A Taste of New Jersey

While I don’t fit the stereotype, I am proud to admit that I was born and raised in New Jersey. To me, that meant access to all different types of cuisine, all within 20-30 minutes of where I lived. Italian, Chinese, French, Spanish, Mexican, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Portuguese, etc. – you name it, I’ve probably tried it! And with Manhattan only a half hour away from where I grew up, I was one lucky girl!

But I’m a simple girl when it comes to food. And one of my favorites that one could get in my neighborhood? Italian Hot Dogs.

Yup, you heard me. Access to any ethnic or exotic cuisine and I gravitate back towards hot dogs….which I can thank my Pop-Pop for. When I was little and he was visiting from Ohio, my Pop-Pop would always take me and my brother to Galloping Hill Inn (better known as ‘Five Points’ because of the way the intersection was structured) and I would order what I considered one of the best hot dogs I have ever had.

Within that first bite, the skin would snap, the juices from within would dribble down my chin, and the condiments that I carefully selected each time I had one would complement all the flavors that my taste buds experienced. Of course, it was almost always ketchup or cheese that went on mine. My brother would blow out his taste buds with the aptly dubbed “hot works.” (Yeah, hot peppers and spicy mustard? Not my thing.)

While I still remember the feeling of taking that first bite a of a Five Points hot dog and spending time with my Pop-Pop, it wasn’t until Charlie’s Hot Dogs in my hometown that I got my first taste of an Italian Hot Dog.

And if you haven’t tried, you’re missing out!

It’s a crazy meal on a bun, with peppers, onions, potatoes, mustard (if you’re into that sort of thing), and the star of the dish: the perfectly cooked hot dog.

Also, NO sauce or cheese! Seriously, I don’t know where people got the notion that something Italian always needs sauce or cheese. Simple ingredients, people! (Ok, cheese can stay, but not too much!)

Although….our version of this delicious dish took a bit of a different turn one night. Matt is used to my food cravings, and I think he secretly enjoys cooking all of them! And when I had the craving for that Italian Hot Dog, my husband made it his mission to make sure that we made that dish and knocked it out of the park. (He had also never tried one before and after trying his first Italian Hot Dog, I think he had a better understanding of how delectable this dish can be–especially when he finished his before me!)

So on one particular night, when we went to grab the hot dog buns in our kitchen, they had already met the fate of every bread’s arch-nemesis: mold. Luckily, we had some beautiful flour tortillas on hand and turned this bread-y snafu into a delicious venture! And frankly, I think the tortillas allow you to treat this dish more like a wrap and cram more meat and veggies and potatoes in! Easier to hold and manage? Yeah, that’s the stuff.

**Cheese also seems to work better on this version. Doesn’t need it, but a little doesn’t hurt!**

**If you don’t have a fresh pepper on hand, a jar of roasted red peppers works quite nice on this dish as well! The sweetness will play nicely with the savory and salt of the hot dog.**

Also, for the potatoes, you can always have those partially cooked before you start this dish. In fact, I urge you to do so. That way, when you go to fry them up, they’re quicker to cook. Potatoes take longer than we realize, so prep this item hours (or even days) in advance if you’d like. But for the sake of the dish, I’ll share how you make them with the dish.

To recap: easy dish, simple ingredients, helps clean out your pantry, and fun to make! And as always….

Enjoy!

~ Jenny V


Jenn’s Italian Hot Dog Wrap

1 package of hot dogs (any kind you like!)

8 large flour tortillas, slightly warmed (you want those pliable to fold and for celiacs, use corn tortillas)

4 small to medium potatoes, cubed and partially cooked

1 onion, sliced thinly

1 jar roasted red pepper, diced (or grill one pepper, then cut into strips)

Shredded Pizza Blend Cheese (not a traditional item, but trust me on this, the Pizza Blend is kinda perfect)

Mustard (I prefer yellow, but brown mustard is pretty damn good too)

Ketchup (this goes well too)

Directions:

1) In deep-fryer pre-heated to 350-375 degrees, put in cubed potatoes. Partially cook 2-3 minutes, then remove and allow to sit, letting oil drain. (If you don’t have a fryer, a pan with a considerable amount of oil to allow potatoes to fry in it.)

2) In sauté pan on medium-low heat, put in 2 tablespoons butter, then add onions. Cook until onions start softening, then add in roasted red pepper. Cook until onions starts to look translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.

3) Drop potatoes back in fryer. Cook until crispy & dark brown on the outside. Remove and set aside.

4) Turn grill on high heat. When ready, place hot dogs on grill and cook to desired look.

5) While hot dogs are cooking, throw tortillas on a plate and cook in microwave 15-20 seconds to warm. Remove and set aside.

6) As hot dogs come off grill, prepare wrap by placing tortilla down on plate, sprinkle small handful of cheese, then potatoes, onion & pepper mixture, top with hot dog, close ends and roll like burrito. Serve with ketchup or mustard.

A marriage of deep-fried deliciousness

Now, as previously evident in an earlier post, I have a slight love for bacon….the idea of slight being that when I was little if we went to the diner I would order a bagel with cream cheese and a side of bacon – which I proceeded to scarf down like I was going to the chair. Bacon, when perfectly cooked (in my opinion), is not floppy, little bit of crunch with just a touch of chew left to it. I know, call me picky, but bacon has to be done right. (And if it’s not….well, you don’t want to see my dark side over bacon.)

It’s definitely a treat to have bacon in our house (considering how ludicrous the prices have been to purchase it at the supermarket). But when we do, bacon is utilized in so many ways. We usually partially cook it, then store the bacon in the fridge for the week and incorporate it into into our dishes. (i,e., pizza, sandwiches, breakfast, chicken, etc.) Even the bacon fat gets stored, as it makes for a great way to cook lean meats like chicken and turkey. (Fun fact: if you read my recipe for Chicken Sloppy Joes, we actually used a little bit of bacon fat to cook the chicken….my mouth is still salivating over that!)

Which brings me to the day that I presented a delicious (and decadent) lunch idea to Matt: deep fried bacon-wrapped hot dogs. And let me tell you, the way his eyes lit up when I mentioned two forms of meat deep-fried (together) and served on a bun? You could have sworn it was Thanksgiving!

I’ll be honest, not everything we eat is completely healthy for us, but sometimes….you just have to let out that inner kid and indulge! And when we do take that step into parenthood, our kids can look forward to treats like this one. (Of course, they better also be prepared to eat brussel sprouts and cauliflower when it’s offered!)

But until that time comes, have fun with your food and enjoy!

~ Jenny V


Deep Fried Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs

Ingredients:

1/2 package hot dogs

4 strips uncooked bacon

Hot Dog rolls

Toppings (optional)

Ketchup

Mustard

Barbecue Sauce

Raw Onion

Relish

Directions:

1) Pre-heat deep fryer to 355-360 degrees

2) Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound out each strip of bacon nice and thin, but do not pulverize strip. Wrap the strip around the hot dog, making sure it’s completely covered.

3) Place hot dogs two at a time into the deep fryer, cooking for a few minutes or until bacon is cooked through.

4) Once done, remove and serve. Top with any toppings that you want!