25 April 2009

A Whole Lotta Wiener

Sometimes you just need some wiener.

And it's really hard to say no when it's only 1€80 a 10-pack at the local convenience store.

The humble hot dog sees a lot of abuse. It gets slathered in ketchup. It gets served with cheap canned chili. In Paris, it gets baked into the bun forming some sort of disgusting 4-day old bagel dog sold alongside pre-made crêpes near tourist traps.

We have nothing against cheap convenience foods. And this week, with both of us having had a lot of work, going to the butcher or fishmonger or green market wasn't an option.

Cheap and Trashy
One thing you really appreciate after leaving the US is good ol' WT food. Especially on a hot day (by local standards, to which we've become acclimated, anyway) where you just want to grill some hot dogs or factory-produced burger patties and have a tub of potato salad from Safeway or Costco or some other place a foodie would look down his nose.

Of course, living in a 300+ year-old building with no back yard means no barbecue. (The French don't take kindly to having their historical neighborhoods burnt down by Americans longing for a good ol' cookout.) So Alannah improvised with our ridiculously effective broiler, roasting some wieners that I could swear tasted like they came off a Weber kettle. Look, she even made grill marks!

Alongside it, a gigantic mound of potato salad. Here's where we went back to our usual selves... I've never really cared much for mayonnaise. Unless it's homemade or Kewpie brand mayo from Japan. In this case, we went for making our own Japanese-style mayo. It's a bit lighter and sweeter than regular mayo, and unlike French mayo, isn't infused with mustard. It's pretty simple - egg yolks + rice vinegar + cider vinegar + salad oil + a pinch of sugar. Then work it like crazy with a whisk, 'til you've got a gooey, creamy sauce ready to be slathered over potatoes.

Japanese Wieners
Not letting anything go to waste, we once again leaned on the hot dog crutch the next night, this time to make Japanese food. This isn't out of the ordinary - when we had relatives visiting from Japan last fall, they taught us a bunch of their favorite dishes. My aunt kept adding at the end of each dish, "Oh, and it's really good with hot dogs!" Being an old divorcée with adult kids who've long left home, I suppose she was all about finding new ways to enjoy wieners.

In that spirit, we put together a hot dog donburi. A donburi is a big bowl of rice topped with meat, often with a softly scrambled egg surrounding it. For instance, you often see it with tonkatsu, which is a fried and breaded pork loin. We substituted a hot dog.

Unfortunately, beaten egg and panko bread crumbs don't really stick to the slick, smooth surface of hot dogs too well, so there was a gloppy mess of wiener to be dealt with. But in the end, it worked out... and was surprisingly tasty.

And Some Balls, Too...
When our Japanese contingent was visiting, they'd brought us a takoyaki pan - a cast iron pan with golf ball-sized wells to make the eponymous Osaka snack. The batter is similar to okonomiyaki, based on the slimy, white, viscous nagaimo (or yamaimo if you can dig some up), only without the cabbage. This time around, I'd made some tenkasu (little fritters of tempura batter) to bolster the dough, lest you want the takoyaki balls to come out flaccid and not hold their shape.

Naturally, instead of cubes of boiled octopus, I loaded up each ball with a piece of hot dog.

Sadly, cast iron takoyaki pans and typical French vitroceramic electric ranges are not a marriage made in heaven, so a half dozen of our balls were essentially culinary abortions. The other ten, however, came out perfectly spherical, brown, and delectable.

I put them into pyramids topped with the customary aonori, katsuoboshi, mayo, and a sweet soy/vinegar sauce. A little yakisoba on the side (with sliced hot dog, of course), and some potato salad, and this was almost an authentic Japanese meal.

Next time, we'll preheat the takoyaki pan in the oven and perhaps put it over the ninja stove (sadly our only way to cook over gas) and see if we can get a full set of balls to bite down on.


  1. If I didn't know you, I'd wonder about a person who would write something about his aunt being an older divorcee needing to find new ways to enjoy wieners.

    But since I do know you, it's par for the course. Oh, and besides the mayo everything looks fantastic!

  2. Hey, kids love to eat hot dogs, but there's no shame in buying 'em, even when you're a grown-ass adult with no kids! That's all I'm trying to say...