A tasty trip through Wisconsin cookbooks
October is the third annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2009."
Even in this Internet age, when you can find 40 variations of almost every recipe with a few clicks of the computer mouse, cookbooks hold a prominent place in almost every bookstore.
A recent trip to a local shop revealed a slew of cookbooks, all priced at $10 and less, just inside the main entrance. Many of those books featured recipes for simple items like Velveeta and Stove Top Stuffing, so it wasn't surprising that most people simply walked past the display.
Inside the store, the cookbooks held a prominent spot on the second floor. One section referred to "essential" books, like the familiar red plaid jacket of one from Better Homes & Gardens and the elegant and timeless "Joy of Cooking," rubbed spines with a handful of "celebrity" offerings from Giada, Barefoot Contessa, Mario Batali, Stephen Raichlen and Rachel Ray.
Next to the essentials sat a few shelves of "regional" cookbooks, including several from Wisconsin.
In honor of Dining Month here at OnMilwaukee.com, we grabbed a few of the local cookbooks and took a look. Here are some highlights:
"Flavor of Wisconsin: An Informal History of Food and Eating in the Badger State" by Harva Hachten and Terese Allen -- This 408-page whopper, first published a quarter-century ago and revised earlier this year, clearly represents the cream of the crop.
This isn't just a list of recipes. It's a lengthy treatise about Wisconsin's relationship with food, past and present. Hatchen, who worked for the state historical society, traces the influence of settlers from Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland and elsewhere and talks about traditional dishes and how they evolved. You'll find more than 400 recipes in the book, but also the stories behind them. Want to learn about the Door County Fish Boil, pasties, lutefisk, sauerbraten or the classic Fox Valley booyah? This is the book.
"Pot Luck! Home Cooking from Wisconsin's Community Cookbooks" by Tony Brandeis -- This 177-page book from Big Earth Publishing gathers recipes from Wisconsin church congregations. Some recipes are traditional and others, such as Tofu Tuna Casserole, seem like they may have come from visitors and not longtime residents. The most interesting recipe name? "Cake in the Trunk Frosting." The backstory, apparently, is that a church member asked a priest to bless her new car, then presented him with a cake that she had stored in the trunk.
"Wisconsin Wildfoods: 100 Recipes for Badger State Bounties" by John Motoviloff -- If the title and wild game on the cover isn't a giveaway, perhaps the recipe for Rabbit Cacciatore will let you know what it's about. This would make a good gift for the hunter in your family.
"Best of the Best from Wisconsin: Selected Recipes from Wisconsin's Favorite Cookbooks" by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley -- This book, part of a series, covers brunches, dinners and desserts as well as pasta, soups and salads with simple recipes and no pictures. The index is very helpful.
"License to Cook Wisconsin Style" by Juanita Loven -- This book, which looks like a stocking stuffer and is part of a series, hits on some classics like cheese pretzels and beer batter vegetables as well as Blackened Mississippi River Catfish served over a wild rice casserole. It's the cheapest of the bunch and includes the recipe for sauerbraten from Karl Ratzsch's.
Other Wisconsin cookbooks are available at online and retail outlets, including:
"Cafe Wisconsin Cookbook" by Joanne Raetz Stuttgen and Terese Allen -- This 216-page paperback from University of Wisconsin Press compiles more than 100 recipes from small-town cafes. The descriptions of pot roasts and fresh pies are enough to get your mouth watering.
"Wisconsin Cheese: A Cookbook and Guide to the Cheeses of Wisconsin" by Martin Hintz and Pam Percy -- Can you be a true Cheesehead without a cheese book? This effort mixes recipes -- some simple and some highly sophisticated -- with cheese trivia, profiles of cheesemakers and tips about cheese. The recipes include Wisconsin Three-Cheese Soup with Parmesan Croutons, Goat Cheese Fudge, Cherry Cheddar Crusted Pork Tenderloin and Asiago Cheese Puffs.
If you don't see these books at your local store, the authors also sell them on the web store, Wisconsinmade.com.- www.wisconsinmade.com
No mention of The Settlement Cookbook! It's not Milwaukee- or Wisconsin-specific, but it was created by the students at the Milwaukee Settlement House orginally in 1903. And to this day, I find their (albeit cliche'd) credo to hold: "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."
Though they are divorced and the restaurants are no more, I really liked the Marcel & Shannon Kring-Biro books "Biro" and "Simple Span Asian Cusine" Plus you can now find them on Amazon for as low as one cent (plus 4 in shipping). Also decent are: "The Northwoods Table" by Henry Sinkus (owner of Manitowish Waters' Pine Barons restaurant. - Not solely a Wisconsin book but lots of upscale elegant takes on Wisconsin cusine "The Eldorado Grill Cookbook" by Kevin Tubb of Madison's Eldorado Grill.
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