Walz enters Spam recipe in competition

Published 11:39 am Thursday, March 8, 2012

U.S. Reps Michele Bachmann and Tim Walz speak with Franni Franken, wife of U.S. Senator Al Franken, at Franken's second annual Hotdish Off Wednesday. Walz used Spam in his hotdish but did not win.

By Kevin Diaz
Star Tribune

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tim Walz thought his Spam recipe “was a sure lock” to win Sen. Al Franken’s second annual Minnesota delegation “Hotdish Off” competition.

Unfortunately, the judges didn’t think so.

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The contest, which ended Wednesday, was a tie between Franken and U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, who knows something about close elections.

“There has to be a recount,” Franken quipped.

It was Franken’s “Mom’s Mahnomin Madness Hotdish” versus Cravaack’s “Minnesota Wild Strata Hotdish.”

The wild rice was produced by the Fon Du Lac Band of Chippewa. “That took us over the top,” Cravaack explained.

“You and me buddy!” Franken enthused between hugs in the winner’s circle.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, last year’s winner, entered this year’s sentimental favorite: “Ted the Turkey Memorial Hotdish.”

Klobuchar’s dish was named for Ted, the Minnesota Turkey chosen to be pardoned by President Obama this past Thanksgiving.

This year’s Hotdish Off, which seems to have captured the imagination of the Washington press corps on an apparently slow news day, was the brainchild of Franken as a way to dial down the Capitol’s usual partisan nastiness.

“If there’s one thing that can bring a bunch of Minnesotans together, it’s hotdish” Franken said.

While many of the D.C. locals were left asking “what’s hotdish?” the Minnesota gang enjoyed a moment of Midwestern goofiness. They were joined by the House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest.

“I’ve never felt more like a Lutheran,” said Father Conroy.

The other judge was former congressman Vin Weber, who declined to comment on the food “because there has been no exit polling done.”

The losers — or non-winners — took it all in stride. Rep. Keith Ellison called Walz’s creation “a taste of home.” Rep. Erik Paulsen entered a dish made with pheasant he shot himself, and Rep. Collin Peterson exalted the ability of meat and potatoes to bring people together, even if he “personally prefers lutefisk and lefse.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann summed up the rare moment of unity: “Our recipes are as diverse as our politics, but we can all agree that a good hotdish is a staple on kitchen tables across Minnesota.”

Sen. Franken’s Mom’s Mahnomin Madness Hotdish
• 1 lb. Wild rice (Mahnomen)
• one stick butter
• ten cloves of garlic
• 3 medium sized yellow onions
• 4 stalks of celery
• 2 lbs. White button mushrooms
• 2 cans (8 oz. each) of water chestnuts, drained, then sliced into 1/4” rounds
• 1 can cream of mushroom soup (diluted with 1/2 cup of water)
• salt to taste
• Roast turkey – pulled from the bone
• Turkey gravy (aujus)
• 1 cup grated parmesan

1. In a colander, rinse the wild rice.
2. Put the rice in a pot, and cover with 3 inches of water. Boil in a pot, uncovered, for about 20 to 25 minutes. If you’re using Mahnomen wild rice, it will cook more quickly than the paddy variety.
3. While the rice is boiling, slice (do not mince) the mushrooms, onions, garlic, and celery.
4. Melt the butter in a skillet, and sauté the onions, garlic, and celery until they begin to bleed a little liquid into the butter. Then add the mushrooms. The celery and onions should not be totally soft.
5. Once the rice has cooked, drain it and add to the sautéed vegetables.
6. Add pulled turkey and gravy, water chestnuts.
7. Place mixture in casserole dish, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, and place in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until top is browned and hot dish is heated through.