As you get older and exposed to more things, every once in awhile something that was just a given (a known thing) gets rattled. For me, it was the definition of hot dish. Growing up, when my parents said we were having hot dish I didn't need any more information to know exactly what I would be eating. Fast forward a decade or so and now I'm not so sure....what's the difference between hot dish and casserole? Or chili mac and my childhood hot dish?
If you're not from Minnesota or the Midwest, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but Minnesotans are serious about hot dish and casserole. We have maps of the various dishes sold on dish towels and pan holders.
Hotdish in my family is a version of what others know as chili mac. Macaroni noodles (starch), protein (parents - ground beef and kidney beans; me - soy chorizo and kidney beans), vegetables (parents - canned/frozen peas, carrots, corn; me - onions, peppers, carrots); tomato sauce (juice or crushed tomatoes), and chili spices (cumin, chili peppers, garlic, salt and pepper.) It follows the basic hot dish recipe - cook a starch, protein, canned/frozen vegetables with a can of soup or tomatoes. Other relatively famous hot dishes: tater tot hotdish, wild rice hot dish, etc. Now, I've seen the common mistake where people think Minnesotans call all casseroles hot dish (this mistake was encouraged by our Minnesota Congressional Delegation at their annual hot dish competition...yeah, we take this stuff pretty serious.) This is not true. We have casseroles too, so what's the difference?
The biggest difference is casseroles are always baked. A hot dish can be baked or it can be cooked on the stove top. There's other differences that are summed up well here. For the layperson, there definitely are more similiarities than differences, and it's not too big of a deal if you mix the two up As long as you don't go wild and abandon both and call a hot dish.... chili mac.