Charcutepalooza #7 The one I didn’t want to do…
We’re more than half way through the year of meat now, and I knew that sooner or later there would be a challenge I didn’t want to do and this one was it. This month the challenge was blending; blending a sausage that is, or emulsifying if you want to be all cheffy. So for the apprentice challenge it was Bratwurst or Weisswurst and for the charcuterie challenge there was the choice of hot dog or Mortadella. What a decision. Nothing grabbed me instantly. My first thought took be back to that day in January when I first opened my shiny, new Charcuterie book, and flicked through the recipes, eagerly deciding which recipe would be executed first. When I got to page 164 I did a double take. I think the actual words that came out of my mouth were “Hot dog, why would you want to make hot dog at home?” So I have to confess I had already assigned that recipe to the ‘one’s I would never make’ pile.
As you can imagine I was a little disheartened when I read this months challenge (sorry Mrs. Wheelbarrow). I was mulling it over for a few days, I even got a few tweets from fellow Charcutepaloozers asking whether I was OK with it. Then I realised the only way forward was to make the one thing I thought I never would – hot dogs. This challenge is about meat, it’s about charcuterie, but for me it’s also about trying things I wouldn’t normally do. With that settled it had to be hot dogs.
Hot dogs differ from regular sausages because of the way they are made. An emulsion is made from the fat giving them their distinctive texture. I was a little stunned, to say the least, by the manufacturing process of the hot dogs. I say manufacturing because it didn’t feel very home made. The beef was minced and partially frozen twice, before finally putting the mixture through the food processor. Now I know where the term ‘processed’ food comes from. I was left with a paste that I wasn’t convinced contained any meat, even though I’d chopped it and minced it myself. I was relieved to see that the mixture contain mustard powder, spices and garlic, a lot of garlic, so there was some hope that it was going to have some flavour.
This challenge is not only about making the product, it’s also about what you do with the finished item. This month I’m about as far removed from the last challenge as I could possibly get. Last month I took on the Michelin Stars, and produced a six course tasting menu, this month I’m taking on the junk food. If you’re going to do junk food, you have to embrace it. How better to do it than take a view of junk from around the world. Charcutepalooza spans the miles, so I thought I would do hot dogs from the Poms, Aussies and Yanks.
For the Poms: I started with the motherland, the easiest and most obvious to me. Unfortunately, this is exactly why I didn’t want to make hot dogs. My childhood memory of hot dogs, are sausages that came out of a can and were boiled in a pan. If you were really lucky, you’d get hot dogs in a can with beans. It’s something that reminds me of Bonfire Night. It’s the kind of food you eat on a cold Autumn night while you’re standing outside watching the fireworks, desperately trying to keep warm. The perfect accompaniment to to the beans and sausage is a baked potato. I want to say a baked potato that has been wrapped in foil and baked on the bonfire but I think that is one of those fond memories that has been embellished over the years and probably never really happened. That’s the funny thing about memories, they can be created and changed over the years but still thought of as fond.
I didn’t smoke the hot dogs as suggested in the recipe because winter is upon us here and I didn’t fancy going in the garden. I have also run out of smoking chips and it was all just a little bit too much effort. Instead I boiled them as I used to do with the canned variety. They were then stirred through the home made baked beans, and served with a baked potato.
The beans were probably the highlight of the dish. It was a three day event to make them, but absolutely worth it. I soaked the dried borlotti beans over night on the Sunday. Boiled them with garlic, potato and tomato for about an hour on Monday, then baked them in the oven with bacon, rosemary, tomato and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce for about three hours. They were then reheated on Tuesday and served with the hot dogs.
For the Aussies: It had to be the Dagwood Dog. I say this like I’m an expert, but the Dagwood Dog is a new dish in my culinary vocabulary. I was introduced to the Dagwood Dog at my first Sydney Royal Easter show last April. The Easter Show is an annual event in the Sydney calender celebrating all things vaguely agricultural with a hint of fairground fun thrown in. I have a good friend who is a loyal Easter show attendee. She has been trying to get me to go along since we met 4 1/2 years ago, and this year I finally caved. Unfortunately I didn’t quite get the full show experience because I didn’t sample a Dagwood Dog or go on any fairground rides. I did however pat a goat and purchase the obligatory show bag.
So what is a Dagwood Dog? It’s a battered hot dog sausage on a stick served with a dollop of tomato sauce. Not my idea of a tasty treat but sadly this dish forms many of my Australian friends childhood memories. Apparently you haven’t had a real Easter show experience without one. I think I tried to dress mine up too much. I made a tempura style beer batter, but it was so light it didn’t really stick to the sausage very well. I think I still managed to capture the the spirit of an Aussie hot dog, but I decline to comment how it tasted…
For the Yanks: From the home of the hot dog it had to be the classic hot dog, served in a bun with a fried onions, mustard and ketchup. Again I didn’t smoke the sausage but poached it in water for a few minutes. I have to say I was a little disturbed by the finished product. It was a worryingly accurate representation of the the hot dogs I remember from the can. The processing and blending turns the sausage from something that once represented meat into a smooth, spongy sausage that can be eaten without teeth if necessary. I don’t like to be negative, but the reason I started making my own sausage was to get away from the exact thing I spent the best part of a Saturday making in my kitchen. Yes, it probably had a little more flavour than the ones I remember, and I can guarantee the meat that went in was best quality beef with a good proportion of real beef fat; not bits that were scraped off the butchers floor, but the end result was something I’d happily put back on the shelf of the local supermarket.
I did complete my challenge and turn product into dish. I made myself a hot dog sausage in a bun, with onions, ketchup and mustard on my impromptu day off work. But I have to confess, I didn’t really enjoy it and I made my husband eat the rest of them in his sandwiches for lunch.
I am disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this challenge more. Normally all things home made taste infinitely better than anything shop bought but this recipe is just to accurate when it comes to recreating processed food. And to rub salt in the wound these took three times longer to make than regular sausages. I certainly won’t be making them again, but I may make some regular beef sausages with the same seasoning as I did like the idea of the paprika, mustard and garlic. You win some you lose some and it all adds to life’s rich tapestry.