Wisconsin Dinner
February 10, 2004 6:53 AM   Subscribe

A panicky question: we've invited over 2 American and 3 Portuguese couples on February 17th to watch the Wisconsin Democratic primary. We rashly promised a "typical Wisconsin supper" because we received 2 pounds of delicious (if salty) 7-year-old Wisconsin cheddar last month. Yeah, right. What about the rest of the meal? Any (simple) menu suggestions gratefully received. [More inside.]

If a Wisconsian repast is impossible, anything all-American, if such a thing exists, (or, preferably, regionally close to Wisconsin) would be fine. What the hell should we serve? Please keep in mind it will be a long night and anything buffet-like (like hot dogs?), we can lay on a table, pick at and grill at ease (we have a Weber grill on the verandah) would be much more impressive than sit-down. I think!

What is truly American? Cole slaw? Potato salad? Chili con carne? We can buy a lot of American relishes and mustards, Tex-Mex stuff and other classics here in Lisbon. Hamburgers are out because the meat here isn't as good as yours. Please help! *shiver*

(Both American couples lived previously in Manhattan, so we hope they know as much as we do. But I suspect they're both Dean supporters, whereas we Portuguese are naturally Kerry people, though I doubt there's a gastronomic consequence to that...)
posted by MiguelCardoso to Food & Drink (34 answers total)
Bratwurst :)
posted by Space Coyote at 6:55 AM on February 10, 2004

You're in luck. Wisconsin is famous for bratwurst and beer.
posted by dglynn at 6:58 AM on February 10, 2004

Wisconsin's also known for huntin', so see if you can get your hands on some deer meat.
posted by notsnot at 6:59 AM on February 10, 2004

Response by poster: But you can't get bratwurst here!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:02 AM on February 10, 2004

Security Realty of Wausau was nice enough to post a bunch of recipes from staff members. Seems to be a good survey of the sorts of things people would take to a potluck. The "ham cassarole" (sic) would likely be à point.
posted by gimonca at 7:05 AM on February 10, 2004

Shotz beer and an Arnold's burger.
posted by bondcliff at 7:08 AM on February 10, 2004

I vote for meatloaf and mashed potatoes (but I'm from Connecticut so what do I know?). You can always try the Wisconsin Recipe Page
posted by FreezBoy at 7:09 AM on February 10, 2004

For dessert, apple pie with a slice of cheddar on the side. It sounds weird, I know, but one of my great aunts used to serve this and it was surprisingly good! You can either alternate bites of the pie and the cheese, or take a bite of both with a 5:1 volume ratio of pie:cheese. Does that make sense? Apple pie is just about the most 'merican dessert I can think of.

As for the meal, you can go into 4th of july mode and serve hot dogs or sausages with all the fixin's, potato salad, watermelon (or other chilled fruit in season) and iced tea.

Other ideas, in case you need substitutions: fried chicken, cole slaw, anything in a can (spam, soda pop, etc). Have fun!
posted by whatnot at 7:10 AM on February 10, 2004

From my previous link, I would like to recommend the recipe for 25 gallons of Chicken Booyah (scroll down) or the French Fried Cheese.
posted by FreezBoy at 7:13 AM on February 10, 2004 [1 favorite]

whatnot: cheese with apple pie is also normal in some parts of the uk, curiously (very good with cheshire or wenslydale - two white, salty, crumbly hard cheeses).
posted by andrew cooke at 7:20 AM on February 10, 2004

No bratwurst? What type of madness is this?

Any access to any other types of mild, plump sausage that would grill well? With onions, mustard and hoagie rolls you might be able to simulate the effect. Some people go for slices of grilled peppers with those, too.

Got any access to freshwater fish? Walleye and perch are common gamefish in Wisconsin, usually lightly breaded and pan fried, or battered and deep fried, then piled onto rolls to make heaping sandwiches.

You could always try a fish boil, but I think that's actually more of a regional Wisconsin thing, and not really representative.

But plying them with lots of lager first, and then inviting their input while grilling(then rejecting their input) is definitely part of the experience.
posted by dglynn at 7:31 AM on February 10, 2004

Being a Wisconsin native I would suggest some sort of sausage sauerkraut combination like the Polish dish called "Bigos" or a German dish of spareribs and sauerkraut. As far as the cheese goes, a hearty potato au gratin dish would really show off that aged cheddar and would pair nicely with the main dish (allrecipes.com has some great, user rated, recipes for au gratins). Serve a German Oktoberfest beer along with the meal. The general principle is that sweeter, toasty malt flavors with relatively subtle hopping (i.e., bitterness) pair well with rich though not strongly flavored pork.

If all else fails, use the extra cheddar to whip up a delicious Cheddar Daiquiri.*

*Wiscnsin humor, I'm afraid.
posted by sharksandwich at 7:48 AM on February 10, 2004

There's always Beer Cheese Soup, definitely a typical Wisconsin thing. Note that I don't actually recommend this. Just because WI has pretty good beer and pretty good cheese does not mean it's a good idea to throw them together in an orgiastic blend of all things Wisconsin.

Previous other posters have the right idea: if you can't get bratwurst, find some suitable replacement grilling sausage. If you want to be authentic, first boil it in a moderately flavorful beer along with some coarse ground pepper for about ten minutes, then throw it on the grill briefly. Serve in hoagie-style rolls with sauerkraut and spicy mustard.
posted by Galvatron at 8:09 AM on February 10, 2004

Miguel: disregard any advice from non-Wisconsin natives. They know not of what they speak.

Were the primary on a Friday, you could have a fish fry - but only on Friday. Wisconsin has a heavy German and Polish influence - thus the beer - and also some Scandinavian leanings.

If you can get brandy, go for it. Wisconsin alone accounts for a dramatic amount of the world's brandy consumption - so much so that when our flagship college football team plays a "Bowl game" in California, CA runs out of brandy.

Sausage isn't a bad idea, especially bratwurst. If you can't get bratwurst, a good knackwurst or weisswurst will do as a replacement. If you're going to serve sauerkraut, don't cook it - ferment and refrigerate. Email me if you're interested in recipes. Homemade sauerkraut is easy to make and delicious.

The cheese should be salty, and I'd recommend serving it in a block, on a board, with a knife: self-serve, with a hunk of some variety of smoked sausage along with it.

Fish boil is also an excellent idea, especially considering you probably have access to great fish.

Again, email me for recipes. My girlfriend has worked in the restaurant business for years here, so I can help you out.
posted by rocketman at 8:14 AM on February 10, 2004

Beer cheese soup is also fantastic. Instead of serving it with crackers, use popcorn.
posted by rocketman at 8:15 AM on February 10, 2004

Here's the Milwaukee Journal "You Asked For It" archives. (YAFI is reader-requested, area restaurant recipes.) If you want really traditional, use the recipes from Karl Ratzche's or Maders or the Bavarian Wurst Haus.

Johnsonville Bratwurst ships, the beer ones are the best. What Rocketman said - Fish fry (and boil) is only for Friday; if you do it anyway make potato pancakes, too. Booyah is only if you're DePere/Green Bay. (Oh, god, that sounds good. Get me to the church festival on time!) I've never seen anybody drink brandy. Oh, wait - make Old Fashioned. (Duh.)

Kringle comes from Racine (pronounced RAY-seen by the natives) and is delicious, it would be a nice dessert with coffee.

Kroll's Hamburgers ships, too. They're delicious, buttery little hamburgers. If you can find the recipe for Chili John's chili (also Green Bay), that'd be awesome. Send it to me, too.
posted by mimi at 8:33 AM on February 10, 2004

When I have been in Wisconsin eating with the natives, the bratwursts were boiled in beer for hours before they were placed on the grill. They also tried to serve me microwavable pork rinds. I bet those things ship. If they're Dean supporters, you might need to be prepared to have that Wisconsin cheese vs Vermont cheese debate that has been a highlight of mine and my boyfriend's relationship since he moved to Vermont from Wisconsin. If you can find one of these, you can be sure anyone present from Wisconsin will laugh their ass off, or try to kill you.
posted by jessamyn at 8:45 AM on February 10, 2004

The only thing I would add to this wonderful list is pork ribs cooked in sauerkraut. And have some pickled herring as an appetizer.
posted by eastlakestandard at 8:48 AM on February 10, 2004

Yes yes yes to the pickled herring.
posted by rocketman at 8:53 AM on February 10, 2004

Re: boiling the brats - yes, cook them in some light lagery beer (whatever Pabst-like swill you can find), ketchup, and a sliced onion. While grilling the brats, reduce this boiling stuff into a sauce. Yes, pickled herring.
posted by mimi at 8:59 AM on February 10, 2004

If you do a fish boil - and I'm sure you could do honour to it, given the lovely fresh fish you have in Portugal - consider this advice from my Winsconsinese partner:

In a "fish boil," cleaned fish are boiled over a campfire with potatoes and onions. The oldest member of the fishboil party gets to dowse the fire with kerosene creating a dramatic, diesel flavored climax to the event. A true culinary horror.
posted by stonerose at 9:12 AM on February 10, 2004

You could also go with a nice steak swimming in lots of butter (they put butter on everything up there, the Cheeseheads).

I don't know where you'd find them, but some nice fried cheese curds would be good, too.

But don't listen to me, I'm just a FISH (fucking Illinois shit head).
posted by me3dia at 10:13 AM on February 10, 2004

mmmmm Wisconsin ....

(Miguel, as another Wisconsinite, I 2nd everything Rocketman says!)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:16 AM on February 10, 2004

Oh, and if you are going to do Fish Fry or Boil, you've got to have some Polka Music to go with it.

Anything by Frankie Yankovic will do...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:19 AM on February 10, 2004

For dessert, frozen custard.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:29 AM on February 10, 2004

Mmm, Culver's. Where, after they cook the burger, they put extra butter on the bun. Now that's freaking Midwest.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:56 AM on February 10, 2004


Sauerkraut, German potato salad, possibly some spaetzle, definitely some cheese curds.

Doubt you can get your hands on some Leinies though.

(Leinenkugel beer, that is.)
posted by Vidiot at 10:56 AM on February 10, 2004

You could also probably throw together an interesting aperitif with Door County cherry juice if you can get it shipped in time. It wouldn't be very Wisconsin, but would use WI ingredients -- maybe adding it to Champagne, a la a Kir Royale (or Prosecco/Bellini)?
posted by Vidiot at 10:58 AM on February 10, 2004

Were I journeying all the way to Portugal, I'd be disappointed to be eating like I was at a ballpark, Wisconsin primary or no. But I suppose that's a different topic.
posted by jalexei at 11:03 AM on February 10, 2004

Oh dear God yes, deep fried cheese curds. Made with sharp cheddar, never mozzarella.
posted by Galvatron at 11:55 AM on February 10, 2004

I'd actually suggest not making brats, because, while they're great, if you don't cook them enough (which is wasy to do), Brats are very likely to make you sick.

If you want to be subtler, definitely have beer. I imagine you should be able to find Miller. If you don't mind spending some money try Lakefront Brewery. Cheese is a must, but off the top of my head I can't think of any dishes we eat where cheese is the focus (or at least not ones you'd want to serve at a party), but realize that most everything can be successfully covered in cheese.

In addition to Beer, get cranberry juice or wine. Wisconsin is one of the largest producers of cranberrys in the US (second I believe).

Also, you can never go wrong with hamburgers on a grill and german potato salad, afte all, the hamburger was invented here.
posted by drezdn at 12:09 PM on February 10, 2004

Brats require stadium sauce (purchase here)

also, sweet corn, grilled and dipped in melted butter.
posted by probablysteve at 1:00 PM on February 10, 2004

Response by poster: Wow, MetaFilter came back just in time - the dinner's tomorrow! Thanks for the wonderful suggestions. It will be a pig-out and will be absolutely authentic! I'll report back!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:27 PM on February 16, 2004

Looking forward to hearing about it!! (and it's not hard to cook brats enough first, just follow the beer boil suggestions.)
posted by mimi at 6:43 AM on February 17, 2004

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