Cooking, eating and other adventures along Lake Superior

Wisconsin State Farmer
Bayfield, WI, resident and author Mary Doiugherty's new cookbook brings small-town heart to Farm-to-Table setting.

Explore what it means to nourish a family and a community the Wisconsin Historical Society Press's new collection of global recipes with a Northwoods twist, Life in a Northern Town: Cooking, Eating, and Other Adventures Along Lake Superior. Chef, locavore, and author Mary Dougherty, aka The Cookery Maven, mixes small-town heart into a farm-to-table setting through a stunning collection of recipes, stories and photos.

A Twin Cities transplant to Wisconsin's northernmost region, Dougherty ties recipes and her new community together against a backdrop of waterfalls, Great Lakes beaches, farm stands, and her quintessential small town of 487 people.

Dougherty incorporates what is grown and raised in Wisconsin's Bayfield Peninsula into her favorite dishes. To order, visit Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

Salt-crusted potatoes

Salt-crusted potato nuggets

These potatoes are crispy, salty and as easy as simmering potatoes on the stove. Don't lose hope when you make them for the first time; they go from wet potatoes to salty potato nuggets about 30 seconds after the water evaporates.

2 lbs. small red potatoes or fingerlings

1/2 c. kosher salt

Place potatoes in a shallow saucepan large enough to accommodate the potatoes in a single layer on the bottom. Cover with water, add salt, and stir until salt dissolves. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce to a medium-low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has completely evaporated and potatoes are covered in salt, about 45 minutes. Serve with ramp pesto on side for dipping sauce. Serves 6.

Campfire dinner on the beach consisting of whitefish in foil.

Whitefish in foil

This recipe is more a guideline than a hard, fast directive - kind of like an evening on the beach.

Skinned Lake Superior whitefish fillets


lemons, quartered

White wine

Feta Cheese

Garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Fresh herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary or whatever is on hand)

Salt and pepper

Lay out two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil about six inches longer than our fillets and make a double-layer bottom. Please each fillet on foil and top with pat of butter, the juice of 1/4 lemon, a splash of wine, about 3 T. of crumbled feta, a few slices of garlic, a handful of herbs, and salt and pepper and cover with a third piece of foil (about same size as first two). Fold sheets together until you have package a little larger than fillet. Place foil packets on coals (double-layered foil side down) and cook for 10-12 minutes, depending on temperature of the fire. Carefully open packet to check for doneness. The fish is done when it flakes easily with fork. 

The author's dog, George, savors the smell of Mrs. Pitt's sugar cookies.

Mrs. Pitt's Sugar Cookies

Mrs. Pitts lived in an apartment below us when I was a child and she sometimes gave me one of her cookies. Thankfully she gave my mom her recipe when we moved.  Now Mrs. Pitts's cookies travel to picnics on the beach, the Apostle Islands and waterfalls around Bayfield.

1 c. butter

2 c. sugar, plus more for rolling

2 eggs

1 t. lemon extract

1 t. orange extract

3 c. flour

1 t. cream of tartar

1 t. baking soda

1 t. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and 2 cups of sugar together on medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, and then add lemon and orange extracts. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Place additional sugar on a plate and line a sheet tray with parchment. Roll the dough into quarter-size balls, roll in sugar, place on sheet tray and flatten with palm of your hand. Bake until crispy, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Makes 36 cookies.

Homemade corn dogs

Homemade corn dogs

I grew  up in a family of devout Minnesota fairgoers, and I earned my carnival food chops through good old-fashioned trial and error. These corn dogs pass muster with flying colors.

3 c. pancake mix (I use Krusteaz)

1 c. yellow cornmeal

1 whole egg, slightly beaten

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. water, plus more if needed to thin batter

Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

12 all-beef, natural-casing hotdogs


In a large bowl, combine pancake mix and cornmeal. Stir to combine. Add egg and buttermilk. Add 1 c. of water and stir, adding more water as needed for the batter to become slightly thick but not overly gloopy.

Pour vegetable or canola oil into a large cast-iron skillet to a depth of about 3/4 inch and heat over medium heat to 375 degrees. Drop in a bit of batter to test - it will immediately start to sizzle but should not immediately brown or burn.

Insert sticks into hotdogs 2/3 of way through. Pour batter into large drinking glass or quart-sized canning jar. Dip into batter and allow excess to drop off. Cooking two hotdogs at a time, carefully drop them into oil (stick and all) and use tongs to make sure they don't hit the bottom and stick. Use tongs to rotate evenly while browning. Cook until batter is deep golden brown - 4-5 minutes. Remove from oil and place on rack or paper towel to drain. Makes 12 corn dogs. Adapted from the Pioneer Woman.