Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some pigs is for eatin', some pigs ain't.

Kingsford Goes to the Beach - For more funny videos, click here

It's been a while since we've talked about the other fundamental element for good times...Buddies.

Meet Kingsford. Not only is he just the greatest little buddy a buddy could ask for, but he's made of pork!

I would walk a sandy beach with this little piggy any day.

p.s. I also find it odd that our little buddy is named after charcoal. Hmmm...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sausage 101. Or How I Learnt To Link Like A Pro.

Buddy Northcutt and I decided to take this sausage making kick to the next level and learn from a dude who knows his shit. That dude is Jesse Griffiths and he owns and operates Dai Due. Aside from the awesome suppers he puts together with all local and seasonal foods he teaches some sweet ass classes. For example we may take one in March on how to dress a whole hog and then prepare it for a Boucherie dinner. That's right, the whole dang pig.

But for this class we made sausages, glorious sausages. 6 to be exact. Maple breakfast, Chorizo, country-style sausages made of bison, veal and pork, Boudin Blanc, dry-cured Saucissons Sec, and sweet Italians. Jesse had some excellent tips that make a lot of sense looking back at the stuff we've been screwing up. The main thing is we make them shits and zippity doo right to the grill. Gotta poach them puppies.

Here's a few pics of our learnins:

Spices measured out for each sausage we made. If you have your recipes down it's best to mix the spice in prior to the grind.

If you are going to make sausage links you have to pick up one of these. Holy shit it rules. It can link 10 pounds in about 2 minutes cranked by hand. As badass as the kitchen aid is this stuffs way better and way faster.

twistin the porkvealalo

the Dry Cure Saucissons Sec. These take about a month to fully cure.

And last but not least the Boudin Blanc. A nicely spiced pork sausage that is ground twice with a fine blade and then mixed like batter with cream and breadcrumbs before casing. Poached then pan fried. We ate these with some fresh mustard Jesse made out of one of my favorite ale's, Fireman's 4.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Greek Dog Showdown An Introduction

Sioux City, Iowa. County seat of Woodbury. Population 85,000, approximately. Formerly the nation's vortex for livestock sales. Birthplace of Deep Purple and James Gang guitar virtuoso Tommy Bolin. Permanent resting place of US Army Sergeant Charles Floyd, only Lewis and Clark expedition member to perish marching westward, cause: appendicitis. And, apropos this esteemed web log's mission, the home of three Coney Island style hot dog slinging restaurants owned mysteriously by families of Greek origin.

To understand the confluence of these Grecian owned and operated Coney Island hot dog shoppes in a place as random as Sioux City, one must first look north and east over a couple states to Detroit, Michigan, not Coney Island, New York, as you might suspect. But first, for clarity's sake, we'll define a Coney Island Hot Dog as the "heartland's" hot dog, a pork and beef mix with a natural casing placed in a steamed bun, topped with meat sauce, diced raw onions and yellow mustard. The cheese debate is far too dicey to get into here, so we'll just leave it alone.

Various Michigan wiener outlets lay claim to birthing the Coney Island dog, here according to that bastion of verifiably accurate information Wikipedia:

"Coney Islands are a unique type of Greek restaurant that originated in Detroit. Several restaurants claim to have invented the name and concept. Claimants include American Coney Island [1] in downtown Detroit, established by Greek immigrant Gust Keros in 1917, with the then-owner contending that he had bought a similarly configured chili dog at the well known New York park. The first Coney Islands were started by Keros and his brother, who got into an argument quite soon after and split their restaurant into two parts--the present day American and Lafayette Coney Islands which are next door to each other, and who to this day argue about which is the "original." Similar claims are made by Todoroff's in Jackson, Michigan."

Still others will say the Coney Island was created in Flint. But until I make it there to interview the locals, I'll have to take Wikipedia's word for it.

Still, we don't know why the hot dog. It does not appear to be a foodstuff of traditional Grecian or Macedonian origin. How they glommed on to the hot dog and effectively made the sale of it a honest and money-making enterprise is still a perplexing mystery.

Without digging too deep, we can safely assume some Detroit exile of Greek descent made it to Sioux City with a business plan in mind that involved hot dogs. A big thanks to that person, you made mine and thousands, possibly millions of others childhoods, gastronomically pleasing.

And so it became our mission, in late 2008, to sample the wares of each of these restaurants. Attending, tasting, and pondering were friends new and old; Abigail, Ann Marie, Joe, Al, Kaz, and your faithful correspondent. This is what we found.

Greek Dog Showdown Part I

George's No. 1 Hot Dog Shoppe

If a hand drawn sign in dire need of some paint and the archaized use of the word "shop" don't scream "a fine place to hunker down with some dogs for lunch on Friday," I don't know what does.

Perhaps it was because this was our first stop on the Showdown circuit and your correspondent was quite hungry. Maybe it was the tiny bottles of Coke that won over my heart. It could have been the owner George, coming to speak with me at length about his establishment (he's been in business for 36 years) and the great care he takes in finding the best dogs in the midwest (they're processed for him exclusively at a small locker somewhere in South Dakota the location of which he said he could not divulge). Or maybe because they were just that spectacularly good, that George's No. 1 Hot Dog Shoppe on Hamilton Boulevard in Sioux City, Iowa, right down from the Wendy's that used to have the weird taco buffet, has won, for your correspondent at least, the title best Coney Island hot dog in the greater Siouxland area. Congrats, George (I wanted to write "congrats" using Greek characters but don't know how to do that so good ol' English will have to do). A round of Ouzo shots are in order.

Some high-level hot dog discussion happening right there. George explained to me how he asks for his dogs to be processed at a smaller diameter than his competitors. I do not know why.

Buddies Kaz and Abby get busy on what would turn out to be a kick ass afternoon full of suds and encased meats.

The importance of a steamed bun cannot be overstated.

Fat and happy, your correspondent and a judge who will remain anonymous (Alexander Carl Dickman) look forward to the next stop.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Greek Dog Showdown Part II

Milwaukee Wiener House No. 1

Although ostensibly named with expansion in mind, there is no municipal record of a second Milwaukee Wiener House. And there needn't be. The sheer warmth and comfort exuded by it's drab green booths and walls, its plastic serving trays emblazoned with the House logo, its somehow pleasant aroma of processed swine and bakery fresh buns provided by the w/in spitting distance Metz "Old Home" bakery, its hardworking clientele and its process-driven, if not a bit curt staff would be nearly impossible to replicate.

If one were to associate a mood with the Milwaukee Wiener House, it would be something close to feeling as a small child does when he's assembled a fort made of sleeping bags and pillows and couch cushions where inside his new fort he has all his toy guns, a bag of marshmallows, his imaginary buddy Frankie and a peek hole where he can peer out at the TV occasionally to watch his favorite cartoons. Imagine that but with Miller High Life and hot dogs.

So why does the Milwaukee Wiener House No. 1 finish third in the Greek Dog Showdown of 2008? The dogs, duh. They seemed too soft and spice-less, of a grade fit only for our nation's most lowly public mental institutions. The chili and buns however deserve high marks.

Some would disagree with your correspondents assessment. Case in point, Spanish Johnny, poised to bite off the hand of anyone who dare touch his weiner(s).

A "Barker" and Hamm's still life. If there are any talented painters looking at this, I'll pay top dollar to see this hanging framed on my wall.

Wish you were here!

Greek Dog Showdown Part III

Coney Island

In a strip mall that has seen it's third or fourth makeover, flanked by a bowling alley and a Hy-Vee foodstore, sits Coney Island, quietly churning out, in your correspondent's humble opinion, the greater Siouxland area's second best coney dog.

Since my first visit to Coney Island probably five or six years ago, the eatery has been staffed by two people: the owner and his mother. Grandmother, possibly. He does the cooking and takes your order while grandma delivers to your table the dogs and onion chips (definitely get onion chips). If she speaks English at all, it's of the broken kind; "You now enjoy eat" and such. And you do. A marked difference from George's and Milwaukee is the deep fryer. Onion chips and fries really do add a nice touch.

Note: Coney Island was originally the third stop on the itinerary but what was supposed to be a brief respite at a local watering hole before put the skids on that. Through sheer determination, I was able to complete the trifecta a few weeks later.

Wimmer's Buddies

With a buddy visitng from points West (including Colorado and South Dakota), it seemed only fitting to serve up some Wimmer's (which are distributed pentagonally in southern South Dakota, southeast Wyoming, northeast Colorado, most of Iowa, the entirety of Nebraska, and all of Minnesota although possibly under the banner Ambassador Sausages®, which they recently purchased according to their website and CEO Dave Wimmer). The Wimmer's is a beef and pork mixed link with a nearly impenetrable natural casing. They don't snap so much as crunch. Which is quite good although it may not sound so.

As far as I can tell, Wimmer's can only be purchased by the dozen. And they are LINKED. How much fun is that? I'll tell you, it's a lot of fun.

TRON dogs. We only boil our weiner's over electric blue flame here in South Minneapolis.

Buddy Joe aka Spanish Johnny aka Buster Slacks put the meat sauce together and used chili powder, finely diced onion, water, and meat. Plochman's provided the mustard.

Cooking and eating Wimmer's will really wear a guy out. We had also ridden horses for most of the day (I rode more of a "pony" but it was still pretty wild) so that may have also contributed to us being wiped out.