Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How To Make The Best Vegetarian Chili Dogs EVER.

Who says veggie eatin' has to be entirely healthy, anyway?

One of the great misconceptions about modern culture is that vegetarians in the United States are health-conscious people. Granted, we may be slightly smaller in girth than the average American, and we may live longer than most of our omnivorous peers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t likewise get down and greasy every now and then. In fact, I reckon us vegetarian people have the untapped capacity to create some monstrous, calorie-loaded dishes so unbelievably unhealthy that even the Epic Meal Time folks have to stand in awe of our sheer culinary recklessness. There’s so much gluttonous potential there, and I think it’s nigh time that me and my veggie brethren reached into the darkest, dankest recesses of our cookbooks and trotted out our unhealthiest, ungodliest no-meat dishes for all the world to simultaneously admire and fear.

Case in point? My recipe for good old fashioned, pure-D white trash chili dogs.

OK, so technically, this dish is but a derivation of an old family recipe that entailed a good eight pounds of charred and broiled animal flesh, but still. If a guy like Kurosawa can turn the classics of Shakespeare and Dostoevsky into his own masterpieces, why can’t a schlub like me do a little fiddling and finagling to create his own creative commons magnum opus in sesame seed bun form?

In the late 1980s, famed Georgian satirist and conservative commentator Lewis Grizzard released a book entitled “Chili Dawgs Always Bark at Night.” It sucked

Creating a worthwhile chili dog is hard work, no doubt, and this duty is intensified whenever you start talking about veggie link variations. While it is definitely possible to conjure up an awesome veggie chili dog, it’s also a task that can be easily messed up - as such, if you plan on replicating this experiment at home, I would strongly advise that you follow my template note for note. Now, what ingredients do you require, and what’s my blueprint for creating the ultimate veggie chili hot dogs? The path to enlightenment is posted below

  • Veggie protein links (usually comes in packs of 8)
  • Hot dog buns (unless you want get really artistic and douchey and use tortillas or croissants or something)
  • Two cans stewed tomatoes
  • Two cans red kidney beans (I went with dark and medium, but feel free to mix it up anyway you see fit)
  • Chopped onions
  • Veggie “ground beef” (can be found in either a gross-looking “canned” variety or in a more palatable “frozen” bag form)
  • Sliced portabella mushrooms
  • One bottle of virgin olive oil (or at least that’s what she tells everybody)
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Curry powder
  • Dried red pepper (diced)
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • A packet of chili seasoning powder
  • Shredded cheddar cheese 

  • First off, you’re going to need a huge-assed pot and two smaller skillets. If you don’t have these, uh, yeah, you’ll probably need them. 
  • To get the chili going, add the two cans of stewed tomatoes and kidney beans into the giant bowl.
  • From there, add four cups of water and about three quarters of the chili seasoning packet into the mix.
  • After that, add the diced red peppers to the mixture. Bring to a boil, and stir frequently. Should be adequately heated in about 15-20 minutes.
  • In the interim, coat both skillets with a generous heaping of olive oil. In the smaller of the two pans, dump in the mushrooms and chopped onions. Simmer at medium heat, until the onions and 'shrooms are both nice, crispy and golden brown. (Should take about 10-15 minutes)

  • Dump the “ground beef” in the larger of the two skillets. Mix in the remaining chili seasoning packet, and spice the meatless meat as follows:

About a teaspoon of garlic powder
An additional teaspoon of onion powder
About a teaspoon of curry powder
TWO teaspoons of sage
TWO teaspoons of oregano

As a general rule, try to get all of the spices as amalgamated into the “beef” as you can. After a good 20 or so minutes of simmering, the “meat” should be golden brown, and have a very distinct, almost-maple scent. If it doesn’t it, that means you probably did something very, very wrong, and you should feel very bad about yourself as a result.

After everything has been adequately simmered and whatnot, now comes the fun part: the part where you get to take all of the fruits of your labor (up to this point, anyway) and dump them into the chili mixture. With a wooden spoon (or bare hands, if you’re a masochist or something), annex the “ground beef” and sautéed mushrooms into the bowl. Set the stove top to one of the lower settings, and bring to a light simmer. Stir frequently, and it should be finished in a good 20 or so minutes. 

Now, as far as the veggie links goes, I have a secret. While you could just boil them (a feat that takes all of five minutes, per the packaging), I suggest you go a step further and pan fry the links right after you boil them. For convenience matters, I simply re-coated the mushroom/onion pan with some more olive oil, dropped in the wieners, and fried the links until they looked/smelled like something that wasn’t plastic. This process, mind you, only takes about 10 or so minutes, and completely changes the taste of the dogs for the better so…do it

Canonically, Sonic the Hedgehog’s favorite food is chili dogs…a point emphasized in this clip from the short-lived, syndicated Sonic ‘toon featuring the voice work of Jaleel “I Swear, I Don’t Beat My Wife” White.

As far as sides go, I say now is as good a time as ever to break out the trifecta of deep fried white trash staples (fries, tater tots and onion rings), all of which can county faired with an ample dose of chili and shredded cheese once they’re baked. As far as beverages go, I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing on this planet complements a nice chili cheese dog quite like a nice, cold glass of orange soda, so if you got some citrus drank in the fridge, I reckon this is a most opportune time to break it out. In regards to condiments, I’d vouch for the usual stuff - ketchup, mustard (honey and spicy brown is my preference) and if you’re a real hedonist, maybe even some blooming onion sauce. If you plan on making this dish a monthly spectacle, I’d also advise scanning the phonebook for a decent cardiologist, too.

So, how do you assemble the world’s greatest vegetarian chili dog? It’s all pretty intuitive, if you ask me. Just drop in the wiener, get some chili on that bitch, paste the buns with honey and spicy brown mustard (duality makes everything taste better, you know), and top it all off with some shredded cheddar. Additionally, you might want to drop an onion ring or two on the dog, for added gluttony value. From there, just grab a handful of fried goods, and chili-cheese the shit out of them to turn this health-conscious hot dog supper into a smorgasbord of greasy excess. Because if you don’t, the terrorists win.

The Varsity - a chain of restaurants in Georgia - are alleged to have the best non-veggie chili dogs on the planet. They also have some outstanding proprietary orange drank, so if you’re ever in Atlanta, it should be every tourist’s first destination (pending you don’t get robbed as soon as you step off the plane at Hartsfield-Jackson, anyway.)

Well, there you have it - a fairly simple, uncomplicated how-to guide on crafting moderately healthier chili dogs, or at the very least, a recipe you can show to all of your pretentious vegetarian friends to prove that you are both “hip” and “with it,” as the kids say.

I suppose it’s not a dish you can whip up too often, but at the same time, I guess it’s a platter that you have to try at least once a year. I mean, there’s always that time of year where you just want to eat stuff on paper plates and watch “Smokey and the Bandit 3,” and for those kinds of weekends, I really can’t think of a better entrée.

Now pardon me, if you don’t mind, ‘cause there’s a lawn chair, a cinder block footrest and whole hell of a lot of Styrofoam plates just a crying my name right now.

In the mood for more culinary chaos?
Check out my how-to-guide on making Thai Pizza RIGHT HERE!


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