April 23, 2009
ABOUT TIME FOR SUMMERTIME!
As a Utah native and winter sports enthusiast, I wait anxiously every year for the best snow on earth to begin to fall upon our desert mountains. Nonetheless, my heart fell when I woke up on April 15th to six inches of snow on my lawn. It's time for the weather to accommodate some of my other passions, like two wheeled vehicles and backyard barbecues. It's about time for summertime.
Speaking of backyard barbecues, sometimes people think I'm joking when I say that when they're done right, I would prefer a hamburger or even a hotdog to lobster or filet mignon. Yet it's not a joke, and it's not the preference of an unsophisticated palate either. True, the hamburger is the icon of fast food joints and the hotdog of sports stadium concessions, but gourmet doesn't have to mean a formal place setting in a 5 star restaurant. Burgers and dogs, when done right, can be as gourmet as truffled foie gras, caviar, and escargot.
Of course, what does it mean for a hot dog to be done right? The trick, as with all food, is to refuse to cut corners. When you prepare food from scratch using the best ingredients available, even simple dishes will turn out mouthwatering because they will taste like what they are made of.
With the weather looking to be so nice this coming week, I'm going to have the neighbors over for a casual backyard meal. I've chosen a quarter pound all beef kosher hot dog with no added nitrates or protein fillers like soy, corn, or wheat gluten. I plan to first boil the hot dogs in a locally micro-brewed nut brown ale until they swell up and start to split at the ends. Then the hot dogs go right from the boiling beer to a wood fired grill where the outer layer gets lightly charred and nicely crisp. They go straight from the grill to a homemade polenta bun and topped with a homemade raspberry jalapeño vinegar reduction, carmelized onions, and bleu cheese crumbles. Trust me, this hot dog matches up against a fancy restaurant steak anywhere, anytime.
The next time you're grilling burgers and dogs in the backyard, I recommend trying to make as much of the menu as you can from scratch, if possible, the entire meal. Grind your own beef for burgers. Bake your own bread. Make your own condiments. Use the best ingredients you can find. You may think this sounds like so much more work than just buying pre-shaped frozen patties, putting them on a mass produced bun and adding a squirt of yellow mustard. But I think you'll find that it's not as much extra time or work as it seems, you'll enjoy the cooking process more, and the food will taste so good, you'll wonder why didn't always do it this way.
Of course, our recipe contest is still rolling on. Send some of your great summertime recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org or simply post them in the comments here on the blog for a chance to win a free Black Satin Fudge Cake prepared by our veteran pastry chef and shipped right to your door.
Culinary Crafts Director of Catering