5 essential Minnesota cookbooks from 2017

Look at that glorious hot dish. [Photo: Jeffrey Thompson, Star Tribune]

Look at that glorious hot dish. [Photo: Jeffrey Thompson, Star Tribune]

There’s no such thing as a “secret recipe” in Minnesota.

Local chefs and home cooks are more than happy to share the methods behind their scrumptiousness with fellow foodies, and thanks to publishers like the Minnesota Historical Society Press and the University of Minnesota Press, every year brings a bountiful collection of culinary wisdom to the masses.

Here are five worth checking out from 2017.

The Great Minnesota Hot Dish by Theresa Millang and Karen Corbett

There’s nothing more Minnesotan than hot dish. Simply speaking, it involves some kind of protein, vegetables, and sauce, along with noodles, grains, or rice, layered in a casserole dish and finished with shredded cheese, crunchy toppings like potato chips, or tater tots. The beauty of this meal is in its simplicity: The amount of dirty dishes is minimal, and if you use kitchen staples like canned soup and frozen vegetables, no one will know the difference. In this updated and revised edition of their cookbook, Millang and Corbett offer up 200-plus hot dish recipes, which you can find sorted by occasion (i.e. potluck, baby shower, sick neighbor). All your church-basement favorites are contained herein, from Scalloped Potatoes and Ham to Wild Rice with Pine Nuts to Rice-Broccoli Hot Dish and Gingered Rhubarb Crisp. Gather ’round and dig in.

The Copper Hen Cookbook by Robert Lillegard

Chris and Danielle Bjorling never meant to open a restaurant. The young married couple wanted to open a bakery that served wine and beer, but Minneapolis liquor laws don’t work that way. The Bjorlings had to either add food or eliminate the alcohol. As we know from the Copper Hen’s eternally packed space on Eat Street, they went all in. Now the venue’s new cookbook takes foodies through every meal (and drink) of the day. Drool-worthy color photos are motivation enough to fire up the oven (or stovetop) and try your hand at items like Bacon Blueberry Breakfast Cupcakes, Gobbler Burgers, Chicken Coop Pizza, and Almond Cherry Boozy Cakes. Interspersed with the eats are stories from turning points of the restaurant: how the couple raised more than $11,000 on Kickstarter, the time Chelsea Clinton descended with her entourage and praised the cast iron skillet cookie, landing an appearance on CNBC’s Restaurant Startup. You can’t help but root for these crazy kids—or resist their delicious concoctions.

The Lincoln Del Cookbook by Wendi Zelkin Rosenstein and Kit Naylor

The Lincoln Del was one of the most adored Jewish delicatessens in the Twin Cities. Founded in 1933 by Romanian immigrant Frank Berenberg (who brought his sour starter to Minnesota all the way from his homeland), the restaurant was named after Abraham Lincoln and eventually expanded to three locations. Before it closed in 2000, the Lincoln Del was notorious for its carb selection, including caraway rye bread and bagels, savory comfort foods like corned beef and cabbage borscht soup, and sweet treats like strawberry shortcake. About five years ago, Berenberg’s great-granddaughter, Wendi Zelkin Rosenstein, began recreating the recipes from old bakers’ cards. The result is a cookbook as rich with food as it is with family memories and local history. Whether you’re craving Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars (the Berenbergs’ favorite recipe) or Chocolate Pie (a go-to of faithful Lincoln Del diners), there’s something nostalgic for you to nosh on among this book’s 70 recipes.

Savory Sweet by Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen

Fresh, homemade food can be complicated in the North, what with an abbreviated growing season and plummeting winter temps. Dooley and Nielsen tap into the Nordic spirit of food preservation, demonstrating methods to flavor-lock fruits, vegetables, and nuts by canning, pickling, brining, and freezing to make complex-tasting produce, condiments, and seasonings that last all year long. If you have a sweet tooth, try the Hazelnut Chocolate Spread, the Earl Grey Crab Apple Jelly, or the Tart Cherry Jam with Vanilla, Almond, and Star Anise; if you prefer savory, experiment with the Smoked Paprika and Horseradish Mustard, Zucchini Onion Relish, or Squash and Apricot Chutney. There are 200 pages of recipes here to keep you occupied during harvest season and ensure that you’ll have a stocked pantry in the coldest, most barren months.

Lake Fish by Keane Amdahl

You don’t have to head to the coast to find the perfect piece of seafood. The Midwest is home to a plethora of fish, from the well-known walleye and sunfish to more obscure varieties like ciscoes, a salmonid fish. Not only are freshwater fish, well, fresher because they’re in your backyard (or rather, your lake, river, or inland sea), they’re a more sustainable way to assuage your pescatarian cravings. Home cook Keane Amdahl’s recipes are categorized by fish type, but can be used interchangeably. Simple and satisfying combos among the 100 recipes include Sunfish Pot Stickers, Walleye with Morels and Brown Butter, and Midwestern Fisherman’s Stew. Pick a pole, snag some bait, and go get dinner!

Click here to read more stories from our Year in Food 2017 issue