Danger Dogs and Mexican Hot Dogs

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Mon, May 20, 2013 at 9:16 PM
subject: Danger Dogs and Mexican Hot Dogs

Dude,
I already gave you a sneak peek via text message, but I’ve gotta tell you—Mexican hot dogs are the shit. Which is funny, because they’re sometimes called Danger Dogs.

My first experience with Mexican hot dogs is with the variety known as Sonoran Dogs. Philly has the cheesesteak and Tucson has Sonoran Hot Dogs. Named after nearby Sonora, Mexico, these things are incredible, but unless you live in Tucson and have access to the amazing and famous El Guero Canelo or a street cart equivalent, these are tough to come by.

The exception is places like Los Angeles, where you can find little old ladies who have turned old metal trash cans into grills, and can be seen cooking these over a fire on cookie sheets at 2 am to sell to all the drunks coming out of the bars. I first enjoyed this completely unregulated health department Danger Dog nightmare with Pigeon John and King Charismatic after a Rootbeer show in the wee hours of the morning. The second time? Right before seeing LA Symphony and Wu-Tang tear it up. Let’s just say these dogs go well with good times.

My love was rekindled at a local cantina here in Philly. Their food is typically expensive, so when they added $3.50 Mexican hot dogs to the a la carte menu, I was getting them on the semi-regular with free chips and salsa. They recently doubled the price to $7 a dog, so I decided it was time to discover my own dogs.

So anyway, what makes these dogs special? Bacon. And peppers. And everything but the kitchen sink. The basic idea is that you wrap a hot dog wiener in bacon, and put it on a bun with a whole bunch of other stuff. The Danger Dogs in California (in my experience) are usually served with sauteed onions and peppers and whatever condiments you want. The Sonoran Dogs get crazier, usually dipping the dog deep in big buns, and slathering everything on top, including pinto beans. I’ve even heard that so-called Tijuana Dogs sometimes include pineapple and avocado.

In short, it’s a more-or-less a Chicago Dog, re-imagined south of the border style.

Here’s my easy approach to Mexican hot dogs. Gather up the following ingredients:

  • Hot Dog Wieners
  • Hot Dog Buns
  • Bacon
  • Fresh Tomato Salsa
  • Queso Blanco (I like real Mexican cheese crumbled, but shredded cheese is fine, too.)
  • Jar of Jalapenos
  • Onions and Oil (to sautee)
  • Fresh Peppers (serrano or jalapeno or something else)
  • Mayo
  • Hot Sauce of Choice

Now get a load of how easy this is.

1. Wrap hot dog wieners in bacon. Cook (preferably on a grill) until the bacon is the way you like bacon. Careful for flare ups, since bacon is so fatty.

2. Begin grilling the fresh peppers. Sautee the onions until carmelized. After the peppers have nice grill marks, throw them in with the onions to add a sauteed touch.

3. Grill the buns slightly.

4. Crumble the queso, and toss it up with some of the jalapenos. This makes the dressing of the dogs much easier.

5. When everything is done, assemble the buns like so: mayo first, then queso/jalapeno mixture, sauteed onions, and hot sauce. Then add the wiener/bacon and fill in the extra space with the fresh salsa.

6. Now what to do with your grilled/sauteed peppers? You can either add them to the bun for an extra kick, or what I like to do is grind sea salt lightly all over them, and nibble on them throughout the meal as a side. It’s absolutely wonderful. Picked this trick up from an old taco shack in Hawaii.

Finally, eat your Mexican hot dogs with luxurious, inexpensive abandon.

Oh, I almost forgot a very important part. Drink a beer. But you should do this before, during, and after the meal preparation. Also, before, during, and after the meal consumption.

¡Arriba!

World Peace Currywurst Tacos

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,

I think I may have just done more for world peace than any U.N. peace treaty ever could. I made a currywurst taco.

I don’t remember where I first heard about currywurst, but it’s important to note that I’ve never actually had currywurst until today. Even when I was in Germany, I had plenty of sausages, but never had currywurst. I guess that’s a sort of disclaimer, since I have nothing to compare it to. But if authentic German currywurst tastes like what I whipped up, I can see why it’s popular.

The legend of currywurst is that a simple woman in post-WW2 Berlin traded some booze with British soldiers for ketchup, curry, and Worstchestershire sauce. She threw them together in her kitchen with a few other spices, poured it over sausage and the rest is history. Now the stuff is everywhere over there.

Still, there’s plenty about the dish online, and I found this Wall Street Journal article quite enlightening. After scouring various articles and recipes online, it’s clear that few people agree on how to make the sauce that makes currywurst so delectable, and there appears to be some difference of opinion on what one should serve with currywurst.

Well, in adapting this for a taco, essentially I did this. For each taco: one Hofbrau beer brat from Trader Joe’s, served on a medium wheat tortilla, topped with a curried tomato sauce, and sauerkraut. It was amazing.

First the sauce. There are many simple recipes online that amount to essentially currying ketchup. I wanted something a little more refined than that, and I really didn’t want anything as sweet as ketchup. So here’s what I came up with. I found this recipe and made several twists and omissions, all changes I think were important.

I sauteed about 2/3 cup of chopped onions and 1 clove of minced garlic in oil for a few minutes, then I added a small amount of water and stirred to kinda clean up the pan. I turned the heat off, and added: 10 cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), 1/4 cup vinegar, 6 ounce can of tomato paste, 2 tbs. honey, 1/4 tsp of ground allspice, 5 tbs. curry powder (yeah, I said FIVE freaking tablespoons), 1 tsp. ginger powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 bay leaf, and a little salt and pepper.

I turned the heat back on, and simmered, adding quite a bit of water, probably about 1-1/2 cups, but I only did it a quarter cup at a time. Over the course of 25 minutes or so of simmering and occasionally stirring, a lot of water dissipated. In the end, the consistency I wanted with a chunky, slightly thick ketchup. And damn, it was tasty.

Meanwhile, I browned the small wheat tortillas in a separate skillet, doesn’t take long, and set them aside. I threw the brats in the skillet, and ended up breaking them down by chopping with a knife and separating them with the spatula until it had the consistency of ground meat.

Once everything was cooked thoroughly, I removed the bay leaf, spooned the sausage onto the tortilla, topped with a generous helping of sauce, and sauerkraut. I served with a big glass of water, but a large mug of German beer would have been even better.

As far as quantities…I used about a full brat on each tortilla, though the Trader Joe’s brats are relatively small, and I think the amount of sauce would work well for 4-6 tacos of this size.

Who woulda thunk? India, Great Britain, Germany, and Mexico, united in one damn fine dish.

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

That looks thoroughly delicious.  And that’s something I could easily do camping – freeze and vacuum seal the brats ahead of time, and then dehydrate the sauce.  Either way, home or in the woods, this is happening.

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

It’s super good. I just had some leftovers, and it was great. I took the sausage out of the casing this time, and it was much easier to break apart (duh). Full disclosure: I actually wanted to slice the brats to give it a more traditional (German) appearance, but my cuts were ugly, so I decided to go with the ground meat look! I think that actually was better, especially because it created pockets in the taco for the sauce to fill, likely making it less messy.

These things are pretty juicy, between the sauce and the kraut. Take some big paper towels for a cleaner experience.

Vegan Tamales!!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

So I finally did it.  I took the plunge and made tamales yesterday.  And not to brag, but they kinda ruled.

The plan was to make vegan tamales using this recipe from CheekyKitchen.com.  But you know me, I’m not one to stick to a recipe very long, so I took what I needed and promptly veered off course.  The biggest question for me was how to make the dough.  The article in CheekyKitchen.com was great for that, and I still recommend reading it as a good primer.  Or hell, use the whole thing instead of what I’m about to write.  This is really just an addendum to that article.

I ended up making the majority of the tamales vegan, but I ran out of veggie filling before I did dough and husks, so I just dressed up some left over chicken and finished up with those.  (Chopped chicken, chili, cumin, salsa, and the chipotle sauce you mailed me a while back.)

The Cheeky Kitchen article uses a lentil base for the filling, but I didn’t have any lentils on hand.  I also couldn’t find a can of straight green chilies at Food City (aka, Food Shitty).  This is where I where I went on my own with the recipe.

Here’s what I used for the vegan filling.

  • One can black eyed peas — (insert generic, but accurate Fergie insult here)
  • Two carrots cubed small
  • One zucchini cubed small
  • Half large onion
  • Handful of frozen corn
  • Lots O’ Garlic
  • 10-ounce can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies
  • One small can of Rotel Original tomato sauce
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1/2 TBS cumin
  • A stem of fresh oregano, minced
  • Salt and white pepper

Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the rest of the fresh/frozen veggies.  Sauté for another few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Viola, vegan tamale filling.  It tasted spicier in the bowl than it did in the tamale.

I made the dough pretty much exactly like the Cheeky Kitchen recipe, but I subbed Imagine brand No Chicken Stock for the faux-beef bouillon cubes and water.  I loved the use of coconut oil for the saturated fat.  It gave such a light, fresh flavor that you just don’t get with shortening or lard.  I used organic unrefined oil.

Here’s her recipe, verbatim.

For the Tamale Dough:

  • 4 cups masa
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 vegan “beef” bouillon cubes dissolved into 3 cups of water
  • 1 (16 ounce) package dried corn husks

Now, I only used a 6 oz package of husks, and I still had WAY too many.  But I have the feeling that I may have rolled mine funny.  Either way, I wouldn’t go overboard and buy more than a 6 oz package of husks.

Again, to her instructions.
“Soak the corn husks in a large bowl of warm water while preparing to cook the tamales.
“In a large bowl, mix the masa, baking soda, and salt together. Add the coconut oil. Stir well. Add the bouillon flavored water to the mix. Add more water, if needed, to make the masa a soft, spongy dough.”

Filling and tying the tamales was frustrating at first, but it’s an easily acquired skill.  Just remember, you’re not making the giant sized tamales that the masters produce, you’re making smaller, more manageable tamales.

Basically, what you want to do is grab a big husk from the water and spread a good coating of masa across the center part of the leaf, making sure to leave room at the top and bottom to fold and tie the husk down.  Leave some room at the edges, too, so you have space to cover the whole tamale with husk when you roll it.

Spoon some of the mixture into the center of the dough, and roll it up side-to-side.  Pay careful attention to completely cover the filling with the dough when rolling.  This may involve peeling the husk back as you go, kind of like rolling a cigarette in a dollar bill.  Once the dough is closed, and the husk is wrapped, fold the top and bottom edges over and tie them back with peeled strips from another husk.  (Her instructions seemed vague about this, and her pictures made it seem like she only used one tie.  I couldn’t figure that out, so I opted instead to tie the top and bottoms separately.)

She suggests baking the tamales at 400º in the oven on a rack set over water.  This will bake and steam them.  I did it a little differently.  I actually steamed them on the stovetop; in a colander set at the top of a stock pot.

Once all of your tamales are rolled and tied, stand them up in the colander – I had to lay a few flat across to fill it, but they all cooked fine.  Place the colander inside a stock pot filled with a few inches of water and seal tightly with tin-foil.  Once the steam is at a full boil, give it about 30-40 minutes and check them.  The tamales may seem mushy right out of the steam, but they’ll firm up as they cool.

Let me just say that they look as awesome as they taste.  And it makes your house smell wonderful!  We made a ton of tamales, enough to freeze and snack on later.
I definitely recommend giving this a try, dude.  Especially considering how much you like the Mexican cuisine.  It’s damn near authentic!

Delicioso Adobo Seasoning

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Hey Dude,

It’s no surprise that I add a Mexican twist to most foods I prepare. Since discovering this adobo seasoning, I always keep this on hand. I got the basic idea from a cookbook, but I’m not even sure of the title, and I made a few tweaks myself. I’ve used this for several years. Makes a fantastic spice rub, great in soups, marinades, etc. I’ve put it on beef, chicken, and fish. I’m sure it’s great on other stuff too.

Delicioso Adobo Seasoning

  • 1 tbsp of each: lemon pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, parsley, achiote powder, salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin

Instead of achiote (I don’t even know what that is), I substitue equal parts tumeric & paprika. Another shortcut you might take is picking up lemon pepper that has garlic and onion powder in it. In that case, use three tbsp of it, instead of one tbsp. of each.

Combine in a bottle or small tupperware container, shake it up, and wah-lah! I keep this in my spice rack.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

jamey

Unexpectedly Delicious Salsas

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin 

Dude,

So with #weddingweek craziness upon us, I thought it would be nice to have my brother, sister-in-law, and parents over for dinner right when they got to town. I had intended to get a locally-sourced brisket for my smoker, but the lady at the buying club dropped the ball somehow.

Anyway, so I decided to make tri-tip tacos. I smoked carne asada-style tri-tip, premarinated from Trader Joe’s. I wanted to have some vegetables for the tacos, but thought maybe going fajita style with them would be a nice touch. So I sliced up jalapenos, cherry peppers, several colors of bell peppers, yellow and red onion, cloves of garlic, and tomatoes, placing them in a bread pan. I poured a generous amount of Italian dressing over the top, and let it marinate for a couple of hours. Then I put the pan in the smoker for a couple of hours. Honestly, it could have used more time, or I should have just done it in the oven. But they came out great. Oh, and when I was done, I threw the veggies in a colander to get the excess dressing off. In the end, the tacos were a smash hit.

Now, let me digress. I made guacamole and fresh salsa to go with the tacos. My regular “staple” salsa is simple: tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper. Never measured, all to taste. But that night, it was perhaps the best it has ever been. My secret? The juiciest, deepest red, large heirloom tomato. Oh my gosh, that salsa was like candy.

Needless to say, while I was running around the kitchen finishing up the tacos, my giant bowl of homemade chips were being used to devour my salsa. By the time I sat down for dinner there wasn’t much salsa left.

Since then, I’ve been craving salsa, and #weddingweek has made it impossible for me to get back out to the store for another gorgeous heirloom tomato.

So this morning, I scooped a bunch of my leftover marinated and cooked veggies into my food processor, grabbed and rinsed a handful of cilantro, added salt and pepper, and blended until nice and chunky. It is really damn good. The Italian dressing adds a nice subtle vinegar tang and the olive oil gives it a good mouth feel. It’s heavier on sweet peppers and lighter on tomatoes, but the sweetness of the roasted vegetables makes it difficult to stop eating.

I think I may have just stumbled onto something awesome.

Spinach Enchiladas

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin 
date Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 10:02 PM

Dude,

I’ve got something for your Mexican night, mostly invented tonight. The best part about this is not the enchiladas themselves, it’s the sauce. Now, you might ask, what made you think to do this, Jamey? I’m glad you asked, and I’l tell you. I went to the grocery, trying to spend between $10 and $20 for a fat ass platter of verde enchiladas (recognizing that a few of the ingredients were already on hand). When my bill was over $30, I knew something was up. Turns out, the three cans of verde enchilada sauce were $4.49 each.

I put the cans back, and came up with this. Here’s how to make the sauce.

  • 28 oz can of tomatillos
  • 1 small can of green chiles
  • 1 tsp. cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • a handful of cilantro
  • the juice of two small limes
  • 1 cube of bullion dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water (I used chicken/tomato)
  • a couple of jalapenos
  • salt to taste

I mixed all of this in the blender, then I threw it in a skillet and simmered for about 15 minutes.

While I was doing all that, I was constantly mixing in fresh spinach in a pot with a little bit of butter. As it cooked down, I’d add another handful. I don’t know how much I put in there, but it was at least a pound, if not 1-1/2 pounds.

To make the enchiladas, I microwaved about 25 corn tortillas for 1 minute. This is important because they will break if you use them cold.

I chopped an 8 oz block pepper jack into rectangular blocks. I also had 2 bags of 8 oz. shredded “Mexican taco” cheese.

Another can of green chiles.

One diced tomato.

Each tortilla got a pinch of tomatoes, green chiles, some chunks of pepper jack cheese, some shredded taco cheese, a spoonful of the simmering enchilada sauce, and a forkful of spinach. Roll it up and throw it in a oven-worthy dish. Once you’ve filled the dish, you’ll probably have to move to another one. Then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of all of the enchiladas. Finally, pour the enchilada sauce over the top.

Throw that into a 350 degree pre-heated oven, and when the cheese appears to be melted, it’s time to eat!

Alison told me she thought it needed salt or something like that. I thought it was perfect.

Enjoy.