Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
That means plates of golden brown cod, haddock or perch, cole slaw, rye bread, french fries, and potato pancakes. The question is, how best to eat those pancakes?
Former FranklinNOW blogger Janet Evans on a few occasions has given me her opinion on the proper accompaniment to potato pancakes. I invited her to provide guest commentary for this week’s edition of Culinary no-no. Here’s Janet’s take, and then I’ll give you mine:
Let’s face it; some people just know more than others when it comes to certain types of food. Like potato pancakes, for instance.
I grew up on potato pancakes. My grandfather, who was born in Latvia, was a peasant who practically lived on potatoes. He also had homemade sour cream. Later, in America, when he was 30 he married his 15 year old bride and taught her that when you make potato pancakes, you have to have sour cream along with them.
I make great potato pancakes. Hand grated potatoes with grated onion, flour, egg, salt, and pepper. Before I fry them, I cook bacon and save the bacon grease. The pancakes are then cooked in the bacon grease so they turn out with very crispy edges. The crispy, hot pancakes are served immediately, with sour cream, and crumbled bacon on top. Perfection. When I moved to Wisconsin, I saw some strange food customs. One of them that stopped me in my tracks was applesauce with potato pancakes! What’s that all about? You do not mix apples with potatoes. Especially cold applesauce with hot, potato pancakes. Talk about a no-no. It isn’t like Wisconsinites don’t know what sour cream is. Go to any restaurant in the Dairy State at dinner time and listen to the patrons order their baked potatoes with sour cream.
So, tell me, Kevin Fischer, what is it that I don’t get about Wisconsin and potato pancakes? And don’t tell me it is a German custom. I’m part German too.
Potato Pancakes with sour cream? Yes-yes.
Potato Pancakes with applesauce? No-no.
First of all, putting sour cream on potato pancakes is not the most blatant example of a culinary no-no. You can search online for recipes for potato pancakes and find some that suggest sour cream. However, most, if not all of the recipes that mention sour cream also mention applesauce. Not all of the recipes that mention applesauce also mention sour cream.
One year ago, the late Dennis Getto of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel wrote that potato pancakes were part of the trio that made a great fish fry (the fish and cole slaw the other two ingredients).
Getto had this to say about the pancakes:
“By far the best sidekick for fried fish is genuine, homemade potato pancakes. The best are made from freshly grated or ground potato, enhanced with a little minced onion. The mixture is bound with egg (or egg and flour), formed into patties and fried or grilled.
Many restaurants use batter mixes, which result in pancakes that are mushy and not at all crisp. Some offer a maple syrup option to the more typical applesauce accompaniment.”
Notice he didn’t include sour cream?
From Getto’s article, a photo of the fish fry from the Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden:
I see applesauce on the plate. You see any sour cream?
From Karl Ratzsch's Dinner Menu:
Potato Pancakes (Served with Apple Sauce) ~6.25
Again, no sour cream.
Go to the Bartolotta fish fry in the Boerner Botanical Gardens.
Guess what they put on the buffet table for your potato pancakes?
And I could go on and on.
The applesauce served at restaurants in these parts isn’t cold.
Janet, Janet, Janet. Sour cream and bacon bits are great……….on a baked potato.
Sour cream on a potato pancake?
Applesauce is much better.
PREVIOUS CULINARY NO-NO’S
1) Ketchup on a brat
2) Green peppers on pizza
3) The dirty martini
4) Fruity brats
5) A Bloody Mary after dinner
6) Women “manning” the grill
7) Eating pizza at Festa Italiana, brats at German Fest, or tacos at Fiesta Mexicana. (Be adventurous. You can have those items anytime).
8) Eating a cream puff as though it was a hamburger.
9) Taking your own bottle of sauce when invited to a barbecue.
10) Touching the grill if you’re a guest at an outdoor barbecue.
11) Coaching the host on how to grill.
12) Some regional flavored ice cream…..like black licorice.
13) Taking the husks off before you grill corn on the cob
14) Being afraid to chill red wine
15) Pizza on the grill
16) When serving exotic or strange dishes to guests, do not tell them exactly what it is. Instead, use a more inviting term (caviar) rather than being blunt (fish eggs).
17) In late summer and early fall, this time of year, don’t buy zucchini. Somehow, someway, you will find zucchini or zucchini will find you.
18) Showing disrespect to your restaurant server.
19) Eating out on a Monday night.
20) Pumpkin beer.
21) Mail-order turkey.
22) Grilled cheese is just for kids.
23) Dining in the dark.
24) Ketchup on spaghetti
25) Sneaking healthy foods into treats to get your kids to eat it.
26) Do not throw away culinary gifts received in the mail because you don’t like them.
27) Do not feel guilty about eating Oreos. (Oreos are not to blame for out of control obesity).
28) Doing something so totally ridiculous that you are desperately forced to call the Butterball Turkey Hot-Line for assistance.
29) Don’t forget the sweet potato January-October.
30) Using resource guides from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on gracious living to plan holiday parties
31) Eating cranberries, the best of the super-foods, only during the holidays.
32) Egg nog that isn’t spiked.
33) Putting hot spices and other weird stuff in chocolate bars and hot cocoa.
34) Don’t disregard fruitcake.
35) Sparkling wine on New Year’s Eve ain’t champagne.
36) Ordering a Coors Light or any facsimile when at an outdoor open-air bar on a tropical beach.
37) Smoking bans in restaurants and bars in Wisconsin.
38) Goat burgers and healthy items at tailgate parties.
39) The restaurant of the future, with all kinds of cameras trained on you for....research.
40) The Budweiser Chelada