May 7, 2015


Statehood: May 29th, 1848 (30/50)

When I say Liberace, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Les Paul, and Georgia O'Keeffe... what's the first thing that comes to mind?

Obviously the state of Wisconsin, right?

Yeah... sure... me, too. Believe it not, all four of those people are Badger State natives. Their contributions to culture are known worldwide; the ever extravagant Liberace for his exceptional ability with a piano, Ingalls Wilder for penning her "Little House" series, Les Paul for seriously innovative guitars (and recording techniques), and Georgia O'Keeffe for her intricate and intimate paintings of... flowers.

They're definitely flowers.

Wisconsin isn't just a hotbed of phenomenally talented people or the epicenter for all things cheese here in the U.S... it's also the home of the National Mustard Museum (Middleton), The Troll Capitol of the World (Mount Horeb), The Loon Capital of the World (Mercer), the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum (Hayward), and The Toilet Paper Capital of the World (Green Bay).

Well done, Wisconsinites, on your worthy wonders. Now we welcome your worthy foods!

State Fruit: Cranberry
The cranberry was designated Wisconsin's state fruit in 2003 thanks to a project by fifth graders from Trevor Grade School in Kenosha County. They believed the cranberry was a great symbol for fruit since WI leads our country's c-berry production. When looking for "traditional Wisconsin foods" I came across several mentions of brats topped with onions and cranberries. So... that's what we're doing here. And you know what? It's a flavor combination that really does work! 

Spicy Berry Brats
Makes: 4 brats

1 onion, sliced
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 of a 16-ounce bag of cranberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon of orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

hot dog buns
(vegetarian) brats of choice (I like these)
dijon mustard

In a frying pan on medium-low heat add the butter, the onions, and the sugar. Once butter is melted, coat the onions with them, then allow to caramelize on simmer (for me that was the 2 or 3 mark on my stove) for about 40 minutes. Stir once in a while to prevent them from sticking to the pan.

Meanwhile, make your cranberry sauce. In a large saucepan on high heat add half the bag of cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice, orange zest, and cinnamon. Cover, bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes to allow cranberries to burst open. Remove from heat. Mash as much/little as you want. Refrigerate until you need the sauce (it will thicken as it cools).

Cook brats preferred way - for us, that's grilling on our George Foreman.

To assemble: spread inside of hot dog bun with dijon mustard, then spoon in some caramelized onions, add brat, top with cranberry chutney. Eat!

State Grain: Corn
In 1989 corn was designated the official state grain, because the legislation thought it would highlight the many uses of the crop including sustenance for us, for livestock, as a sweetener, a fuel, and more. I discovered in my journeys that "hot dishes" (casseroles, really) are popular in the midwest. So why not celebrate this grain with Shepherd's Pie? My dad was so kind as to give me our family's tried and true recipe.

Dad's Shepherd's Pie... but Vegan
Makes: a 8x12 inch pan

5 or 6 large potatoes
1 stick of butter + 4 tablespoons
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
1 can corn, drained
1 can creamed corn
2 cans peas, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel your potatoes and boil them until they come apart easily with a fork. Mash with 1 stick of butter, milk (just as much as you need to make them creamy and not soupy), salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

While the potatoes are boiling, brown either the ground beef or ground turkey with the onion until it's cooked through.

When the meat is cooked, put it in the bottom of a 8x12 inch pan. Layer the can of corn evenly on top. Layer the can of creamed corn evenly on top of that. Layer the two cans of peas on top of that. And finally, gently spread the mashed potatoes on the top of everything. Sprinkle with a little paprika and the remaining butter in dabs. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

State Beverage: Milk
Everyone knows that Wisconsin is synonymous with cheese. But what does cheese come from? Dairy. As such, the official state beverage is milk, as designated in 1987. Combining the best of both worlds, I thought I'd jazz up my mom's potato salad with cheese curds. Seemed like a worthy dish to celebrate this symbol with!

Mom's Potato Salad... with Fromage
Makes: a lot

4 boiled eggs
4 large potatoes
1 cup cheese curds
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Boil the eggs, remove the shell, and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Regarding egg boiling... place your eggs in a sauce pan, fill with water so there's about an inch or so above the eggs. Bring to a boil for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain most (but not all) of the water, then run them under cold water until the eggs are just warm. Peel the shell. FYI: older eggs are better to work with when boiling then fresher ones are.

Boil the potatoes.
Regarding potato boiling... everyone does it differently, but what works for me is to cut the potatoes in 1 1/2 inch sized pieces. I then place them in a sauce pan and cover with very cold water (filling about an inch over the veg). I place on high heat and let them come to a boil - it takes about 20 minutes - and, believe it or not, when they're finally boiling they're already done. Pierce with a fork to test doneness. Drain water and let cool completely.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, potatoes, cheese curds, mayo, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine everything then refrigerate until it's time to serve.

State Pastry: Kringle
Not of the Kris kind, but of the pastry kind! In 2013, WI designated kringle as the state pastry. What is kringle? It's a flaky pastry that's traditionally filled with nuts, fruits, etc., that's baked then topped with a simple icing. Sometimes a girl's too busy to laminate her own dough, so taking a shortcut here, I used those refrigerated crescent rolls for my breakfast treat... and it came out just lovely!

Makes: 1 large kringle

3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 8-oz cans of crescent rolls
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 Tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon butter rum or almond flavoring

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix together the softened butter, brown sugar, and sliced almonds until well combined. Set aside.

Pop both cans of crescent rolls, and gently pull the contents out of each can in one sheet (or reconstruct the sheet if you have to). Place the sheets side by side. On a heavily floured surface, gently roll out the dough(s) into a 18x7ish rectangle. Place the brown sugar mixture down the center third of the dough (on the longer vertical of the rectangle). Fold the first-third and the third-third of the dough (the sides without the mixture) over the mixture. If possible, try and overlap one side of the dough on top of the other side. Gently squish the ends of your elongated burrito-like contraption inward that way it can fit on a baking sheet (I got mine down to 15x4ish). Slide the kringle onto said baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Mix together the powdered sugar, milk, and flavoring to make icing. Set aside.

Remove kringle from oven and let come to room temperature before drizzling with icing.

Sources: "Wisconsin Portland Feedback 5mvbt". Message to the author. 29 Oct. 2013. E-mail.
State of Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau