It’s hard to believe that the Gourmet Dinner Club has been meeting for well over 3 years and this is the first time we’ve done a Minnesota theme. We live here for pete sake!
This month was hosted by Henriet, who we welcome back to MN with open arms. She’s been in Pennsylvania for the past two years where the word Gourmet is not in people’s vocabulary.
There were many ways you could interpret the theme. You could do a dish where all the components were made in MN, a dish that reminds you of MN, or maybe a dish that you grew up with. So many options! Here’s how it all went down.
First we had drinks at the bar. Check out the awesome bar set up she has. She painted those circles free form as well. Yeah. Amazing.
For appetizers, Kari made a puff pastry topped with Blue Cheese (from Shepard’s Way), mushrooms and tomatoes from her very productive garden. Gorgeous.
Kari continued her interpretation of local produce in our first course: soup. She did two soups served together. The base was a gorgeous and bright pink roasted beet soup with a green tomato soup served on top. The contrast of both colors and flavors played off of each other perfetly. Kari served the soup warm, but I think it would also be delicious cold.
I chose to make a side dish that was based on a dish I made at the first dinner party I hosted at the age of 15. I plan on writing a whole post about this dish (and that first dinner party), but I’ll give you the cliff notes version now. It’s a wild rice salad (does anything say MN like wild rice?) with roasted butternut squash, dried cherries, marcona almonds and scallions. I dressed it with my most favorite salad dressing ever. It turned out great and got great reviews from the crowd. The official recipe is coming up shortly – I promise.
Henriet did a few different dishes. For the main dish, she went with Walleye – a classic Minnesota Fish. She made up her recipe and it involved walleye, white wine, heavy cream, fennel and dill. The smell was delightful and it led to a lengthy discussion on the wonders of fennel. We all loved it.
To go along with the fish, Henriet also made Bread, following this famous no knead recipe. She made one change substituting Minnesota made Summit beer for some of the water. Such a nice touch. The bread turned out great and it provided many belly laughs as we struggled getting it out of the pan.
Eventually, we just dug in with our hands. It totally added to the fun of the evening.
Mike made meatloaf. You knew there was going to be meatloaf, right? I’ve always been a fan and we had a ton of it growing up. This was so nostalgic for me. What’s even better? He used a recipe straight from Grandma.
How awesome is this? This screams my childhood.
Mike gave us great commentary on the Minnesota meatloaf and his Gourmet addition: homemade ketchup. Here is his take in his own words:
I stuck to the recipe on this one, except scaling back on the tomato juice- 2 cups is a lot and just doesn’t fit… maybe my bread pans are unusually small.
The biggest difference I recognize with this recipe vs. other meatloaves I hear about, is that it is cooked in a bread pan instead of just piling it on a baking sheet ‘free-form’. I think the idea of the ‘free-form method’, is that there is more surface are to make a browned crust.
In case you’re interested, here is my favorite ‘free-form’ meatloaf recipe: it focuses on the “crust”.
So, the Grandma’s Meatloaf was my ‘Minnesota’ angle. Homemade ketchup was my ‘gourmet’ angle.
Alas, the ketchup didn’t turn out like I was hoping. But I think I know which tweaks threw it off…
Instead of using canned tomato puree, I used about 4.5 lbs. of my garden tomatoes (in part because I still had a couple bags of frozen tomatoes from last year’s harvest, and this year’s tomatoes are starting to fight for space…) Even though I didn’t add any water, like the recipe called for, and I simmered the mixture for at least four times as long, the ketchup is still thinner than I thought it would be… I think the tomatoes I used just have a really high water content and/or I just don’t understand some of the subtle differences between tomato sauce, puree, paste, etc. Some parts of the world call this condiment tomato sauce. I think I could get away with calling my finished product tomato sauce, instead of ketchup… : )
I was trying to make the flavor profile of the ketchup be a little more Minnesotan. So, instead of jalapeno, I used 1/4 of a green pepper from my garden. This really only confirmed that green pepper is one of the few flavors I just don’t care for. What happens for me is that it is just such a distinct and strong flavor, that it always seems to take over.
Also, contrary to my intent of making it more ‘Minnesotan’, I couldn’t help myself from adding a pinch of cumin and a pinch of Chinese 5 spice to the spice list. They’re just my favorite spices and I have a hard time leaving them out of anything, especially when there is a long list of spices going into a recipe…
I also realized that I think I forgot the cider vinegar until a couple hours into the simmering.
Basically, the whole production was a hot mess, but maybe it will work as a newly created recipe…
I think we all agreed we LOVED the ketchup. No, it wasn’t traditional, but it was super yummy.
After all of this, there was still dessert. Henriet also made dessert and the idea was genious.
Snicker Salad on a Stick.
First, let me back up. Is everyone familiar with Snicker Salad? Is it just a MN thing? In Brette’s family, it’s a staple. Snickers, cool whip, vanilla pudding and green apples create this sweet “salad”. It’s as sweet as you would imagine and it is traditionally served (at least with my in-laws) as a salad or side dish. It is NOT dessert. I know. I struggle with this too, but sometimes you just have to shut your mouth and go with it. This is one of those times.
Henriet took it a step further by adding the stick component a la MN State Fair. She dipped apple chunks into melted snicker bars and then froze them to set. They were then served with homemade whipped cream (the gourmet version of cool whip).
We decided quickly that three was not enough for a serving. We dived into another plate that wasn’t quite set yet. It led to a messy, albeit super tasty, fight with the wax paper. There was lots of finger licking going on. Not a bad way to end the evening.
I’m always amazed at how these meals come together. They are always fabulous. We had a blast talking about classic Minnesota food and the memories that come along with it.
What is your favorite Minnesota Food? Is it attached to a favorite memory?