Wisconsin Fruit Compote to accompany Cheddar Cheese

In a 4-quart saucepan or pot bring to a simmer:

1 cup semi-sweet white wine (such as Prarie Fumé from Wollersheim)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/2 cup dried Door County cherries

Stir slowly to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved, add:

1 cup Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, 1/4 inch dice

1 cup D’Anjou pears, cored, peeled, 1/4 inch dice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

When the liquid returns to a boil, adjust the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes to marry the flavors and soften the fruit. Turn off the heat then stir in:

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

With a slotted spoon remove the fruit to a bowl. Bring the remaining syrup to a simmer and allow to reduce until lightly thickened or when syrup coats the back of a spoon. Remove the syrup from the heat and when it is cool pour it over the fruit. The compote can be held in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Serve the compote at room temperature with the an aged Cheddar Cheese (such as Widmer’s 5 year aged Cheddar)

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Route 28 Steak Sandwich

The key to this recipe is the authentic brick cheese from Widmer’s Cheese located just off Route 28 in Theresa, WI. It is an American original created by the Swiss-born John Jossi in 1877 in Wisconsin. This is not the nondescript white cheese labelled brick cheese in many supermarkets.  Seek out this amazing cheese. The pungency increases with time, so sniff the package before buying to make sure the cheese has not over-ripened. Or just buy it from their website.

As described on the Widmer’s Cheese website,  “As Mr. Jossi created it, Brick cheese is firmly in the tradition of the great washed rind cheeses of Europe. Its flavor is enhanced during ripping of the bacterium linens, the same pleasantly pungent bacterial action that contributes to the flavor of the classic French cheeses like Pont I’Eveque, St. Nectaire, Reblochon and Livarot.”

In this recipe, the pungency of the cheese is balanced with the smokiness of the meat and the sweet complexity of slow roasted tomatoes adapted from Alice Waters.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Place in a low earthen ware pan (or similarly thick sided pan):

8 medium, vine-ripened tomatoes, with just top sliced off

1 large, sweet onion, peeled

Sprinkle with:

2 tsp salt

2 tsp cracked black pepper

Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and place in oven for 3 hours or until the juices that run from the tomatoes begin to caramelize a deep brown color. Remove and let stand until slightly cooled. This can be prepared a day in advance. When cooled, rough chop the tomatoes and onion, place into a bowl and add all the liquid that has accumulated in the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grilled Steaks

Heat gas or charcoal grill to high heat.

2 1lb New York strip steaks (I recommend Grass-fed beef from Jeff-Leen Farms, through Kewaskum Meats, on Route 28)

Rub with ½ cup Old Word Seasoning from Penzey’s Spices (or similar smoky beef rub)

Grill approximately 4 minutes per side or until the meat is rare to medium rare, approximately 140 degrees.  Let rest for an additional 4 minutes covered. After resting, trim the fat from the outside edge of the steaks and discard. Slice the cooked steaks across the grain in the thinnest possible slices. Cover to keep warm.

Assembly

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place 8 slices of a dark rye bread on  a baking sheet, 1/2 inch thick is ideal (or make your own German-style rye bread here).

Top each slice with generous spoonful of the tomato mixture, followed by a healthy portion of sliced steak.

Top each sandwich with a 1/4 inch slice of the brick cheese.  You will need approximately 1/2 pound.

Place the sandwiches into the oven for 4 minutes or just until the cheese begins to soften. Serve open-faced.  Smaller portions can be prepared as an appetizer.

Venison tenderloin, juniper berry sauce, savory potatoes

Marinade

Heat in a large skillet over medium-high heat:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Add and cook until onions are golden:

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced carrot

6 cloves crushed garlic

Add:

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

3 bay leaves

1/2 tbsp each dried thyme, basil, whole clove, crushed black pepper

12 whole juniper berries (check out Penzey’s online for supplies)

Bring to boil, then simmer for 1 hour. Strain, reserve solids, and cool the liquid.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid, marinate in remaining liquid in a freezer bag:

2 pounds venison tenderloin

Allow to marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. While marinating, prepare potatoes and sauce.

Savory potatoes

In a large pot of medium heat:

5 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

Milk, enough to just cover potatoes

2 cloves garlic

3 bay leaves

When pot comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, stir occasionally to prevent potatoes from sticking to bottom. As they cook prepare sauce and grill steaks. As the potatoes get very tender, the milk will thicken.  If the milk completely dissipates before the potatoes are tender, add a small amount to the pot and continue to cook until tender.  When very tender, remove the bay leaves and mash the potatoes vigorously until creamy.

Sauce

Heat in a large skillet over medium-high heat:

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Add and cook until slightly caramelized:

Reserved solids from marinade

Add:

1/2 cup reserved marinade

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup beef broth

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Reduce by half.  Strain and return liquid to skillet.  Reduce further until it coats the back of a spoon.  Immediately remove from heat to avoid burning. Reserve for after steaks have been grilled.

Grilled Venison Steaks

Prepare high heat grill, either gas or charcoal. As the grill heats, mix the following spices in a bowl and then rub onto the venison tenderloins until well-coated:

1 tbsp each ancho chile powder, smoked paprika, brown sugar, cumin, black pepper, salt (again, I recommend Penzey’s to find any spices you may not have here)

Cook the tenderloin steaks on the grill for approximately 4 minutes per side, until rare or medium-rare, about 140 degrees.  Allow to rest on a plate, tented, for 4 additional minutes. The tenderloin will continue to cook slightly off the heat. Do not overcook, as venison is a very lean meat.  The inside should remain red.

As venison rests, bring sauce and potatoes back to service temperature.  Turn of heat on the sauce, and add:

4 tbsp butter

Swirl butter into sauce until melted.

Serve a scoop of potatoes on each plate with sliced tenderloin, drizzle with sauce.

Hinterland, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub is located at 222 East Erie Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The original location is the brewery located at 313 Dousman Street Green Bay, Wisconsin. I have visited the Milwaukee location several times in the past two years and consider this an excellent example of Great Lakes Cuisine.

The beer is wonderful and reason enough for a visit. Their amber lager is a deep caramel color, with a sweetness balanced perfectly by the complexity of bitter hops. A variety of seasonal beers often compliment the core offerings. The Door County Cherry Wheat is a light Weiss-style beer flavored with the slight tang of Montmorency cherries. As much as I appreciate the featured local ingredients, I prefer a stronger flavor profile in my Weiss beers. They offer a tasting flight of three beers and is my preferred way to get through all of their excellent brews.

The ever-changing dinner options typify much of Great Lakes cuisine and are executed extremely well. I enjoyed the sweet potato – brussel sprout hash topped with a soft-cooked egg and crispy bacon adding the perfect saltiness. On another visit, it was a sampler of rillettes, more in the rustic tradition of slow-roasted and shredded meats that retain a coarser texture.

A fall 2012 menu is featured below.  Note the inclusion of summer sausage and hook’s 5-year cheddar cheese, braunschweiger with mustard, pickles, and rye crackers,  and their version of a frankfurter, the Paul Funk-Furter with hinterland pale ale mustard. The appetizer of crispy pork scrapple with a slow-cooked egg and bourbon barrel maple syrup has culinary ancestry in Low German cuisine, but developed in the US by the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Hinterland Milwaukee Dinner Menu