Lightlife Smart Strips Chick'n. I did something really weird with these. I was in the mood to introduce our exchange student to something REALLY Minnesotan. People outside Minnesota probably won't understand this, but anyone living here will. I made hotdish.
People anywhere else in the world would probably look at this meal and say, "no wait - that's a casserole - what the heck is a hot dish?" to which a Minnesotan would point to the tater tots on top and say, "Definitely hotdish." Basically, hotdish is any combination of foods, usually including cream of mushroom soup, baked together, with tater tots on top. To be perfectly honest, I've never made one, and I've lived in Minnesota for 19 years. It was time.
I decided to fancy it up a bit - after all, I graduated from culinary school. So I started with some quinoa. If, somehow, you don't know what this is, look it up. I cooked up some quinoa while I was wilting some farmer's market spinach in some olive oil. Shredded some Swiss and Monterey Jack (I think…) cheeses, and stirred everything together with the obligatory can of cream of mushroom soup.
At this point, you might be wondering where the fake meat comes in. The answer is right now! I tore open that package of chick'n strips, sauteed very slightly with some onion and garlic, and tossed all that in as well. Finally, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, dumped it all into a 2-qt casserole dish, topped with tater tots, and baked until the tots were reasonably crispy. Voila! My first hotdish!
So how did it go? Pretty well. The chick'n strips provided a reasonably chewy texture, but the flavor wasn't working very well with the rest of the team. It had a weird flavor of its own which I didn't really appreciate. I ended up picking out the chick'n bits and eating them all first, then diving into the rest of the meal.
Texture - nothing to complain about here - reasonably chewy
Flavor - some kinda off-flavor - didn't jive well with the rest of the meal
Final grade for this attempt: C