Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's a dogs life.

Another day, another hot dog--that pretty much sums up my culinary life this past week of vacation. I'm sure to those who know me well, this daily ritual may seem a tad odd, especially when there are low-country delicacies like just-caught tilapia, local wahoo, fresh oysters, cheesy shrimp and grits, and lump crabcakes waiting to be dug into at every turn. So, what is about these salty, South Carolina hot dogs and me? Why does the rest of the world look forward to dining on fine china when on vacation, and I look forward to paper plates? I've been wondering that myself, and have thus spent the past five days swishing theories around my head: Am I the reincarnated soul of Nathan Handwerker? Might I be suffering from some sort of strange, nitrate deficiency? Do I need to retain water? What I've concluded is that it's not any of those things driving me to the beach bar at noon each day for my RDA of mustard-topped franks. Instead, what I have settled upon, is that hot dogs are as low-key a break from my normal diet--short of living on water and Saltines--that I could find. Sort of like a vacation for my foodie tendencies; a sabbatical, so to speak, from sauces and seasonings.

Of course I am aware that this is probably not what my doctor would recommend to get my cholesterol under control, and yes, I realize that the majority of the food pyramid groups are sorely missing from this diet, and yes, yes, yes, I do remember that I spent seven years as a strict vegetarian, frowning on such behavior. But what I've also concluded (some may label this a rationization, of course) is that that is what vacations are for: to allow yourself--for a few days, or a week, or whatever amount of time you are lucky enough to carve out--to take a break from the routine, to indulge your id, to be a little naughty. For some that may mean throwing Atkins out the window and digging into a big bowl of homemade fettuccini, followed by a thick slice of cheesecake (one fork, of course) for dessert, while for others it may mean living it up with a cold glass of Veuve Cliquot, a few dozen bluepoint oysters, some sweet, lump crabcakes. For me, here on a lazy, low country vacation, it can only mean one thing: giving in to a salty, grilled hot dog each day at noon, and savoring each id-indulging bite.

For those who prefer china and crystal over paper and plastic, one of my favorite recipes. From my book, SUMMER: A User's Guide.
1 egg
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1.5 pounds lump crabmeat
¼ cup plain bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
Lemon slices (optional).
Remoulade sauce or tartar sauce (optional)

In a large bowl, gently whisk together the egg, mayonnaise, parsley, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Gently mix in crab and bread crumbs. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour.

Preheat over to 350 degrees Remove the crab mixture from the refrigerator and using your hands, shape into twelve cakes. Place crab cakes on cookie sheet and bake in oven for eight minutes, then set oven to broil and place crab cakes under broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until golden-brown. When done, remove from the broiler and serve with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of remoulade or tartar sauce, if you prefer. Makes 6 servings.

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