Make no mistake, millions of Minnesotans, who are committed to the annual late summer pilgrimage to St. Paul (technically Falcon Heights), love the Minnesota State Fair—right down to the last deep fried, whatever on a stick or sugary confection money can buy. So when the announcement was made that this year’s great get-together was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, we shared in the state’s collective, “Gosh, darn it!” (Or, maybe, we all uttered something with a bit more vinegar and a lot less sugar.)
Regardless, let’s do what Minnesotans do, and make do. We might not be able to put a Tilt-A-Whirl in the backyard or have music favorites perform on our personal grandstands, but, by golly, we can cook! With the help of Rachael Perron, culinary and branding director at Kowalski’s Markets, and Amy Goetz, FoodE expert at Lunds & Byerlys, we put together a short list of state fair-inspired recipes for you to enjoy at home.
“I love State Fair food. My favorites are always the World’s Best french fries and Mouth Trap cheese curds—both drenched in ketchup. I hate to deep-fry food at home, so this is my one chance per year to get my fix.”
Kowalski’s Rachael Perron
“Ooh ... I love the deep fried cream cheese-stuffed olives. I always get the pork chop on a stick. That’s tradition for my daughter and me. The Porchetta pig wings from Mancini’s. I’m a sucker for the deep fried Twinkies. I have to get a Pronto Pup or two at the stand by O’Gara’s. Fresh lemonade always hits the spot, too. Now I’m hungry!”
Amy Goetz of Lunds & Byerlys
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
(Lunds & Byerlys)
Use Lunds & Byerlys medium roast Colombian coffee. For authenticity, use a Vietnamese drip filter, and drop it right into a cup with 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. Stir to combine, and pour over ice.
Blueberry Basil Lemonade
(Lunds & Byerlys)
- 3 Tbsp. Granulated sugar
- 3 Basil leaves
- 15 Blueberries
- 3 Tbsp. Freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Put sugar, basil and blueberries in glass measuring cup, and muddle. Add freshly-squeezed lemon juice, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Fill a tall glass with ice, and strain the blueberry mixture over the ice. Pour 3/4 cup of water through strainer into the glass. Stir to combine, and garnish with a sprig of basil and a few blueberries.
Buffalo Chicken Nachos
(Kowalski’s; Inspired by 2019 State Fair’s The Hot Hen)
- 6 oz. Barbecue-flavored potato chips
- ¾ lb. Shredded rotisserie chicken, warmed gently in the microwave
- ⅓ cup Prepared Buffalo wing sauce (or to taste)
- 1 tsp. Kowalski’s pure maple syrup (or Kowalski’s pure honey)
- 1 cup Kowalski’s queso blanco dip
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup (about 3 oz.) creamy blue cheese crumbles (such as St. Pete’s Select), plus more for garnishing to taste
- Diced tomatoes, thinly sliced green onion and pickled jalapeño peppers, to taste for garnishes
Split chips between three serving dishes; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine chicken, Buffalo sauce and syrup; stir to coat chicken evenly. Set bowl aside. In a microwave-safe dish, heat queso and milk until very hot (about two minutes). Stir in blue cheese to melt. If necessary, return queso to microwave, and heat in 15–30 second increments until cheese is almost fully melted. Stir. Top chips evenly with chicken, and drizzle with blue cheese queso. Garnish nachos with tomatoes, onion, jalapeños and more blue cheese crumbles to taste.
Pulled Beef Tacos
(Kowalski’s; Inspired by 2019 State Fair’s Carolina pit-smoked brisket tacos)
- 1 pkg. Dole sweet kale chopped salad kit, dressing and mix-ins reserved for another use
- ½ cup Shredded brussels sprouts
- 3 Tbsp. Seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp. Sugar
- 12 (6”) Kowalski’s flour tortillas
- 1 lb. Kowalski’s signature lightly smoked, fully cooked pulled beef, warmed gently in the microwave
- 7–8 oz. Smoked Gouda cheese (to taste), shredded
- Kowalski’s barbecue sauce, to taste
Combine kale salad mix with brussels sprouts, drizzle with vinegar and sprinkle with sugar. Toss salad to combine; let stand for 15–30 minutes. On a nonstick griddle heated to medium-low, warm tortillas a few at a time until hot and just beginning to puff, turning once (about a minute total). Remove tortillas from heat, and keep warm. If necessary, coarsely chop or pull beef into bite-sized pieces; serve warm beef in warm tortillas topped with cheese and kale salad mixture. Drizzle tacos with barbecue sauce, and serve immediately.
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Fresh Herb Butter
- ¼ cup Unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tbsp. Fresh herbs of your choice, chopped
- ¼ tsp. Grated lime zest
- 8 ears Minnesota-grown sweet corn
- Sea salt, ground
- Black peppercorns, ground
Combine the first three ingredients, and refrigerate for several hours. Peel the husks off each ear of corn except for the layer touching the kernels. Remove silk, and pull remaining husks back up over corn. Soak corn in cold water for about one hour before grilling. Grill corn over medium heat, covered, until kernels yield gently to pressure (8–10 min.), turning each ear a quarter turn every two minutes. Carefully remove husks; serve with herb butter and salt.
Cheese Curds and Root Beer and Pies, Oh My!
If you want to satisfy some summertime cravings but prefer to steer clear of your kitchen, local retailers sell some items available at the Minnesota State Fair.
Let’s face it. Thousands of Minnesota State Fair goers put destination Sweet Martha’s Cookies on their agenda. Don’t despair. Sweet Martha’s frozen cookie dough is sold at select Kowalski’s Markets, Lunds & Byerlys, Cub Foods and local retailers.
In addition, Kowalski’s also offers:
- Ellsworth cheese curds
- Untiedt Farms Minnesota-grown sweet corn (State Fair supplier)
- Izzy’s ice cream
- Thelma’s ice cream sandwiches
- Lift Bridge beer and root beer
- Sara’s Tipsy Pies (also at select Lunds & Byerlys)
- Kiki’s Salsa (State Fair award winner)
- North Fork Muenster cheese (State Fair award winner)
- Giant pickles (sticks sold separately!)
- Short rib burgers
- Footlong hot dogs
Q: The Minnesota State Fair is said to be the birthplace of what deep-fried item?
A: Deep-fried Twinkies on a stick—and speaking of sticks, it’s believed that there are at least 80 other variants of stick-based foods at the fair.