If September’s arrival finds you needing to relax after a busy summer, it’s time to make plans. Choose a time and place to visit on a good weather day by thinking of all that Wisconsin has to offer. The state offers historical sites, rock formations, lakes, rivers and streams, ethnic festivals, sporting events, and unknown mysteries along the way with lunch at a diner in a charming old town, or gathering later in the day at a pub with the locals.
Although there are many roads leaving town for interesting places to visit, some plans fail to materialize for an assortment of reasons. When that happens, it’s time to pretend by using your imagination with recipes from eating establishments within driving distance from home.
In 2007, Judith E. Sulik captured the essence of Christy’s Landing in her book, “An Adventure for Your Palate: A Tour of Restaurants In and Around Madison.” Christy’s Landing, located at 2952 Waubesa Ave., began in 1936 when Waunakee tobacco farmer Dennis Christianson purchased land and a building on the lake that became a cozy restaurant and bar exuding intrigue along the edge of Lake Waubesa.
With Eric, his grandson, in command today, it’s a perfect place to visit, dine and socialize no matter what the weather may be at the moment. Here is their chowder recipe served during the years gone by.
Lake Waubesa fish chowder
2 pounds of fish filets (preferably walleye/pike or cod)
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups diced baby red potatoes
2 medium onions, chopped
4 ears of sweet corn
2 quarts whole milk
2 cups flour, sifted
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cut fish filets into 1-inch squares. In sauce pan, melt butter and saute potatoes until they’re slightly tender. Add onions during the last 5 minutes. In stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water to boil; add fish filets, boil 3 minutes. Remove fish and strain fish stock. Boil ears of corn in fish stock until tender, then remove them. When cool, remove kernels from cob. Strain stock again and reduce until there are about 1½ to 2 quarts remaining; stir milk into simmering stock. Stir in sifted flour to bring to desired consistency. Add onions, potatoes, fish and corn kernels. Slowly bring soup to serving temperature stirring often. Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you can pack about 100 miles into your trip, head to Tomah and stop at Burnstad’s European Café as featured in the Wisconsin Restaurant Association’s book, “Our Best Cookbook 2: A Second Serving” for a dessert I’ve enjoyed there in the past. This is another place you’ll wish was close to home that opened in August 1979 as a “Garden Café.” Due to popular demand, it was remodeled into a place with European flair and has often been referred to as “the best kept secret in Wisconsin.”
Here is their most requested recipe created by former manager Dea Thornton.
Burnstad’s caramelized pecan pie
15-ounce bag caramels, unwrapped
½ cup Wisconsin butter
6-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup chopped pecans
10-inch unbaked pie crust
2 8-ounce packages Wisconsin cream cheese
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
In small saucepan, melt together caramels, butter and evaporated milk. Stir until smooth. Place pecans in bottom of unbaked pie crust. Lightly spread all but 1 cup of caramel mixture over pecans, reserving remaining caramel mixture. Soften cream cheese with mixer until fluffy. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla and pour batter over caramel layer. Bake at 350 degrees until pie is set in center, about 35-40 minutes. Set aside to cool. Top with reserved caramel mixture and garnish with a sprinkle of pecans in the middle of the pie.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
If you are ready for an all-day trip, think Cumberland about 200 miles northwest from home — where a trip to Louie’s Finer Meats becomes another place in Wisconsin to celebrate.
I’ve had the great pleasure of visiting Louie’s in the past and thank local well-known author Terese Allen for featuring Louie’s in her book, “Wisconsin’s Hometown Flavors.” First published in 1998 as a “cook’s tour of butcher shops, bakeries, cheese factories and other specialty markets,” it is a treasure that begins with a heart-warming introduction: “In memory of my mother, Agnes, who filled a green box (with) hand-written recipes, Grandma Smallo, who fried long Johns and made dandelion wine, Grandma Marlow, who did the dishes, Dad, who loved booyah and cream puffs, and Louie, who carved a painted cornucopia.”
Louie’s owner, Louis Muench III, is described as being a “sausage maker and master of mixer of spices” whose dynasty began when his grandfather, Louis Muench, immigrated from Bavaria. Their history includes a recipe for German-style hash.
2/3 cup chopped onions
3 cups cubed, cooked potatoes
1 cup diced salami
3 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
Grated Swiss cheese
Film the bottom of cast-iron skillet with oil, then heat on Coleman stove or on a grill over a wood fire. Saute onions a few minutes, then add potatoes and salami. Cook, turning occasionally, until potatoes are browned. Pour on eggs and cook until almost set, tilting and shaking pan to distribute eggs. Sprinkle with cheese, let melt, and serve immediately. Serves three.
While you are up north, give serious thought to visiting Northern Wisconsin Maid Sugarbush in Park Falls where Rosemary and John Slack, owners of 200 acres of maple trees, have been in the maple syrup business for more than 30 years. That includes berries for jams, maple candy, fudge and butter. Their goods are available 24 hours a day at the tiny log “Sugar Cabin” built next to their driveway at W8052 Maple Ridge Road.
Sugarbush smoked pork chops with maple mustard sauce
2 teaspoons butter
¼ cup minced onion
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons flavored mustard, divided
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
4 smoked pork chops, at least ¾-inch thick
Melt butter in small skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Stir in 1/3 cup maple syrup, vinegar, a tablespoon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke, if using. Whisk until smooth. Simmer 6 to 8 minutes, stirring often. Keep warm.
Line broiler pan with aluminum foil; heat broiler. Trim excess fat from pork chops. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup and 1 tablespoon mustard; brush half the mixture on one side of chops. Broil meat, plain side down, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn chops, brush with remaining mixture, and boil until heated through, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve with the warm sauce.
Note: Use Dijon mustard or one flavored with honey, cranberries, horseradish or maple syrup. Chops can also be cooked on the grill.
If you had Norway on your mind, and your flight is canceled, return home to your own kitchen and prepare a recipe from the Sons of Norway’s “Idun Lodge Koke Bok” (cookbook) recently shared by Jerry Paulson, whose creamed onion recipe is from Sunnmore, his grandmother’s home in Norway.
1 pound sweet onions
3 tablespoons butter
2½ tablespoons flour
¾ cup milk
1 cup heavy cream (35% or higher)
Peel and cut onions in to thin rings. Fry in butter until soft. Sprinkle with flour and add milk and cream. Cook until slightly thickened. Season with salt.
Note: Paulson claims this dish goes well with almost any fish or meat.