Monday, December 15, 2014

He's a Bird Dog - Rodeo Dog Macaroni and Cheese

Johnny is a joker (he's a bird)
A very funny joker (he's a bird)
But when he jokes my honey (he's a dog)
His jokin' ain't so funny (what a dog)
Johnny is a joker that's a'tryin' to steal my honey (he's a bird dog)
Without a shadow of a doubt, New York hot dogs are much better than Chicago hot dogs.  While I love all the toppings and the poppy seed roll on a Chicago dog, the dog itself is barely meh.  Although I've never been in Chicago, except once in 1977 while changing planes on my way back from Hawaii, I have been able to experience Chicago dogs right here in Kissimmee.  The place is called Willy's Wieners,  and that's all I'm going to say about that except their food products are from Chicago, so it's fair to say their dogs are pretty representative of what folks are eating in the Second City.  I like Willy's a lot, and it's not their fault I grew up eating Hebrew National and Nathan's and even Sabrett hot dogs, all of them representing the very pinnacle of dog-ness.  Maybe Sabrett is not quite the pinnacle but it stands pretty darn close, and as "dirty water" hot dogs go, it is nose and tail above the Chicago dog.  Pah.  Second City, second-class dog.  But Willy's also has fried corn bites which are beyond awesome. Obviously not from Chicago.

The inspiration for this macaroni and cheese dish came from the Rodeo Dog I ordered from Willy's recently.  I was trying to come up with another dish to leave for Cory while we were at sea for the week, which coincided with one of my rare but fruitless attempts to eat a hot dog.  My fault, not Willy's.  The toppings were awesome, but after two bites I pulled the dog out of the bun, and just kept enjoying the bun and toppings.  Again, my fault, not Willy's.  I'm still having trouble eating.

So I made some notes from my ideas:
Macaroni and cheese (use Ragu cheddar sauce)
Hot dog (Nathan's) - cut up and cooked in oven, grease drained on paper towels
Bacon (not thick cut) - cut up and cooked in oven, grease drained on paper towels
Grilled onions (use regular white onions)
Barbecue sauce (drizzle on top)
More cheese on top of everything (shredded cheddar)

After some more thought, and searching through my pantry, fridge, and freezer, this is what I actually prepared:

8 oz. ziti macaroni, cooked al dente
1 - 16 oz. jar Gourmet Gardens Loco Cheese Dip (contains tomatoes, jalapeños, bell peppers)
1/3 cup milk or half-and-half
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar, divided
1 onion, slivered (I used one half of a sweet onion, but cut it lengthwise into thin slivers)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound bacon, cut crosswise into 1 inch squares
4-5 Nathan's frankfurters (with natural casing) cut into 1 inch pieces
salt, pepper, Emeril's Essence
barbecue sauce (I used sauce from Jimmy Bear's BBQ in St. Cloud)

Butter the inside of a 2 quart deep casserole.  Combine the cheese dip with the cooked macaroni.  Stir in the milk, then 1 cup of the shredded cheese, salt, pepper and Essence to taste.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Lay out the bacon in one pan, the hot dog pieces in the other.  Drizzle one tablespoon of the olive oil over the hot dogs.  Place both pans in the oven and bake until done,  Don't let either meat get over-browned.  Remove each from the pans with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.  Lower the oven's temperature to 350 degrees.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions.  Do not add any salt.  Sauté slowly until the onions caramelize nicely.  Lower the heat has needed so that the onions don't burn.  When most of the onions are browned and sweet, take off the heat and set aside.

Now construct the casserole:  pour the macaroni into the buttered casserole.  Spread one-half cup of cheese over the macaroni.  Place the hot dogs next.  Drizzle some barbecue sauce all over the hot dogs.  Next place the bacon pieces over the top, starting with the spots that are not covered with the hot dogs.  Then spread the onions evenly over the bacon.  Now drizzle more barbecue sauce over the onions, but don't use too much sauce.  You don't want the barbecue sauce to override the flavors of the other ingredients.  Finally, top the casserole with the remaining cheese, and put the dish in the oven for 25 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.  Serve by spooning straight down, so each portion includes the macaroni plus all of the delicious toppings.

Yup, it was good.  Really good.  Probably the New York hot dog that made the dish.  Next time I make it, though, I'm going to make my own cheese sauce for the macaroni.  Maybe even use some smoked cheese.  I'll let you know.

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