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Mar 2, 2011 06:53 PM

The exotic cuisine of...Wisconsin

OK, exotic to me, I guess. I'm from the West Coast with little to no Midwestern heritage. I'm facing a Wisconsin themed potluck in a couple of weeks and am trying to figure out what to make. suggests that the Wisconsin standard-bearers are fish fry, brandy, cheese curds, frozen custard and bratwurst - none of which are especially practical for a potluck setting.

I could deviate to a general Midwestern standard like a hotdish (which, tbh, does not sound that appealing), but are there any other Wisconsin specialties I should take a look at, or any Midwestern foods that might be a bit lighter than what I'm reading about?

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  1. actually, brats would be good for a potluck if you do a beer braise with onions. German potato salad is a classic accompaniment and also potluck-friendly.

    there's also beer cheese soup...or you could just default to mac & cheese with Wisconsin cheeses.

    for dessert, you could do cream puffs.

    as for the question about lighter dishes, the Midwest culinary scene isn't exactly a hotbed of spa cuisine ;)

    3 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      I second the German potato salad idea! A cherry pie would please too.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Beer cheese soup is a good one. I never realized how exotic people outside the Midwest find it.

        1. re: JungMann

          But did it originate in the Midwest or New England? I've never been clear as to whether it started in Wisconsin or Vermont. They both know their cheese and beer, to say the least.

      2. When I think "Wisconsin", I think "cheese". Brats and sauerkraut makes it in the Midwestern category but I'd probably look at something like cheese curd potato salad, beer cheese soup, Norwegian meat balls, or a spinach salad with bacon dressing (dressed just prior to serving of course).

        2 Replies
        1. re: todao

          Brats and beer is famous in Wisconsin.

          Lots of Germans in Wisconsin especially in Milwaukee. They were imported to work in the beer industry... or maybe because there were a lot of Germans, they started the beer industry... well one of those.

          1. re: Hank Hanover

            I don't think Germans were really imported to work in beer industry. It just happened that Wisconsin was "opening up" just at the time when there was pressure to emigrate from the German states for a number of reasons. And then as some Germans came, they sent back for more of their family and neighbors. (And they did like their beer!)

            Since Wisconsin is "the dairy state", how about a custard or other dairy dessert.

            There's a story there too. Wheat farming took off in Wisconsin and then that started to crash in the 1800s as wheat prices crashed for a number of reasons. So farmers had to do something else. Someone at the University developed the idea of raising dairy cows in larger numbers. Before that, farms would just have 1 or 2 cows, what they needed for their own use. Farmers were sold on the idea of going into dairying in a big way. And cheesemaking was the way the milk was preserved. Since it wasn't feasible to store and ship milk refrigerated then. So little cheese factories sprang up all over the state. Every little hamlet had one.

            When I was a kid visiting Wisconsin where my parents are from, I never thought the cheese there was that good. It seemed just utilitarian. Now there are wonderful craft cheesemaking places.

            But anything with milk or cheese would be a nod to all this history.

        2. hotdish = casseroles. These are ideally suited for potlucks. Even the British shepherds (or cottage) pie qualifies at a hotdish.

          In terms of ethnic backgrounds, Wisconsin has a lot of Germans and Scandinavians. The bratwursts are German. In the south central part of the state there's a community called New Glarus, reflecting a Swiss heritage. In NE there's a peninsula (Door County) with a Swedish restaurant (Al Johnsons in Sister Bay) and an island (now state park) formerly owned by an Icelandic businessman (Rock Island). The area (and some towns along Lake Superior) are known for fish boils - locally caught white fish boiled with corn and potatoes (and finished with spectacular boil over). The curds and custard reflect the strong dairy industry of the state.

          1. you could go with a dish of delicate freshwater fishes or baked coho salmon, or if it's too hard for a potluck you could always do a smoked trout spread and cheese platter.

            traditional beer brats, or contemporary grilled grassfed lamb jagerwurst with cranberry chutneys

            wild rice soup, corn chowder (either can be made vegetarian or non), WI cheddar soup

            porketta, spareribs&saurkraut, swedish meatballs

            bison, turkey, or ham prepared traditionally or however you like

            or, any number of scandinavian-influenced baked goods, "coffee cakes," donuts, german tortes, pie

            key ingredients: high quality dairy and cheese (duh), grassfed meats, pork, great lakes/freshwater fish, cranberries, apples, cherries (door country), midwestern garden vegetables, game (venison, pheasant), beer.

            7 Replies
            1. re: soupkitten

              I'm a neighbor of Wisconsin (from MN). Let me know if you need a recipe for kringle (a wonderful pastry) or for a cranberry dessert.

              Too bad it's too early for garden lettuce---there are killer -good recipes for wilted lettuce (lettuce with a bacon dressing, best made with early spring lettuce).

              p.s. Soupkitchen--good list of ideas. Are you a Wisconsinite?

              1. re: soccermom13

                I'd like kringle recipe. I used to be married to someone from racine and the kringle was the best part of trips home!

                1. re: magiesmom

                  Best recipe for kringle is to have the experts do it -- Racine Danish Kringle ships!

                  1. re: MikeB3542

                    it is always stale when it arrives

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      Actually, if you order from O&H it is really very fresh. They ship overnight. I send it to people all the time. Racine Danish Kringle pales in comparison!! If you happen to get it during Cranberry season it is WONDERFUL! Enjoy!

                  2. re: magiesmom

                    Soupkitten---Hello, fellow Minnesotan :0)

                    Magiesmom--Lookie here---I found a thread here on kringle:

                    I have eaten---but not made myself--Procastibaker's recipe from that thread. A coworker, who is a fine baker, made this recipe for a work event and it is delicious.

                    Here is Procastibaker's recipe:

                    A short pastry version my Danish MIL makes:

                    1 c. flour
                    1 stick butter, softened
                    2 T cold water
                    combine and spread into a 3"x12" oblong on an ungreased baking sheet
                    1 c. hot h2o
                    1 stick butter
                    1 c. flour
                    3 eggs
                    1 T almond extract
                    melt butter in boiling water; add flour and mix well. add eggs one at a time beating well after each. add almond extract. spread over oblong. bake at 425 for 40-50 min. or until golden then ice with the following while hot
                    1 c. 10x sugar
                    2 T soft butter
                    1/2 t. vanilla
                    add milk until spreading consistency. spread on hot pastry.

                    By Procrastibaker on Dec 21, 2007 01:25PM

                    My coworker's instructions vary just slightly:

                    Cut the butter into the first cup of flour. Sprinkle water on top, mix with fork. Divide dough in half and form into two strips, each 12 by 3 inches. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased bkg sheet.

                    Mix 2nd amt butter and water. Bring to boil. Remove from heat, add flavoring. Beat in flour, stirring quickly to prevent lumping. When smooth, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until smooth. It will seem like it won't mix, but just keep stirring. Divide in half and spread half evenly over each piece of pastry. Bake about 60 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown. Frost with icing and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

                  3. re: soccermom13

                    nope, just a MN neighbor like yourself-- but we get to reap the benefits of the WI foodshed over here too! kringle is a great idea :)

                2. Butter burgers, if it's doable in a pot luck.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: David11238

                    Ronni Lundy's wonderful cookbook, The Festive Table, describes many
                    celebrations that she found across the country. Some are official
                    holidays, others are just fun traditions. Lundy interviews the host
                    of an annual Winter Doldrums Hotdish Party. The party sounded like a
                    hoot -- prizes for various hotdish categories like hotdish that
                    travelled the furthest and worst