What’s Spicy Tuna?

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Hotdish is a casserole cooking style popular in the Northern Plains of the US, often containing canned tuna, potatoes or macaroni, canned vegetables, and cream soup. It originated from Scandinavian immigrants adapting to the landlocked region and has become a comforting staple in harsh winters.

Hotdish is a style of casserole cooking popular in the Northern Plains United States. A casserole is a single large, deep pan of mixed ingredients cooked in the oven. Home kitchens have their own signature recipe of casserole content, but one of the most common components of meat is canned tuna. Spicy tuna, or tuna casserole, is a dish that has been adopted by many cuisines across the United States.

While a hotdish can be made with almost any combination of ingredients, it often contains a starch, a vegetable, a meat, a flavoring and binding agent, and a seasoning. Thinly sliced ​​potatoes or pastas like macaroni are the most common starches, while rice is rarely used. The vegetables added can often be seasonal, with green beans a popular choice. The meat is minced or pre-cooked and cut into small pieces. Fish is almost never an ingredient, with the exception of spicy tuna.

This style of cooking has become popular in states like Minnesota and the Dakotas, where winters can be harsh and homes rely on canned and preserved foods. When store-bought or preserved from the spring harvest, the use of canned vegetables is the norm. Also among the most popular of the binding agents for all ingredients is canned, condensed cream soup. Canned tuna is a natural complement.

A representative tuna hotdish would combine canned tuna, cooked canned or frozen peas, and small egg noodles or elbow macaroni with a can of mushroom soup. You can add water or stock to get the right consistency, as well as salt and pepper to taste. The mixture is poured into an uncovered glass or ceramic saucepan. It can then be topped with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese or breadcrumbs to create a crispy, golden brown crust.

After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, when the region became part of the United States, a wave of Scandinavian immigrants arrived accustomed to the northern climate. Their former European diet was rich in seafood, but the inhabited area is landlocked, limiting their choices. With the modern introduction of canned fish, spicy tuna has exploded in popularity. The ingredients are readily available; cooks easily unattended; and it’s satisfying comfort food.

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