Posts tagged ‘BBQ’

July 3rd, 2011

The best hot dog

While enjoying hot dogs during a game at old Yankee stadium (I love the Yankees; my husband loves the Dodgers), my husband disappointed at the condiment selection, described New York as ‘spicy mustard town’.  His choice: plain, regular, middle of the road French’s yellow mustard.  Add one spice or tinge of flavor to the mix and he’ll throw away whatever food it sits on.  So when he first got a chance to try all the best New York has to offer a Jewish guy from California, like hot dogs, knishes, and pastrami, he had to do it without a favorite condiment by his side. Luckily for him, times have changed; Yankee stadium now has yellow mustard, which for my husband, is delightfully neutral in its spiciness, but with a refreshing mild sourness.

In Japan, there are two basic kinds of mustard: Japanese yellow mustard or dijon mustard.  The former is very hot and has a good kick to it.  Just like with wasabi, we use it sparingly.

Whether Eastern or Western, condiments should be used with care so that you can really enjoy the taste of the hot dog itself.  If your hot dog is not impressing you with its fantastic flavor or reminding you of that day at the game with your dad, you need my trick.  But first, the theory:  A $1.50 hot dog from a street vendor and a $6.75 hot dog at a baseball game taste different.  It is not the price making the difference nor is it the ambiance of the stadium.  The secret?  It’s actually the steaming effect of its wrap.  When you buy a hot dog from a street vendor, most likely you eat it right away, but when you are at stadium, it comes wrapped in foil where it’s benefits from a bit more steaming.  You then put on your favorite condiments, wrap it up again and take it to your seat.  Without knowing it, you’ve steamed that dog for an additional 10 minutes or so.  While wrapped, heat radiating  from the hot dog works to blend the condiments and transform a dry bun into a soft and moist, but not soggy, roll.  The flavors have a chance to get acquainted before your first bite.  By the time you dig in, the party is in full swing and everyone’s invited.  To recreate the good times at your place, try this:

1) Grill. (if not available, use your toaster)2) Wrap the hot dog with condiments of your preference on it.  Set the table, take dirty dishes to sink, tell everybody their dogs are ready…3) Plate with side of kale slaw (recipe here),  unwrap, and enjoy your 4th of July!!! 


June 11th, 2011

BBQ block party!

Like a cowboy hat made in China, it’s not hard to find accurate examples of Americana reproduced abroad.  But, no matter how much study and effort spent, there is one important part of the American experience that just can’t be duplicated; BBQ.

The 9th Annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party was held in Madison Square Park on the weekend of June 11th and 12th.  Despite the drizzle, the fabulous aroma of grilled meat was deliciously hypnotic.  When since caveman times have that many people been satisfied by dining only on meat?  You could’ve looked, but trust me, you wouldn’t have seen a speck of salad, a crust of bread or a niblet of corn anywhere.  Just meat; pure carnivore heaven.

My uncle used to have a BBQ for the family every summer, back in Japan.  What was on the menu?  We pretty much started with the same ingredients of the American BBQ, Chicken and beef, but instead of wings and burgers, we cut ours into bite sized, yakitori style pieces, with rice balls (onigiri), and vegetables on the side.  Not quite the deliciously American image of a whole pig smoking in a huge cooker, but still, pretty good.

NYC has been embracing BBQ flavors for quite a while, which seems odd, since New York is known for food more sophisticated than something the average person could grill up in the backyard; but then again, NYC will surprise you. Among the 16 participating pitmasters 4 of them are successful, NY based BBQ restaurant. I began to think that maybe the taste of backyard BBQ would indeed be popular in a city where there is a shortage of backyards!

I wish I could have tasted everything.  Like delicious, sauce covered snowflakes, not one piece of BBQ was identical to another. My favorite was the salt and pepper beef rib from Manhattan’s own Blue Smoke.   It tasted like rib eye steak, with the difference being the BBQ sauce flavor.   The most popular stop seemed so be The Original Fried Pie Shop. And why not? Every word in their name is appealing.  No wonder there were about 100 people in line waiting to get a hold of their hand held dessert.

For me, BBQ means more than just the promise of tender meat with a sweet and smoky taste.  My dream of living in America started during those carefree BBQs at my uncle’s.  Having fun with cousins in the backyard with lots of food and drinks (I had my first beer there at the age 8, I didn’t like it then, and still don’t) would make me laugh as I would think, “I’m in a scene from American TV!” From this, is it hard to imagine that I enjoyed myself at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party ?  Thanks to strong memories and bold flavors, in my mind BBQ epitomizes America at its best.