To conclude our celebration of National Chili Month, we’ve invited a special guest blogger to give us one more memorable recipe. Marcy Vincent — familiar to our regular readers as The Counselor — is not only an outstanding writer who, behind the scenes, has kept an editorial eye on the nearly 300 Under Western Skies posts, but is also the chef de cuisine of the Under Western Skies Kitchen of Adventure. Take it away, Marcy.
Chili. Dogs. Chili dogs. They all came together for this guest blogger when I learned that Under Western Skies would be celebrating National Chili Month. I pointed out that October is also ASPCA Shelter Dog month and suggested a blog combining the two. The uniting factor: the chili dog, which will be the concluding chili month recipe.
But first, the dogs. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is a premier animal advocacy and protection organization, serving abandoned and abused animals of all kinds. This month, they’re calling attention to shelter dogs through various activities such as a funniest dog video contest, dog care tips and adoption information. For more information about Shelter Dog Month, the ASPCA’s work and great animal adoption stories and photos, CLICK HERE. You’ll learn about why this organization is so important and how your contribution can help.
Several of my friends have wonderful dogs adopted from local shelters, and it’s delightful to see the happy results of these rescues. To them and to everyone who has made a shelter dog part of their family, thank you. If you’re looking for a pet, please investigate this option –– and if you just love dogs, as I do, consider supporting the ASPCA or your international equivalent.
And now, the chili dogs. Here in the U.S.A., the “chili dog” is traditionally a hot dog in a long bun topped with chili con carne (no beans) and served with the condiments cheese, raw onions and mustard (or some subset of the three). From my research on the Web, its history involves Michigan, New York (birthplace of the original hot dog) and Ohio in its origin, and it’s reputed to have made its debut around 1914. (CLICK HERE for the entry on Wikipedia.) I trust that at least one food writer has tracked down its history like a bloodhound and can fill us in on all the details. My mission, however, is to get a contemporary version onto your plate.
“Chili con Cani” (and not carne) is my recipe. That’s “Chili with Dogs” in Italian, and no animals appear in this dish. It’s a vegetarian spin, featuring Italian ingredients and flavors, such as eggplant, mushrooms, garlic and oregano. Inspired by Robin Robertson’s concept of chili dogs en croute in The Vegetarian Chili Cookbook, these dogs come wrapped in puff pastry. In the Under Western Skies test kitchen, we tried pizza dough too, but preferred the lighter puff pastry version –– and you can’t go wrong with the traditional hot dog bun (preferably whole grain).
“Chili con Cani” (serves 4)
1 cup chopped onion
1 large yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium eggplant, sliced and cubed
4–6 medium portabella mushrooms
2 cups canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Reserved juice from the tomatoes (we used approx. ½ C.)
1 tsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. chili powder
½ Tbsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 vegetarian hot dogs (such as Lightlife Smart Dogs)
1 package frozen puff pastry
1 cup each grated Asiago cheese and sweet white onion (condiments)
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion, bell pepper and garlic until golden. Add mushrooms and eggplant, cover and cook until vegetables are softened (approx. 15 min.). Add tomatoes, ½ cup of reserved tomato juice, and seasonings from oregano through red pepper flakes.
Stir well to combine, bring the mixture to bubbling, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. (The chili should be thick for the chili dogs, and you’ll only need about a cup. To thin the extra chili for eating by itself, add the reserved tomato juice to your taste.)
Preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Bring puff pastry to room temperature and roll it out on a lightly floured board. Cut into 4 triangles and place a hot dog and approx. ¼ cup of chili in the center of each triangle. Top with approx. 2 tbsp. each onions and cheese. Starting at the short end of each triangle, roll up the pasty to enclose the filling, and fold in the sides. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. (If using buns: Lightly toast inside of bun, add grilled or boiled hot dog and top with chili, onion and cheese).
Serve with a salad and your favorite wine. We enjoyed these with a peppery arugula salad and a zippy, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc. (See photo). Bone appetit!
This blog and my “Chili con Cani” recipe are dedicated to all the shelter dogs expectantly waiting for a loving home and in need of caring support on the way there. Please help.
© 2013 Brad Nixon