Buffalo Chicken – Buffalo, New York

We have added Buffalo, New York, to our list of cities for Great Lakes Cuisine and included two iconic locations: Anchor Bar and Charlie the Butcher. Anchor Bar is the original creator of Buffalo-style hot wings which is a fairly recent addition (last 50 years) to the regional culinary tradition. As a dish, it doesn’t have very deep roots – closer to in age to Chicago deep dish pizza than many of the culinary traditions we typically feature. The better example of the Great Lakes culinary tradition from Buffalo is Beef on Weck – a roast beef sandwich served on a Kummelweck roll, a hard roll with coarse sea salt and caraway seed on top.

Nevertheless, the Buffalo-style wing is an addictively tasty little morsel. The recent break-down by Epicurious.com of top sources of wings listed three different restaurants from our list – Greenhouse Tavern, Roast, and Anchor Bar. here is how Chef Sawyer from Greenhouse Tavern describes his take:

“First they’re cured for 36 hours in a mix of salt, pepper, sugar, and chili flakes. Then they’re gently cooked in a combination of beef, chicken, and duck fat for 12 hours in an immersion circulator. A slow cooling in the fat further melts the skin and tenderizes the flesh, ensuring moist wings. Then we let the chicken wings air-dry for 24 hours. This allows the skin to get crispy without the flesh getting soggy, leaving a delicious tender juicy wing.”

As always, Chef Sawyer takes it to another level. Incredible. In honor of the Buffalo-style hot wing, we offer our take on a Buffalo Chicken Burger, featuring both a blue cheese spread and a ghost chili pepper dusted cheese, topped with a celery relish – all the elements of the traditional hot wings, typically served with celery sticks and a blue cheese dipping sauce. We use a number of selections from Renard’s Cheese based in Door County, WI, including their remarkable Ghost Chili Jack cheese and we highly recommend ordering these cheeses online, but we have given alternatives below for convenience.

Buffalo-Style Chicken Burger

For the Chicken Burger
2 lbs ground dark meat chicken
1 medium onion diced
1 Tbs. butter
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 large egg
1 Tbs. dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil)

1 cup Blue Cheese Spread from Renard’s Cheese
-or-
1 cup blue cheese crumbles blended with
½ cup cream cheese and
½ cup shredded cheddar

For the Celery Relish
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced pickled sweet peppers
½ cup diced pickled onion

8 hamburger buns
Butter for toasted buns
Garlic salt to taste

1 lb Ghost Chili Jack from Renard’s Cheese, sliced
1 lb Sriracha Cheddar from Renard’s Cheese, sliced
-or-
1 lb of Pepper Jack cheese, sliced
Frank’s Red Hot sauce to taste

Romaine lettuce

In a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, melt butter, add onions, and sauté until translucent. Allow to cool and then add to ground chicken in a large bowl. Add corn flakes, herbs, and egg to the bowl and mix with hands until well mixed. Form into burgers return to refrigerator to set at least 30 minutes.

Prepare grill while burgers chill. Blend all ingredients for celery relish. Toast buns, spread with butter and sprinkle with garlic salt. Set aside.

Place burgers on grill, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes per side, then top with blue cheese spread and sliced cheeses. When cheese has melted, serve on buns, topped with celery relish and lettuce.

Buffalo Chicken Burger

 

We enjoyed our Buffalo-style Chicken Burger with an ice-cold Pilsner from Hinterland Brewing and sweet potato fries. The Pilsner was a perfect complement and very refreshing between bites of the burger. The Ghost Chili Jack cheese creates a slow burn, that builds and builds. You should get your hands on some, and enjoy the heat.

 

Hidden Springs Cheese Tasting – Winter 2015

We recently made a return trip to Fromagination in Madison, WI, to pick up selections to create a tasty winter cheese plate. Our last trip we detailed here and featured a Holland’s Family Cheese offering, Marieke Gouda. This time we picked up two varieties of sheep cheese created by Brenda Jensen at Hidden Springs Creamery – Ocooch Mountain and a Manchego-style cheese. We also picked up another Manchego-style from Emmi Roth, called GranQueso, this one a cow’s milk variety. We also picked up a favorite dry sausage from Underground Meats, their Saucisson Sec.

We’re using the term Manchego-style because Manchego, like true Champagne, is defined by the region it originated from. Here is Murray’s Cheese explanation:

Perhaps Spain’s most famous cheese, Manchego is a D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) protected cheese, meaning the traditional recipe must use 100% Manchega sheep milk. The breed has proven sturdy enough over the centuries to traverse the rocky, arid central plateau region of La Mancha – where cows just can’t hang. Made using fresh, pasteurized sheep’s milk, this Manchego develops a rich nuttiness and pleasant gaminess (think toasted almonds and broiled lamb chops) after over a year of aging. The patterned rind is a nod to the grass baskets previously used to form the cheese. Firm enough to grate for any culinary application, highlight its sharp, caramelly flavor anywhere you would use Parmigiano.

So Hidden Springs approach is fairly close to the tradition – sheep’s milk, organic farming, and old-school techniques. The flavor is grassier, more herbaceous, more “farmy” than any imported Manchego we have tried. We’ll admit to having never traveled to La Mancha to savor farmstead Manchego, but a taste of Hidden Springs definitely transports us to the hills near Westby, WI, where the sheep graze. We included the Ocooch Mountain in the tasting as way to distinguish the sheep milk effect as compared to the cow milk variety fro Emmi Roth. Ocooch is wonderful in it’s own right, like a sheep milk Parmesan, though slightly softer in texture, maybe hinting towards a Romano in texture, but many levels more interesting in flavor.

Cheese Plate - Winter 2015 Manchego2
Clockwise from upper left: Hidden Springs Ocooch Mountain, Hidden Springs Manchego-Style, Emmi Roth GranQueso

 

 

The GranQueso is fun, approachable and an interesting addition to the tasting, as the texture is very close to Hidden Springs and a traditional Manchego.  According to the maker, this cheese is “rubbed with a spice blend including cinnamon and paprika to bring out a unique identity”. You get just a hint of cinnamon and paprika, so little that if you did not know they were there, the reaction upon tasting would be one of those “Hey, there is a little bit of something in the aftertaste. What is that?”. Upon hearing the spice mix, you’ll immediately say – “Yeah, that’s it.” It’s subtle but it adds a sense of sweetness to the cheese. Some preferred this to the other two, others liked the more pronounced flavors present in the sheep milk varieties.

We added Honey Crisp apples along with the Saucisson Sec to complete the plate. Quince paste is the traditional Spanish accompaniment, and we considered a number of pear or apple options. A pear butter with honey would likely have made a nice addition (or maybe a preserve made of Pear with Honey and Ginger from the aptly named Quince & Apple in Madison). Overall, a fun and enjoyable exploration of artisan foods, taking traditional European approaches and adapting them, tweaking them, making them a new example of Great Lakes Cuisine.

Mac Attack

My son made this request for his birthday meal – “I want Great Lakes Cuisine worthy Mac & Cheese”. Here you go –

Mac

Mac Attack

6 thick slices bacon
½ cup maple syrup
1 tbl. barbeque seasoning (such as Penzey’s BBQ 3001)

1 lb. cavatappi pasta (corkscrew tubes) or elbow macaroni
¼ cup butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
½ lb. smoked ham, diced
6 smoked wieners, ¼ inch slices

1 lb. aged white cheddar, grated
7 eggs, beaten
1 ¾ cup milk
6 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour maple syrup into a small bowl and drag bacon slices through syrup and place on baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, flip and season with barbeque seasoning. Bake an additional 8 minutes or until crisp. Watch carefully in the final few minutes to avoid burning. Set aside to cool.

Cook pasta according to directions.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, place 1 tablespoon of butter, onion, carrot, ham and wieners until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat, and stir in the remaining butter, milk, eggs, and cheeses. Stir in the pasta.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Fill 13×9 pan with pasta mixture. Bake for 25 minutes or until the egg mixture sets. While the pasta bakes, cut the bacon into crumbles. Serve with crumbled bacon.

We enjoyed this with a side of home made apple sauce, with apples picked at a local orchard. Our apple sauce included 2 each of Pippin, McIntosh, and Cortlands, peeled and cored then cooked in a medium sauce pan over medium each with 1 cup water, ½ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves. Cooked for 10-15 minutes until it reaches your desired consistency.

Mac1

This was a fun twist on the classic combination of cheddar and apple. We’re big fan’s of Nueske’s meats, which we’ve covered before, so it is no surprise that all the meats in the dish were Nueske’s. The white cheddar we used was 6 year aged and the blue cheese was from Black River. Very rich, smoky flavors. Really enjoyed this with a Staghorn Oktoberfest from New Glarus Brewing. Yes, that was birthday worthy.

Summertime Musings

Saturday morning: Farmers market. Sunny, light breeze. My wife insists on beets. My children get churros from a Mexican bakery stand. Cucumbers, squash, greens, mixed sprouts, red onions, baby potatoes, the early harvest of summer. Oh, and sauerkraut. Jeff Ziebelman called me over and suggested I try a bit of their “Zauerkraut”, delicious. Red cabbage with the green cabbage, bit of carrots, fennel seed, let it ferment. You get this.

Zauerkraut

 

The cabbage retains a nice crunch and has developed a pleasant tang. Not over-salted, not over processed. So naturally the next thought – pairing. Roasted pork, with garlic and oregano, on the grill with apple wood chips. Low and slow, 3 hours. You get this.

Pork roast

Rich, sweet smoke flavors. Need a few sides. Throw beets on the grill, wrapped in foil. Slice the beet greens in half inch strips, toss with mixed sprouts. After the beets have cooled, cut to bite-sized pieces, toss them on the greens and top with blue cheese. You get this.

Beet salad

The baby potatoes. Let’s boil them until just tender, not mushy. Dress them with white wine, honey mustard, mayo, apple cider vinegar. My sister gave me some green onions from her garden. Perfect. Dice and toss it all together. You get this.

Potato Salad

Ooh, the cucumbers.

pickles2

Two cups vinegar, one cup sugar, 2 tablespoons pickling spices from Penzey’s. Boil, then chill. Slice the cukes thin, toss into the brine, wait a few hours. You get this.

pickles

Put it all together. Summer bliss.

Summer dinner Great Lakes Cuisine plays with seasonality in many ways. Feature the fruits of the season. Preserve the bounty for out-of-season, fermentation, salting, vinegar, canning. But try take a moment to enjoy the perfect evenings, the flavors, the conversations shared with family and friends. The experience, over time, becomes culture. Enjoy.

 

Drifting through Madison, WI

With some free time in the Madison, WI area you can discover all sorts of lovely surprises, including two new additions to our Purveyors page. On a recent business trip to the area, a walk around Capitol Square brought me to Fromagination, a specialty cheese shop featuring Wisconsin cheeses and other artisan and local products.  It is an absolute gem of a store, which my poor picture does not do justice.

FromaginationThe service was helpful, offering tastings of a number of different cheeses including a number of exclusive offerings. They clearly have an excellent relationship with their suppliers, as some the cheeses on offer here will not be found any where else (How about a curry-rubbed, Manchego-style cheese aged for 6 years?). A new offering from an old favorite eventually caught my eye, Golden from Holland’s Family Cheese. Their description: “This creamy, semi-soft, American Original boasts a flavor profile rich in nuttiness with hints of sweet fruit. Handcrafted by award-winning cheesemaker, Marieke Penterman and her team, this raw milk beauty is carefully aged on Dutch pine planks in our cellars.” The flavor profile is full and creamy, reminiscent of a young sheep cheese. We paired the Golden with the other end of the Holland Family Cheese spectrum, the “Super” aged Gouda, which has a Parmesan-like texture with a deep, caramel nuttiness.

A quick trip west of Madison will take you to the Fitchburg/Verona area, which is the edge of the Driftless Region, an area that has been left untouched by the glaciers which flowed over much of the Great Lakes region in the geologic past. Here is where Bavaria Sausage continues a 5o year tradition of making authentic German sausage. Smoked sausage, fresh sausage, frozen sausage, smoked meats, thick-sliced bacon, and nearly every German condiment you could ask for (How about seven varieties of curry ketchup?).  Amongst the variety of summer sausages, we selected the venison, and then grabbed a small beef summer sausage for comparison. Check out the bundles of landjaeger (upper left).

Bavaria sausage

The venison summer sausage is blended with beef which balances the flavor and adds moisture. Bavaria Sausage uses no fillers, no colorants, no artificial flavors. The flavors of the sausage are pure meat. In the picture below, the darker venison sausage is on the left, paired with the Super.  The beef summer sausage on the right was paired with Golden. But playing with combinations made this a simple, tasty, quickly consumed treat, enjoyed with summer cocktails.

Cheese Plate Summer 2014

 

So as you drift through the area, explore the old traditions, and the new producers. Enjoy the experience of ethnic traditions honored, and made new again. This is the exploration of Great lakes Cuisine.