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Monday, November 2, 2009

The Inaugural Hotdish is Made. And Promptly Devoured.

The first step to any hotdish blog worth its weight in Pyrex, is to actually make a hotdish. So I made one. For my inaugural adventure, I decided upon the most popular hotdish of my childhood, a fancy dish known around the Klaassen household as 'Chicken Hotdish.'  (We aren't much for fancy hotdish names.) This is a creation that I believe started with my Grandma Donna, although in the Klaassen Family Cookbook it is attributed to my Aunt Linda, so I could be totally wrong on that one. If so, thank you Linda for giving the world this hotdish, or at least for the recipe so I may share.

This hotdish looks easy on paper. Actually, it looks disgusting on paper. The ingredients of this dish should not go together and it is a culinary mystery and marvel that they do. I asked my Mom for this recipe a few years ago and I believe the conversation went something like this:

Andrea: Hey - you know that chicken hotdish that I looooved when I was little and made you make for all of my birthdays? I need the recipe.
Mom: Oh sure, you know - it is so simple. It's just chicken, celery, cream of mushroom soup, saltine crackers and Velveeta.
Andrea:...................(stunned silence).............ew.

So, I decided to whip up this classic and serve it to my roomie Ana, and my co-dependent life partner/friend, Kathryn.

Now, because I'm still figuring out the logistics of this blog, I haven't decided where to post the recipes within the blog entry, so I'll just put it here right now:

Chicken Hotdish 
3/4 lb. chicken (cooked, cut into small pieces, or shredded)
1 1/2 c. diced celery (cook ahead - a step, I 'chose' to ignore)
1/2 small diced onion
1 1/2 c. cubed Velveeta (hold your breath while doing this step)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 beaten eggs
4 c. crushed saltine crackers, with 1 stick of melted butter poured over them
6 c. chicken broth ( I had to check with Mama Klaassen - 6 cups is NOT a typo. Also, I prefer to cook chicken for a dish like this by poaching it in broth, which can be re-used for this part of the recipe)

Mix all ingredients except 1 c. cracker crumbs. Pour into a 9x13 greased baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Believe it or not, despite the ease of the recipe, I had a few glitches. Also, my hallway kitchen became a war zone. Anyhoo...
• First, I bought chicken thigh meat instead of chicken breasts. (WARNING: chicken thigh meat, when cooked, looks just awful. Just, oh, awful.)
• Second, I forgot to cook the celery before mixing it with all the ingredients. This would later be less of a glitch, and more of a blessing, as it served as the only item in this hotdish with any texture or crunch.
• Third, I used cream of mushroom soup with garlic flavoring. Normally, I would really advocate for garlic, but not in this hotdish. It gave the hotdish an odor that I didn't enjoy at all.
• Lastly, I ignored the instruction about putting half the cracker crumbs IN the casserole and instead put them all on top. Crackers in the dish are really critical for proper texture and as a result of my out-of-order hijinx, the hotdish was a bit soupy.
• also, not a 'glitch' per se, but I halved the recipe and there was hotdish a-plenty for three.

In the end, the hotdish was actually a hit. One bite of it and I was transported back to my days of carefree youth - days when my biggest worries were things like "Will today's Saved By the Bell on WGN after school be the stupid junior high years or the awesome high school years?" "What if I never get to move in to my older sister's awesome basement room?" or "Will tomorrow's Italian Dunkers sauce be made with real meat?" 

I discovered that I have friends with adventurous palates. I also have friends that might be so nice they lie about how much they love the hotdish I just made them. Kathryn, in particular, impressed me by eating roughly half the hotdish. Well done, Franksonator!

I encourage you to boldly consider also making this hotdish. If for no other reason than to have some friends together on a cold winter evening and feed them piping hot grub. And then if they leave and/or upchuck when you tell them the list of ingredients, you can simply move them from the 'friend' category into 'let's maybe get together sometime, but who knows' category. Allow chicken hotdish to be your friendship litmus test.

Happy Hotdishing from my Hallway to Yours!


  1. Oh, yes. Who doesn't love a good chicken casserole? I've never made it, though, mostly because the ingredients really do just sound gross. Perhaps I will try soon.

  2. I definitely had similar concerns about the Italian Dunkers (will the lunch lady make me take the meat sauce even though I just want the cheesy bread?) and those horrid junior high episodes!

  3. im always looking for new recipes since my mom never really instructed me on how to cook good wholesome colombian food (kicking myself in the butt 12 years later when im on my own craving good rice)

    but i think between junior years and highschool.. the worst of them are the college years!!

  4. Stupid junior high years! Oh I can so relate. Keep up the good work, Andrea.

  5. isn't it funny what is actually in "good homecooked" meals. Oh well, we all survived and they are obviously crowd pleasers!

  6. Who knew that Velveeta and Cream of Mushroom were the bread and butter of 1989.... OH, and Jello. You should have a sister blog of Jello salads...