Irma S. Rombauer, one of the original authors of the Joy of Cooking, once wrote, “Eternity is two people and a ham.” To be honest, that sounds more like heaven to me. My eternity this week could be more aptly described as “Two people and a pack of hot dogs.”
After an early summer barbecue, the generosity of our friends left the freezer full of uneaten hotdogs and buns (because when push comes to shove, everybody wants hamburgers and no one wants hot dogs). As more exciting things—like black bean soup, grass-fed stew meat, and sweet potato curry—started vying for precious freezer space, I stared to resent the Wonder Bread-like buns and processed meat (quite literally) hogging all the frosty real estate. It was getting to the point where just about every time we opened the freezer, something would fall out. In a fit of frustration, we yanked the buns and dogs and just decided to use them up.
Morning after morning, we toasted the buns and slathered them with peanut butter and jam. When we got sick of that, we were forced to get creative. One night, Tony made what we later termed “hot dog strata.” He sautéed two diced hot dogs, cooked a ton of less-than-perky produce in the drippings, and layered it all with stale bread, torn-up hot dog buns, cheese, herbs, and the requisite egg mixture. It was delicious!
The next night, inspired by Tony’s use of hot dogs as porky flavoring (in place of bacon or sausage), I diced up two hot dogs and started sautéing them. Next I added onions, garlic, a little jalapeno, sliced cabbage, a splash of white wine, a few squirts of spicy brown mustard, and a dash of cider vinegar, and cooked it all until the cabbage was crisp-tender. This simple side dish tasted like a classy ballpark hot dog, minus the ketchup and the bun. And it, too, was incredibly tasty—spicy, acidic, crunchy, and satisfying.
By Thursday, we were on a roll. So, when we decided to make summer vegetable chowder, I didn’t even flinch when Tony sliced up the remaining four dogs and divided them between two Dutch ovens (we were making a lot of soup…which we now had room for in the freezer!). With the hot dogs, we cooked corn, summer squash, onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, and topped the pots off with a mixture of cow and goat milk, and added a couple bay leaves and loads of cayenne pepper. The chowder was rich, creamy, spicy, and complex—you wouldn’t even know there were hot dogs in there!
I am not about to start using hot dogs in place of lovely local bacon or humanely raised Italian sausage. But when, inevitably, you have hot dogs left over from one event or another, you don’t have to settle for eating hot dogs everyday for a week, or possibly worse, throwing them out. After all, for me, the only thing more tragic than a poorly treated pigs is wasting the products they gave their lives to make.