Join us for the next Cooking with the Cap Times on Thursday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m., featuring Settle Down Tavern chef Joslyn Mink.
Mink will be cooking crispy sweet corn polenta with roasted tomatoes and lamb merguez (made by Underground Meats). She’ll also be demonstrating an herby white bean and zucchini salad.
Mink caught the cooking spark while living in one of Madison’s housing co-ops. One of her housemates was from Mexico City, and “every Thursday he would cook dinner,” Mink said. “You just knew you had to be there, because it was the best food you’d ever had.”
At the time, Mink was earning her master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in environment and resources. She began volunteering to help, and soon, cooking at the co-op became her favorite part of the week. By the time she’d finished her degree she knew she wanted to work in a kitchen.
Mink spent seven years at Underground Food Collective (at one time Forequarter, Underground Butcher and Underground Meats) working in various capacities from pastry to butcher shop management. Mink’s fiancé, Charlie Denno, still works with Underground Meats; for a time, the two collaborated on pop-ups under the name Bastard Dining.
“I really liked the highbrow-low brow cooking style, of making quirky fun bar food with local, really good ingredients,” Mink said. “We were having fun with it and not taking ourselves too seriously, but also turning out really high quality good product.”
That’s what led the Settle Down owners (Ryan Huber, Brian Bartels and Sam Parker) to reach out to Mink for the tavern they opened in 2020, in early-pandemic days. The menu reflects this high/low aesthetic — decadent porchetta sandwiches with arugula, pickled fennel and a chimichurri sauce next to tavern-style smash burgers, starting with crunchy-salty “Betty’s party mix” and smoked herring spread. Alongside playful cocktails, there’s a “summer lambwich” and grain bowls that just keep getting better.
“The grain bowl is this hyper-seasonal item on the menu that’s always changing, every couple months,” Mink said. “Every time it’s like, ‘Uh oh! This is the best one yet! We don’t know how we’re going to do better next time!’”
Mink chose this polenta dish with sausage and tomatoes, inspired by a dish Settle Down was serving last winter.
“I’ve gotten more confident in putting forward things that are stepping a little further from a classic tavern,” she said. “Sort of on the bridge of what I want to eat” — Mink is lactose intolerant — “and what you want when you go to a tavern.
“I like brighter flavors. Acidity is so important to me!”
Two ways to watch
To watch in person, become a Cap Times member. Already a member? Watch your email for the invitation. Cap Times members who join us in person will enjoy the dish and a glass of wine.
To watch via the free livestream, register here. The recipe will be emailed to all registered attendees about one week in advance. Virtual attendees are encouraged to cook along and ask questions.