her, and the smell of tater tots in the air. “Since it is my very last year.”

In the end, Bachmann’s best effort wasn’t enough.


Democratic Rep. Tim Walz repeated as the winner of the Minnesota congressional delegation’s now annual hotdish contest. Walz’s “Turkey Trot Tator Tot Hotdish” wowed the judges, former Reps. Gerry Sikorski, a Democrat and Vin Weber, a Republican.

Bachmann’s dish may have had the most distinctive name, the “Polar Vortex-Mex Hotdish,” but Walz’s dish — a blend of Hormel bacon, fresh green beans and Jennie-O ground turkey — was a unanimous favorite.

As it turned out, Walz wasn’t even there to eat up the plaudits. He had to go the House floor for a vote as the contest’s results were announced.

Sen. Al Franken started the hotdish contest four years ago. He said it was an effort to blend two things he said Congress needed: bipartisanship and Minnesota traditions. Each member submitted a dish that met strict criteria: It needed to have a starch, a protein and some sort of liquid as a component; and it had to have a name. The dishes were then judged on a 20 point scale that included 10 points for taste, 5 points for texture and 5 for “Minnesota components.”

As might be expected, tater tots were well represented. “That’s called frosting,” Bachmann said.

Submissions included a breakfast offering, a desert option from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, which was one of two runners up, and even a dinner dish that eschewed tater tots for an unconventional almond top.

“Much healthier,” Franken noted.

Sikorski and Weber appeared to take their duties seriously. They removed their suit jackets to eat, clutching a spoonful of food in one hand and a marker for scoring in the other as they worked.

With Walz busy voting, Franken gave a victory speech on his behalf.

“If Tim were here, I know he’d thank me for organizing,” Franken joked.

Rep. Tim Walz’s winning recipe

Rep. Tim Walz won the Minnesota congressional delegation’s annual hotdish contest for the second year in a row. The Democrat’s blend of bacon, ground turkey and other ingredients was declared the winner. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., started the contest four years ago.

Walz’s winning “Turkey Trot Tater-Tot Hotdish” recipe:

1 pound of fresh green beans, chopped into bite sized pieces

4 slices of Hormel bacon

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

6 tablespoons butter

5-6 tablespoons flour

2 ½ cups Whole milk

½ cup half and half

2 teaspoons salt

3 cups Kraft shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 pound Jennie-O ground turkey

½ teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon pepper

1 egg

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup green onions

¼ cup chopped onions

1 ½ cup chopped baby bella mushrooms washed and well dried

1 package tater tots

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F.

In a medium bowl, mix turkey, garlic, sage, green onions, egg, pepper and one teaspoon salt.

Using a 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil and then cook the turkey to the well-done temperature of 165 F and place in 9-by-13-inch baking dish. (Browning similar as you would for ground beef).

Blanch the green beans by dropping them into boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and plunge them into ice water. Once cool, drain completely and gently mix them in with the turkey in the dish.

Fry the bacon until crispy then chop into ¼-inch pieces. Add bacon into turkey mixture.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Stir continuously and gently with wooden spoon for 4-5 minutes or for about 2 minutes after browning point. Remove from heat and add to casserole dish.

In a sauce pan, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Little by little, sprinkle flour into the butter. Let cook for 2 minutes, then slowly whisk in the milk and half and half. Cook for 2 more minutes, add diced onions and salt and pepper. After a minute, stir in 2 ½ cups of cheese until melted.

Pour cheese mixture over the ingredients.

Scatter tater tots over the top and remaining cheese.

Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.

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