Friday, January 21, 2011

Dog days of winter

Right about now I long for the all too familiar sight of an umbrellaed Sabrett hot dog cart hugging a New York City street corner.  The cold, short-on-sunlight days depress my mind and body to the point that only junk food seems to satisfy.  Oh sure, talk about hearty soups and savory stews all you want - but it's a dirty-water dog that perks me up like nothing else.  Alas,  street corners are very short on hot dog carts these days -  you're more than likely to find a food truck.  The vendor can stay warm inside his metal, mini diner and has the space to offer not only hot dogs, but also cook falafel, shrimp and French fries, cheeseburgers, chicken and rice to order, and have on hand ever-popular breakfast choices; doughnuts and bagels.  It's just not the same.
So, I make my own version of a hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard - with special fries to boot!  This way I can feel a bit less guilty about downing pure junk and select high quality - organic when possible - ingredients for my oh-so gratifying meal.


This quick - you could even say finto or fake sauerkraut (it doesn't require pickling time) comes from my book, "Contorni: Authentic Italian Side Dishes for All Seasons".  The original recipe calls for bacon.  I left it out and added a little extra butter and some extra virgin olive oil for this particular application.

Serves 6 as a side dish - will cover at least a dozen hot dogs

1 head green cabbage, 2 to 2 1/4 pounds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1.   Eliminate the tough outer leaves of the cabbage.  Cut the head into quarters through the stem end, and then cut out the core.  Use a sharp knife or a mandoline to thinly slice crosswise.
2.    In a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil.  Add the cabbage and stir with 2 wooden spoons to ensure that all the cabbage is coated.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add the wine and broth or water and stir to combine. Lower the heat, cover and simmer from 1 1/2  to 3 hours (much depends on how the cabbage has been sliced).  The liquid should be almost completely absorbed and the cabbage very soft.
3.   Add the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to a couple of weeks.  Reheat as needed.


My friend, Roy Finamore, adapted this highly fragrant and nose-clearly mustard to his taste.  I love having it on hand.  It gives just the right punctuation to any dish - especially a hot dog.

Makes about 2 pints

1 12-ounce bottle stout
1 cup cider vinegar
8 ounces brown mustard seeds
2 ounces black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1.  Mix all the ingredients together. Cover the bowl with plastic film and leave at room temperature for 2 days. Add the mixture  to a food processor  and process until thick - about 3 minutes. 
2.  Store in 1/2 pint Mason jars.  The mustard will keep, refrigerated, for years.


Now, here's a really good twist on fries.  I find these oven fries instantly appealing.  Turnips are definitely an acquired taste.  They almost sting at first bite  - but rapidly fill your mouth with pure earthy sweetness.   The addition of Parmesan cheese adds a kind of salty crust to the fries - a perfect antidote to the sweet interior.

Serves 4 - 6

2 - 2 1/4 pounds large turnips or rutabagas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1.   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.   Peel the turnips. Cut into 1/4 - 1/2 -inch sticks.   Place on a baking sheet with sides or a jelly roll pan.  Add the olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Use your hands to evenly coat the turnips with all the ingredients.
3.   Bake, turning every 20 minutes until each piece is golden brown on the outside and soft in the center, about 1 hour.
4.  Serve immediately.  Leftovers are reheated with great succcess!

SUSANSIMONSAYS:   Nothing beats the doldrums of winter like a dog loaded with homemade sauerkraut, Roy's grainy mustard on a well-toasted bun.

1 comment:

  1. This post is so true! You just can't beat comfort food when you need it, but you can make it healthier (and yummier!) by choosing the right ingredients and recipes.