Quarantine conditions challenged many long-held beliefs about food in ways I could never have expected. Forcing creativity when it came to common substitutions, shortages wreaked havoc on once simple recipes. Unexpectedly, the very nature of that flexible approach to cooking broke down some long-held barriers against certain ingredients. There’s no room for food snobbery when the alternative is to forgo dinner altogether.
In short order, as supplies dwindled and deliveries remained scarce, I found myself pickling watermelon rind and using pancake mix in lieu of all-purpose flour. Proving myself the ultimate hypocrite, however, was the now legendary Hot Dog Salad.
Yes, coming from the woman who adamantly, loudly, and publicly denounced using hot dogs as an ingredient in any fashion is now doing just that. Hot dogs have always loomed large in family lore, thanks to my dad’s historic penchant for the tube meat, but I bristled at the thought of having them appear anywhere outside of a bun. It’s not that I dislike the concept or flavor altogether, but I stubbornly refused to consider their culinary potential beyond their intended form. They did not belong in sticky-sweet baked beans, certainly not in otherwise unassailable mac and cheese, and god forbid some hapless cook try to embrace the wieners in full vintage style.
The image of that jiggling block of aspic alone has given me vicarious PTSD.
In any event, after 5 weeks without tofu, tempeh, or seitan, beans alone start to lose their luster. Meatless franks, in all their high protein glory, suddenly looked a whole lot more appealing for their culinary potential.
Inspired by the most vegetative form of traditional hot dog prep possible, this Chicago dog isn’t just dragged through the garden, but fully ensconced in it. Sliced thinly, crispy around the edges, tender in the center, the pieces take on a quality not unlike thick-cut Canadian bacon. No longer swaddled in a fluffy bun but topped by it, the bread is instead toasted with celery salt seasoning, turning into croutons flavorful enough to grace any leafy masterpiece. All the classic vegetable additions are accounted for of course, multiplied to fill the plate with verdant abundance. Finish it off with a drizzle of tangy, mustard-infused poppy seed dressing for the full effect, knocking this one clear out of the ballpark.
Forget what they once were, what they were intended to represent, and just accept them as they are: Delicious.
If I can just hold on to one last crumb of food snobbery, though…. Please, hold the ketchup.