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Peterson's staff cooks up a winner in senator's hotdish competition

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson's winning entry, the "Right to Bear Arms Hotdish," included actual bear meat. It was one of 10 entries in this year's Hotdish Competition hosted by Sen. Al Franken. Special to Forum News Service1 / 4
U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson accepts his "trophy" for winning the seventh annual Hotdish Competition hosted by Sen. Al Franken in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Special to Forum News Service2 / 4
Judges Norm Ornstein, Mee Moua and Dr. Ed Ehlinger carefully tasted each of the 10 entries before declaring Congressman Peterson's dish as the winner. Special to Forum News Service3 / 4
Sen. Al Franken, in apron, helped dish up samples from each of the 10 Hotdish Competition entries before handing them over to the judges for tasting. Special to Forum News Service4 / 4

WASHINGTON—He may not have come up with the recipe himself, but U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson now has the right to brag that his staff members are among the best cooks on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Congressional delegation came together for U.S. Sen. Al Franken's seventh annual hotdish competition — and for the first time, Peterson's staff was victorious.

"I think we came in second one year," Peterson said Thursday. "But this is the first time we won."

Sen. Franken started the friendly "Hotdish Off" as a way to bring the delegation together and celebrate a Minnesota culinary tradition.

After a blind taste test of all 10 Minnesota Congressional members' hotdishes, Peterson's "Right to Bear Arms Hotdish" was named the winner for 2017.

The judges included: Mee Moua, the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice and former a Minnesota state senator; Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, native Minnesotan and University of Minnesota alum; and Dr. Ed Ehlinger, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health.

As the name of the dish might suggest, bear meat was used in the creation of the winning recipe — a fact that the 7th District DFL'er said came as a surprise to the judges.

"I don't think they knew they were eating bear meat," he said, adding that Moua, for one, appeared to be "shocked" when she heard the news.

"I didn't have much to do with it," Peterson said, noting that one of his Agricultural Committee aides, Mike Stanz, was the one who came up with the winning recipe — as well as shooting the bear that supplied the meat for the dish.

"His family has a farm out in Wisconsin," Peterson said, which is where the bear was shot.

He may not have created the hotdish himself, but Peterson admitted that he did get a chance to taste it for himself. "I'm not that much into hotdish, but I tried it and it was very good," he said.

2017 Hot Dish Recipes by inforumdocs on Scribd

"This event is always a strong showing of bipartisanship and good food," Peterson added. "It is an honor to be this year's winner, with a hotdish that recognizes the great outdoors. It's always a pleasure to come together with the delegation. I appreciate Senator Franken's work to continue this annual tradition and thank the other delegation members for tasty hotdish."

"After a pretty grueling and divisive election year, it was great to put aside our differences and come together over some great hotdish," Franken said. "I would like to thank all of my colleagues for taking the time out of their busy schedules to join the competition, and congratulate Rep. Peterson on his award-winning, bear meat-filled hotdish."

"Minnesota draws its strength and vitality from our people, and so does this hotdish," Sen. Amy Klobuchar said. "From Swedish meatballs to Somali coriander to Ukrainian kielbasa, the ingredients in my 'Minnesota Melting Tot' hotdish come together as a celebration of our state's people. There's no better way to showcase Minnesota's heritage than with this hotdish and our bipartisan friendly culinary competition."

"There is nothing trumped up about my classic Minnesota hotdish, Little Hotdish on the Prairie," Rep. Betty McCollum said. "Thank you to Senator Franken for bringing us together again this year to share in this Minnesota specialty."

Besides Rep. Peterson"s "un-bear-ably" good concoction, the other delegation members submitted the following dishes: Sen. Franken's "Potato Pot Roast Potluck Hotdish," Sen. Klobuchar's "Minnesota Melting Tot Hotdish," Rep. Betty McCollum's "Little Hotdish on the Prairie," Rep. Tim Walz's "Prairie Home Hotdish," Rep. Keith Ellison's "Solidarity Kugel," Rep. Erik Paulsen's "Lake Wobegon Swedish Meatball Shepherd Pie," Rep. Rick Nolan's "Spud's Taco-Nite Hot Dish," Rep. Tom Emmer's "Sunday Beer Run and Brat Hotdish," and Rep. Jason Lewis' '"Minnesota Wild' Rice and Pheasant Hotdish."

All of this year's recipes, along with photos from the event, can be found at Sen. Franken's website, The winner is reprinted below.

The winning recipe: Right to Bear Arms Hotdish


1.5 pounds of lean ground bear meat (*may substitute other ground meat (wild game preferred) if bear is not readily available)

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 leek, chopped

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 stick butter

1 pound of frozen potato olés

10 ounce can of cream of celery soup

10 ounce can of cream of mushroom soup

8 sprigs of fresh marjoram, chopped

15 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped

1 bunch of fresh chives, chopped

12 ounces of frozen green beans, French-cut

4 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded

2 ounces aged Gouda, shredded

2 ounces Gruyere, shredded ½ can chow mein noodles


Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a hotdish pan using a stick of butter until well-greased (don't use all the butter). Line the bottom of the pan with a solid layer of potato olés (you won't use the entire bag). Put the pan in the oven for 15 minutes to brown the potatoes.

Melt a pad of butter in a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Add onion and leek and sauté for three minutes. Put bear meat in the pan and use a spatula to break down the meat as it browns. Do not overcook.

Season with cracked black pepper as you go.

Remove browned potato olés from the oven and spread the bear mixture on top. Turn oven heat down to 375 degrees.

In another bowl, mix both cream soups, marjoram, thyme, chives, and frozen green beans. Mix vigorously, then spread evenly over the potato and bear layers in the hotdish. Sprinkle cheddar atop it all.

Cover the hotdish with aluminum foil and bake at 35 minutes.

Remove the foil, and sprinkle Gouda, Gruyère, and chow mein noodles atop the hotdish. Place back in oven, uncovered, and turn the heat up to 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven. Let stand for 10 minutes, if you can bear to wait.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454