I am married to a traveling salesman (and yes, I’ve “heard the one about the…”). Part of Mr. Annie’s current circuit includes the drive from Forest Street to Columbus, Ohio, and on the way to Columbus he passes Mom Wilson’s Country Sausage Mart.
I may have mentioned that I kind of hate sausage in a general sort of way; it has white lumps of fat in it, and just generally doesn’t appeal to me. I have never liked salami, or any of the other sausages found in an Italian sub, on an antipasto platter, or at a German restaurant. I could not have eaten with Tony Soprano, or Colonel Klink. I’ve never liked hot dogs much, either. That being said, I have grown fond of the sausages made by one of the vendors at our Farmers Market, because they seem to be less fatty, and more subtle and interesting in their flavoring, so the door was open enough to let a sliver of light shine through. When Rob called and said that he’d be passing by Mom Wilson’s on his way home from Ohio a couple of days ago, I vaguely remembered having some kind of spicy sausage from there that was okay, and I decided to Buck the Hell Up and eat like a real foodie. I told him to go ahead and buy some sausage – smoked to go with some shrimp I had already bought. He also bought fresh butter which Mom Wilson’s buys from an Amish farm, jerky, Snack Sticks, Jalapeno Cheese and some Hungarian hot dogs. They even threw in some homemade sauerkraut to go with the hot dogs, and Rob made a point of telling me about the great patience of the woman who waited on him while he dithered and called his wife in Michigan to make sure his purchases were approved.
I don’t know what makes the hot dogs “Hungarian” (all I see on the store’s site and in it’s brochure are “German” hot dogs) but I had not planned on having Rob home for dinner the night he came home with his Carnivorous Bounty, and I decided to use the hot dogs along with whatever I could find in the house to make dinner for the expanded group. The normal approach would have been to go out and buy buns, cook the hot dogs and eat them with the kraut and other condiments but “normal” has always seemed quite dull to me. On my reconnaissance mission, I observed that the hot dogs were dryer and less rubbery than the typical Oscar Meyer variety, and seemed to smell like they had maybe some garlic, along with other spices. I’ll admit that they were pretty intriguing. I invented a sort of hot and sweet tomato sauce using a can of tomato juice languishing in the pantry, fried up the potatoes that were intended for our broccoli and cheddar topped potatoes, and served the hot dog and tomato stuff over the fried potatoes. It was culinary insanity worthy of Kenny Shopsin, and not exactly gourmet, but it was really, really good.
Last night, I started out thinking that I would make some sort of jambalaya-esque thing out of the smoked sausages and shrimp, but I had nothing tomato-y in the house, and even if I had gone out to buy tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, whatever I made would have been too much like what we had eaten the previous night. I decided, instead, that I would cook the sausage, then cook onions and garlic in the sausage grease, add some broth and then the shrimp (which were pre-cooked cocktail shrimp) at the end so that they wouldn’t overcook. I intended to serve this all over pasta. The sausage was, again, less greasy than the mass-produced variety, and it smelled wonderful. It’s casing was different than what I’m used to; it seemed drier and more easily broken. I discovered, while sauteing the sausage, that it just didn’t contain enough fat to provide cooking lubricant for anything else: bad for my plans, good on general principle. It also tasted divine – smokey, with a little resistance to the tooth but none of that rubberiness that makes me gag a little.
I tinkered with the dish, adding some olive oil to cook the onions and garlic, adding peas, and finally adding the shrimp. Let me say this about buying pre-cooked, frozen cocktail shrimp: don’t. They were precisely the texture of small rubber gaskets, and had, if possible, less than no flavor. It was a violation of that beautiful homemade sausage to cook it with that vile, flavorless mockery of shrimp, and I ended up adding many things in an attempt to get the shrimp to pick up some kind of flavor including Worcester sauce, wine, and fish sauce. I ended up with an okay mixture of sausage, ersatz shrimp and peas in a flavorful sauce over pasta, but it was not a recipe that I would recommend reproducing. Last night we the magnificently tangy homemade sauerkraut (cabbage and apples) with a roasted pork tenderloin, and I have been using the butter, which is wonderful, with what might be called “gay abandon.” The Jalapeno Cheddar (about which I was more than a little skeptical based on some bad run-ins with Mexican Velveeta) is really nice, and Rob “is afraid to eat it because then it will be gone.” That’s pretty much the highest endorsement there is. The jerky disappeared, un-tasted, from the kitchen counter under mysterious circumstances that probably involved cats and dogs, and the Snack Sticks were kind of like Slim Jims that died and went to heaven – all of the flavor and more, without that feeling that you are eating part of a Ziploc that someone has filled with lard, cayenne pepper and liquid smoke.
Although I am a tiny bit alarmed by some of the offerings in Ma Wilson’s brochure (“Souse,” “Puddin” and “Scrapple,” per exemplar) I would love to try their bacon, hickory smoked ham, homemade pickles, Italian Sausage and Garlic Knockwurst. I may never become one of those people who orders the Sausage Sampler with Kraut (in fact I’m quite sure I will not), but I have been persuaded that homemade sausage made by someone who knows what they’re doing is worlds apart from even the best commercial offering. If you happen to be passing through Delaware Ohio (and hurry – they close from May 31 until October because they are also operating a real 300 acre farm) stop by and check it out. Maybe some day I’ll get to stop by and check it out….
Annie’s Hot Dog Stuff with Home Fries
- 2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/4 inch dice
- 4 onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Canola Oil
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- 2 T brown sugar
- 1-2 T cayenne pepper
- 6 hot dogs, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 can tomato juice (Note: it would be far more efficient to start with tomato sauce, probably about 16 ounces)
- 1 green pepper, diced
Pour tomato juice (or sauce) into saucepan, stir in brown sugar and cayenne. Heat on “high” until juice comes to a boil; reduce heat to medium high and continue to boil it as you work, stirring occasionally. Your goal is to reduce the quantity by half.
In a frying pan, heat 2 Tablespoons Canola oil over medium-high heat, and sautee half of the chopped onions for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and garlic, stir to coat with oil, and continue to cook over medium-high heat, allowing bottom pieces to crisp and then stirring gently to expose other pieces to the heat.
While potatoes are cooking, taste reduced juice; it should be sweet and spicy. If it has not reduced to about the thickness of tomato sauce, continue to cook over medium-high heat; when it has thickened enough, adjust seasonings to suit your taste.
In a second frying pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons Canola oil and sautee green pepper and second half of chopped onion for about ten minutes over medium-high heat. Add hot dog pieces and sautee for another 5 minutes. When tomato sauce is thick and seasoned well, add to hot dog mixture, mix with solid ingredients and reduce heat to “low.” When potatoes are cooked through and crisp, serve hot dog mixture over a bed of potatoes.