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Cooks' Exchange: Recipes to savor from St. Louis to Wisconsin

Cooks' Exchange: Recipes to savor from St. Louis to Wisconsin


Recently, while casually searching through my Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts published in 1997, I noticed that barbecue sauce is described as being American, traditionally made with tomatoes, onion, mustard, garlic, brown sugar and vinegar to baste barbecued meats and poultry.

I have no qualms about that, but since 1997 many new things have happened in the culinary world that surrounds us.

While attending an annual outdoor fundraising Labor Day festival a few years ago 300 miles north in Burnett County, I purchased a used, hard-cover, spiral-bound, 275-page cookbook in mint condition for 50 cents. The discovery stirred my thought process.

Finding recipes from other areas seemed to be fairly similar until opening “Savour St. Louis: A Blending of Tastes & Cultures,” compiled and published in 1996 by the Barnes Hospital Auxiliary at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. This exceptional compilation from Missouri promised a variegated selection of recipes reflecting the intriguing mingling of cultures and traditions in the great Gateway City.

St. Louis’ Toasted Ravioli

This was the first recipe that my husband and I had enjoyed while vacationing there years before. Charlie Gitto’s restaurant in St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood called The Hill was known for their ravioli using homemade pasta and shared his eatery’s fabled all-time favorite recipe for readers using frozen ravioli, thawed and deep-fried.

2 tablespoons milk

1 egg

1-pound package frozen ravioli, thawed

²⁄³ to 1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs

Shortening or oil for deep-frying

Parmesan cheese

1 cup spaghetti or pizza sauce

Beat together milk and egg. Dip ravioli in egg mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs. Deep-fry ravioli, a few at a time, in 2 inches of 350 degree shortening. Fry 1 minute per side or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Keep fried ravioli warm in a 300 degree oven while remainder of ravioli cook. Sprinkle with cheese and serve with warmed sauce for dipping.

(Frozen uncooked ravioli is available in some grocery stores)

Yield: 12 to14 servings

Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

Although other recipes in the book also stirred my interest, a homemade barbecue sauce with interesting ingredients unlike any I had seen before found me making the sauce immediately for a pork loin roast waiting for attention. Claiming the sauce is “great with pork,” the meal was exceptional. Here it is to satisfy your own curiosity.

3 slices of bacon

1½ cups ketchup

¼ cup full-flavored molasses

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons bourbon

2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

½ small red onion, minced

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain and mince. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Famous-Barr’s French Onion Soup

From the same cookbook, this was served in Famous-Barr’s dining rooms for many years. It is suggested to top individual servings with thin slices of French bread. Sprinkle with grated Swiss cheese and broil until cheese is golden brown.

1 pound, 6 ounces onions, peeled

6 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon Spanish paprika

2 bay leaves

½ cup all-purpose flour

6 cups beef broth

1½ teaspoons salt, or to taste

Yield: 8 servings

Cut onions in half and slice with the grain about ¹⁄8 inch thick. Saute over low heat in butter for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Mix in black pepper, paprika, bay leaves and flour. Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Slowly stir in broth with a wooden spoon. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Season with salt and remove bay leaves.

Beer Coleslaw

“Savour St. Louis” also claims if ever there was a town to feature beer coleslaw, it’s St. Louis!

1 (2 pound) head cabbage, grated

3 medium carrots, grated

4 tablespoons finely chopped onion

½ red bell pepper, diced

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

¼ cup beer

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

Combine cabbage, carrots, onion and bell pepper in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients with a whisk. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss gently, but thoroughly. Adjust seasoning as needed. Cover and refrigerate 60 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

Beer-Cheese Bread with Raisins

Moving on to Wisconsin, recently discovered in a pocket-size, 1991 spiral bound collection of “Wonderful Wisconsin Recipes” compiled by Juanita Loven, is a Pabst Brewing Co. recipe using beer to make this sweet, moist bread to serve for breakfast or with afternoon tea. The book also suggests that “Wisconsin” derives from a native word with several possible meanings including a “gathering of the water, wild rice country, and homeland.”

1 cup raisins (5 ounces)

1 can or bottle (12 ounces) beer

2½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

4 ounces Cheddar cheese, finely shredded

¼ cup oil

1 egg

Heat raisins and beer to simmering. Remove from heat; let stand about 10 minutes. Combine dry ingredients. Add cheese; stir to coat. Mix oil and egg; add to dry ingredients along with beer and raisins. Beat just until blended. Turn into greased and floured 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Turn out on a rack to cool. Cool thoroughly before slicing.

Yield: One loaf

Beer-Batter Fried Chicken

Miller Brewing Co. in Milwaukee claims this is a crowd pleaser that will serve a group of 12-16.

1½ cups yellow cornmeal

1½ cups flour

1½ teaspoons salt

3 eggs

3 egg yolks

½ cup butter, melted

1½ cups Lowenbrau Beer

18 pounds chicken pieces

Oil for deep-frying

Combine and mix cornmeal, flour, salt, eggs, yolks, butter and beer. Chill at least 30 minutes. Dry chicken pieces and dip into batter to coat completely. Deep fat fry at 350 degrees until golden brown. Drain and serve immediately.

Note: Beer Batter is good also for deep frying vegetables or shrimp.

Brats ’n’ Beer

Sheboygan is the self-proclaimed bratwurst capital of the world. For a taste of Wisconsin, from Roger Gosse of Sheboygan, pick up some bratwurst, American or German potato salad, baked beans and coleslaw for a proper brat fry.

8 to 10 bratwursts

2 12-ounce bottles Wisconsin beer

4 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, thinly sliced

Hard rolls

“Fixings” (onion, ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut, etc.)

Cook brats on a medium-hot grill; cook and turn frequently for about 30 minutes. In a saucepan, combine, beer, butter and onion; cook slightly to blend flavors, but do not overcook. Keep beer mixture warm and add brats for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve brats on hard rolls with the “works.”

Note: Brats are best if kept in the beer mixture for no longer than 30 minutes.

Cheese Sauce for Vegetables

This is a delicious recipe from the G. Heileman Brewing Co. of La Crosse described as being delicious with asparagus, broccoli or hard-cooked eggs.

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup Old Style Beer

1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

Dash of cayenne pepper

Combine cheese and butter in the top of a double boiler. Place over hot water until cheese begins to melt. Gradually add ale or beer. Stir until smooth. Stir in the Worchestershire sauce, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper.

Makes about 2½ cups.

Old Fashioned Cheesecake

Ready for a dessert? Here is a recipe reminiscent of the cheesecakes sold in the neighborhood bakeries in Milwaukee.

½ cup butter, melted, divided

4 graham cracker squares, crushed

1 pound cottage cheese

4 eggs

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese

1½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups sour cream

Brush bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan lightly with melted butter and dust with graham cracker crumbs. In a blender, combine cottage cheese and eggs; blend until smooth. In a mixing bowl, beat softened cream cheese and sugar together; add all remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees until firm, about 70 minutes. Turn oven off and let cake stand in oven for 2 hours with the door closed. Remove, cool and chill cake. Serves 12.

Note: Freezes well.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at

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