~ Hot Diggity Dog: New Jersey's Italian Hot Dogs +: Mel's Version of the NJ 'Pizza Bread' Hot Dog Roll ~
I think I was a hot dog in a past life -- that's how much I love hot dogs. If that is true, I was a Jerzey Girl in a past life, because, New Jersey is hot dog heaven. If a hot dog can make it there, it can make it anywhere. There are more hot dog stands, carts and trucks there than anywhere on this planet -- and I mean anywhere. I've heard NJ referred to as "the cradle of hot dog civilization", which pretty much sums up the hot dog universe as I know it. That said, I make some dang good doggies here in my kitchen. I've developed my own versions of a few out of dog-gone desperation, because when it comes to certain "show dog types", outside of their place of origin, some of the ingredients are impossible to find. For example:
My favorite hot dog is the Texas chili dog, and, you can find my recipe for ~ Mel's Texas-Style Chili Sauce & Texas Chili Dogs ~ in Categories 2, 10, 17 or 26. It might interest you to know it was invented by a Greek immigrant in Paterson, NJ. I grew up eating these in a dive called The Texas Lunch in Tamaqua, PA. My version of the recipe was featured in Cook's Illustrated's America's Best Lost Recipes cookbook back in 2007.
As for Chicago's famous dog (Vienna beef w/ mustard, kriptonite-colored relish, tomatoes, pickles, sport peppers and celery salt), I can order the special stuff on-line, but the poppy-seeded roll just can't be bought and it's not a Chicago dog without it. See Related Article link below for my recipe.
Today's "Best in Show" post: New Jersey's Italian Hot Dog
Drumroll please: New Jersey's Italian Hot Dog. Said to have been invented at Jimmy Buff's, in Newark, NJ, in 1932, this is one of the most unique hot dog eating experiences I've ever had. Almost no one can eat more than one. I could barely finish mine, but finish I did. Where do I start: It's served on a "roll" they refer to as "pizza bread" -- it's almost like Muffuletta bread but with a bagel-esque hole in the middle. The bread is big -- big enough to cut each one into halves or quarters that get sliced lengthwise, to form two or four hot dog rolls.
^ The above photo is courtesy of the Jimmy Buffs website.^ Depending upon the size of the roll, one or two deep-fried or flattop griddled, natural casing, all-beef hot dogs get stuffed inside and topped with a generous heap of fried peppers, onions and potatoes. The pizza bread, impossible to find outside New Jersey, is the vessel that holds everything together -- it's just firm enough to soak up the grease without falling apart. These hot dogs can't be served on generic hot dog rolls, so don't go there -- it just ain't right. That said, if you're not in the mood to bake my version of pizza bread (which is super-easy to do), substitute a high-quality submarine/torpedo/hoagie roll.
A bit about my version of pizza bread: I've been making another version of "pizza bread" for a long time -- 30+ years. It's a rolled sandwich containing a savory combination of antipasto staples. Click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe for ~ Mel's Rotolo di Pizza (Stuffed Pizza Rolls/Bread) ~. The dough is a cross between a sandwich roll and a pizza crust. Two-three years ago, out of the blue, it occurred to me "if it's good enough for this kind of Italian sangwich loaf, why wouldn't it work for the NJ Italian hot dog roll. Well, it did -- to a point. Read on: NO ONE can duplicate New Jersey's round pizza bread, and, there are no recipes for it that I can find, so, you are stuck with mine. Take it or leave it, but, it's close. My dough contains garlic powder, Italian seasoning and pepper -- NJ's does not. Omit them if you want, but they're darn tasty.
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and coarsely-ground black pepper
1 packet granulated dry yeast
2-4 additional tablespoons olive oil, for preparing baking pans
~ Step 1. To prepare the dough, place all of the items in pan of bread machine in the order listed,except for the yeast. Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer. Place the yeast into the indentation. Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug the machine in, press the "Select" button, choose the "Pizza Dough" cycle, then press "Start". You will have 2 pounds of dough, ready to use, in about 55 minutes.
~Step 3. Form each piece of dough into a ball and place it in the center of an oiled pan. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a hole through the center. Using your fingertips, form into a 6" round ball of dough with a 1" round hole in the center. Set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour-1 hour 15 minutes. Dough will be about 7"-7 1/2" round with a 1/2" hole in the center. One-at-a-time, bake each pizza bread on center rack of 350 degree oven, 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Please serve these the same day they are baked.
One-half of one pizza bread will hold a "double dog dare you": two manly 1/4-pound hot dogs that have been sliced in half lengthwise, heaped with toppings. One-quarter of one bread will hold a "Jerzey girl": one girly neater-to-eat 1/4" pound dog with a bit less toppings.
What this means is: from these two pizza breads, you will get 4 or 8 New Jersey Italian hot dog rolls.
Fryin' the dogs & fixin' the toppings:
My 16" electric skillet is the next best thing to a flat top -- it controls the heat perfectly and it's got the capacity to cook the hot dogs and the toppings all in one spot. Three things you need to know about my home-kitchen method: 1) First I brown the hot dogs in olive oil rather than deep-frying them. That choice is yours, but, I do this because I like the way the dogs infuse their smokey flavor into the EVOO. 2) Once I remove the hot dogs from the skillet, I add some salt to the oil and fry the potatoes until golden brown. They get removed to a paper-towel lined plate to drain which keeps them moderately-crispy until the end. 3) Lastly, some red pepper flakes and dried oregano get added and I saute the onions and bell peppers until crunch tender.
8 1/4-pound all-beef franks
1 tablespoon sea salt
2-2 1/2 pounds peeled and 1/2" diced gold potatoes (be generous)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound each: thinly-sliced yellow onion & green bell pepper
yellow ballpark or deli-brown mustard, for slathering on each roll -- it's optional but I like it
~Step 1. Heat 8 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet over 250 degrees. Add the hot dogs, increase the temperature to 260-275 degrees and fry/saute, using a pair of tongs to keep turning them as they cook, until they are golden on all sides. This will take 10-12 minutes. Remove the hot dogs to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside (they'll go back in to warm up later).
~ Step 2. Add 2 more tablespoons of EVOO to the skillet and stir 1 tablespoon of salt into the oil. Increase the skillet heat to 275-300 degrees and add the diced potatoes. Fry/saute the potatoes, using a large, slotted spatula to keep turning them as they cook, until they are tender through to the center and nicely browned. This will take 10-12 minutes, or a bit longer, depending upon the size of your dice. Using the spatula, remove the potatoes to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. It's really hard not to eat these salty morsels -- show some will-power!
~ Step 3. Add the last 2 tablespoons of EVOO to the pan, followed by the onions and green bell peppers. Sprinkle the oregano and pepper flakes over all. Return skillet temperature to 260-275 degrees and fry/saute these veggies, using the spatula to keep them moving around in the pan as they cook, until they are crunch-tender (or too your liking). For me, this takes 8-10 minutes.
Not so fast cowboy -- I want some mustard slathered on mine!
Special Equipment List: bread machine; 2-cup measuring container; kitchen scale; pastry brush or paper towels; 2, 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" rectangular baking pans or round pizza pans; handle of a wooden spoon; cooling rack; cutting board; chef's knife; electric skillet; tongs; large, nonstick slotted spatula; paper towels; serrated bread knife
Cook's Note: It's a little late, but not too late to still find some great sweet corn at your local farmer's market or in the grocery store. I just bought some yesterday afternoon at our Happy Valley Boalsburg farmers market. Sweet corn goes great with a New Jersey Italian Hot Dog. Check out my recipe for ~ How to: Roast or "Bake" Sweet Corn in the oven ~ by clicking into Categories 4, 10, 17, 19 or 20!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)