A few weeks ago I visited a little resort town called Hailey, Idaho. I was in a biker bar, and by biker bar I mean place where mountain bikers go to tune their bikes and drink glass steins of beer with shots of Jaegermeister dropped inside. In this bar it was obvious that the focus was more on shot-taking and gear-tuning and less on quality control. The first thing that clued me in to this fact was the menu. They had what I must assume is Ketel One on offer in half a dozen of their specialty cocktails. The only reason I can’t be completely sure is because one place it was written “Kettle on” whereas a second drink had it listed as “ketle One” and yet a third cocktail boasted mixing “Ketil One” with “rootbear”. Never once was it written as its creators intended, and I had a great fear of ordering it mixed with “rootbear” not knowing if it would arrive tasting like sarsaparilla or if a bear attached to some tree roots swilling vodka might jump out at me from the bottom of the glass.
Many of us like to play the “spot the typo on the menu” game, and generally we don’t blame the restaurant for dropping an “I” here or there. This menu was different. In two pages I spotted 47 errors after a cursory, three minute perusal. I know because it was so glaring I had to take out my pen and start correcting. A slightly more obsessive grammarian than I would surely have run to the nearest bike spoke and poked his own eyes out in horror.
My only regret is not taking a picture, but a quick internet search reveals that the menu is reprinted in all its glory online. Lest you should fear the cocktails and wish for something safer made from grapes, they also have “persecco”, “Chote du rhone”, and “Montelpuliciano”, which I surmise is a wine that comes from the vineyard co-owned by Montel Williams and Jose Feliciano.
Now that you think I’m a complete bitch for quasi-outing this hotbed of dyslexic culture, I’m going to attempt to redeem myself in your eyes by revealing something on the menu that is so bad its good. It’s called the “Double Wide”- that’s two corn dogs smothered in chili and cheese.
Now that we’re living in an era of “manufactured home communities” and the trailer parks on the other side of the tracks are being bulldozed to make way for more strip malls to house nail salons and conveyer-belt sushi joints, I am not sure that everyone reading this will know that a “double wide” refers to two mobile homes slapped together to form one big and fancy residence. Owning one is a great way to simultaneously scream “I’m queen of the trailer park” while subtly jabbing your neighbors with an implied “fuck you”. If you add an awning and a porch too, brace yourselves- the other residents will call you and your boyfriend Melania and Donald behind your back and you shouldn’t be surprised if you get an anonymous package containing a combover toupee in the mail.
I have an unexplainable reverence for double wide’s, combovers, and anything you might find in a John Waters film. That’s why I think it’s pure genius to call two corn dogs nestled side-by-side drenched in chili a double wide. Naturally, I ordered it. It was good in the way that my mouth loved it but my intestines constricted tighter than a sphincter faced with its first stint on the wrong side of a glory hole. My liver actually begged me for grain alcohol so it could process something purer and cleaner than caustic corn dog bile. That double wide stayed with me for weeks (in body, mind and spirit) so I attempted to recreate it a la Salty Seattle.
I’ve never made a hot dog, let alone a corn dog, so I decided to be really easy on myself and master duck confit hot dogs. That was my attempt at sarcasm. The truth is, hot dog-stuffing is not a simple task, and like other things that involve inserting flesh into waiting cavities, it really takes at least two people to perform properly.
But before you ever get to stuff, you’ve gotta prepare your meat, in this case, duck confit. I confited the duck according to this recipe and then I ground it with some pork butt in a 2/3 duck confit to 1/3 pork ratio. I added egg, sugar, salt and thyme to the ground meats and emulsified them in a food processor to achieve true, hot dog-like consistency.
Next I stuffed the emulsion into sheep casings with the help of my mother. I squeezed the casing onto the stuffer nozzle and massaged the meat down into the casing while my mother fed meat into the hole of the grinding apparatus. She stuffed, I squeezed, the casings swelled and I twisted them into manageable lengths. Occasionally the nozzle would get a little overexcited and squirt some stray stuffing out the tip of the casing that I just couldn’t hold in. It’s a dirty job.
Meanwhile, I executed on the plan for the chili, since it wouldn’t be a proper double wide if there wasn’t chili. At the base of every great chili is beans, and I recently read about a Tuscan bean specialty called fagioli al fiasco” that involves cooking cannellini beans in a glass flask or chianti bottle set over a fire until the beans are creamy and tender. I decided to cook my beans in the smoker using this method, and I used the opportunity to smoke some duck breast that I ultimately shredded into the beans for the chili.
To make the beans, I used glass cream pints filled ¾ full with beans, duck stock and a bay leaf. I stopped the tops of the bottles with moistened cotton balls and smoked the jars for 3 hours at roughly 200°F. The resulting beans were indeed the creamiest I’ve tasted, and the smoke licked them just enough to impart a subtle murmur of campfire. Combined with the shredded duck meat and my freshly-roasted tomato puree, the cannellini beans transformed into the He-Man of the chili world; by that I mean that this is a chili that could take down any other chili in the ring American Gladiator-style with one of those jousting sticks that looks like two super absorbent tampons joined together by a toothpick.
After the chili was made and the hot dogs were formed, I decided to finish them by sous vide-ing them so that the duck confit wouldn’t lose its delicate texture, but the pork would cook through. While they basked in the sous vide water bath, I made the “corn” part of the dog. It’s just a cornmeal-based batter that you roll the hot dogs in right before deep-frying. When I was making it I thought how easy it would be to substitute different batters to achieve different tastes and textures.
I came up with an idea I’m pretty excited about, which I will debut in a few weeks at a juried corn dog-off that I am hosting. This corn dog-off will pit three of Seattle’s saltiest food personalities against each other in a judged corn dog competition. I am so confident in my vision that I’m going to share with you the corn dog I intend to present. It will consist of a foie gras and sauternes duck sausage wrapped in deep-fried pate au choux pastry and I’ll offer a few dipping sauces such as truffled aioli and balsamic syrup.
The final version of my double wide came out a little differently than the one I ate in Idaho, and that was for the best. The only lingering element of this double wide is in my dreams- thank god my body was spared the same residual effects of the original gut bomb it was modeled after. I have to give credit where credit is due, however, as I’m now on a mission to perfect fried meat on sticks, and when I set my mind to a task, I tend to do so with the fervor of a teenage boy armed with a tube sock, a Penthouse and a Costco-sized tub of Herbal Essences conditioner.