Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Betty Crocker's Outdoor Cook Book" & "Real American Food" by Jane and Michael Stern -Burger Dogs and (Cinncinati) Queen of Chilis

Date I made these recipes: July 5, 2009

Betty Crocker’s Outdoor Cook Book by Betty Crocker/General Mills
Published by: General Mills
© 1961
Recipe: Burger Dogs – p. 84

Real American Food - Jane and Michael Stern’s Coast-to-Coast Cookbook by Jane and Michael Stern
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
© 1986
Recipe – Queen of Chilis – p. 244

As per usual, the 4th of July weekend snuck up on me. We have barely had a summer in Minnesota (lots of rain and cold) and now we’re on the descent – rats! Okay, perhaps that is a little pessimistic, but we all know how it goes—no sooner have we taken out the summer clothing than the winter stuff gets hauled back out. (And might I just say that although I understand the fashion industry simply can’t help themselves by putting out fall stuff in July—stop it! Stop it now!). We like to joke that there are two seasons in Minnesota – winter and road construction. A friend in Ohio said that they like to joke that the orange construction barrel, found along highways everywhere in the summer, is the state flower. Good one!

And as per usual, I am always stumped with what to make for the 4th of July. (As it turns out, we spent part of the 4th with Andy’s mom and so moved our feast to the 5th). Corn seems in order and yet corn is best on the cob (roasted or boiled) with lots of butter. Don’t need a recipe for that one.

When I queried my husband, he had two words for what he wanted for the 4th: hot dogs. So this brings to mind a funny scene from the movie, Big Night.

In the movie, brothers Primo (played by Tony Sholub) and Secondo (played by Stanley Tucci) are tying, most unsuccessfully, to set up a true Italian restaurant in New Jersey in the 50’s at a time when spaghetti and meatballs were all the rage. In one scene after a customer sniffed at the risotto, Prmio and Secondo were talking about how to make the restaurant work. Secondo wants to take the risotto off the menu and Primo replies something to the effect of “maybe we should just serve a…what do you call it? Hot…Hot dog? Hot dogs? I think people would like that.”

Of course, Primo didn’t really want to lose the risotto to the hot dog and the way he delivered the line, sort of drawing a hot dog with his hands was hilarious. Whenever my husband and I say we want a hot dog, we use that line although we add an “a” to the phrase which is how my grandma Verme used to say it “Hota doga!”

So we had hota dogas. I knew that the recipe I selected was a bit boring but it was in the cookbook I pulled out and Andy wanted them so there.

Now the chili recipe is another story. I’ve heard about Cincinnati’s chili in that the thing comes in layers: spaghetti, chili meat sauce, kidney beans, cheese and raw onions (we passed on those) but have never made it. But people, you just can’t go wrong with a dish served up by my favorite authors, Jane and Michael Stern, who never fail to find the best of American cuisine (although given the fact that they travel the states in search of good food, it would be disappointing if they didn’t find the best!).

This recipe has a lot of interesting spices – cinnamon, allspice, cumin, coriander and even grated unsweetened chocolate – stuff that might normally give me pause but I tell you what, it’s a winner. As Jane and Michael indicate, the flavors are best when the mixture sits overnight although truth be told, we barely had any leftovers!

So about Cincinnati—I’ve been on the beltway around the city several times but have never stopped downtown to look around. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a time that I didn’t think of the popular TV show from the 70’s – WKRP in Cincinnati. What was not to love about that show? We had Les Nessman delivering the farm report (and who taped the floor to show where his “office” was); bombshell Jennifer (Loni Anderson) whose doorbell sounds like one that my girlfriend has, prompting me to dub it her “Loni Anderson doorbell;” Venus “I am the air” Flytrap (you don’t know how often I use that line) and Mr. Carlson “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” And then there was Herb Tarlek, the polyester pantsuit-wearing radio-station salesman. I often reference Herb when I tell people about a salesperson at one of my former companies. All I have to say is “This guy was the Herb Tarlek of data processing” and they get it. Then there’s Bailey Quarters, Andy (Randy Andy) Travis and Johnny (Dr. Fever) and you have yourself a whole team of crazies. And I loved them so.

Enjoy your post-4th of July repast!

Burger Dogs – 8 servings (I made half the recipe)
1 lb. ground beef
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
8 frankfurters, split lengthwise
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 tbsp. water
8 frankfurter buns

Brown beef in vegetable oil in heavy skillet over hot coals (or on a burner). Add frankfurters, tomato sauce, onion and water. Cook about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat buns wrapped in foil. Serve hot mixture on heated buns.

(Note: for a little more flavor, you can doctor up the tomato sauce or add condiments like relish or mustard).

Queen of Chilis – serves 4
3 onions
1 pound ground chuck
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ ounce unsweetened chocolate, grated
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon tumeric
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
Tomato juice, as needed (I didn’t)
9 ounces spaghetti, cooked and buttered
1 16-ounce can kidney beans, heated
1 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded
Oyster crackers

Chop 2 of the onion and set aside; chop remaining onion fine. Salt a large skillet. Turn heat to medium and add meat, finely chopped, onion and garlic. Break up the meat with fork and cook until it is browned. Drain fat.

Add barbecue sauce and water. Bring to a boil. Add remaining seasonings.

Cover and simmer over very low heat 30 minutes, stirring and tasting occasionally, adding tomato juice if mixture is getting too dry to ladle up easily. (We like this chili best when it is reheated after being allowed to “age” overnight in the refrigerator.)

To construct the plate of 5-way, layer spaghetti on a plate (a small oval plate is traditional), top it with hot chili, then with a sparse layer of beans, then reserved chopped onions. Pat on plenty of cheese while chili is still hot and serve immediately, with oyster crackers on the side.

Note: For the barbecue sauce, I went with local favorite, Ken Davis but there are plenty on the shelves from which to choose. (Shopping used to be so easy, didn’t it?!).

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