Smoky Carrot Hot Dogs with Bialy Onions

Plus: "The Four Questions" interview with Smitten Kitchen's Deb Perelman

Hello friends! Today I’ve got some smoky carrot hot dogs for you and the vegetarians coming to your July 4th BBQ. (And I suspect the carnivores might sneak in a couple of bites too.) This week also marks the launch of The Jewish Table’s new interview segment, The Four Questions. First up: the inimitable Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen!

But before all that, since this is the first newsletter in a while for some of you, let me get everyone up to speed. Over the past month, The Jewish Table has featured:

  • Roasted garlic deviled eggs, borscht crostini, and other recipes to help you wake up the hosting muscles that may have atrophied during the pandemic.

  • summery schnitzel saladand a bit of vulnerable oversharing about how I’m dealing with the return of FOMO.

  • Some real talk about egg creams (maybe they aren’t as good as nostalgia wants us to remember?) and a recipe for a mocha egg cream shakeratothat is decidedly very good.

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Okay, onward to the grill! I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I didn’t try hot dogs until I was in my mid 20s. I know. As a woefully picky kid they grossed me out, which meant I spent birthday parties and camp cookouts eating hot dog buns squiggled with ketchup and mustard and hoping nobody would notice. By the time my tastebuds caught up in my late teens, I was a vegetarian, which means my first “hot dogs” were actually tofu pups.

In recent years, I have made up for lost time on the beef hot dog front, grilling them at home and occasionally indulging at the delicatessen or at a Mets Game. I have next to no interest in competitive eating or the annual July 4th hot dog eating contest hosted by Nathan’s Hot Dogs on Coney Island. But I am deeply interested in learning about Nathan Handwerker, the Polish Jewish immigrant who began peddling hot dogs on Coney Island in 1916 (after learning the trade from another Brooklyn hot dog man named Charles Feltman).

According to Gil Mark’s The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, “Handwerker, using a recipe created by his nineteen-year-old bride Ida, introduced a spicier frankfurter, and, in the Jewish tradition, used pure beef and incorporated garlic and more pepper.” Those innovations helped grow Nathan’s original “shack of weathered clapboard” into an iconic franchise with more than 400 locations spread across all 50 states.

Would Handwerker scoff at the idea of a hot dog made from a carrot? Uh, clearly. Do these carrot dogs (the origin of which I can’t take credit for - variations on the theme have been floating around the vegetarian corners of the internet for a little while) taste *exactly* like a beef hot dog? Nope! But I have a suspicion that if you give them a try, you will find they stand up to anything else you’ve got going on the grill.

In addition to being the same general size and shape as a hot dog, boiled and grilled carrots have a satisfying chew that evokes the real thing. I marinate the carrots in a smoky, garlicky, briny, and slightly sweet brew to infuse them with flavor. Once grilled, I like to pile a mess of softened browned onions and poppy seeds on the carrot dogs. I lovingly call this savory mixture “bialy onions” because its natural habitat is the crater-like indentation at the center of the UFO-shaped Ashkenazi roll. Check out the recipe for both below.

Smoky Carrot Hot Dogs with Bialy Onions

Plan ahead notesThese ‘dogs are simple to make, but taste best when the carrots have some time to marinate. For the most flavorful results, boil them the night before you want to serve them, then let them hang out in the marinade until it’s time to grill. Meanwhile, the bialy onions can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge until needed.

Serves 4 to 6

For the Bialy Onions:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, halved through the root and thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

For The Carrot Hot Dogs:

6 medium carrots, trimmed and peeled (they should be about as thick as a standard hot dog)

¼ cup soy sauce (I like these coconut aminos because they are naturally lower sodium and delish. But regular soy works fine too!)

¼ cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons pickle juice (or red wine vinegar or ACV)

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced

6 hot dog buns, mustard and/or ketchup, and finely chopped half sour pickles, for serving

  1. Make the bialy onions: Heat the oil in a medium frying pan set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often and adding a few drops of water as needed to prevent burning, until silky and golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

  2. Stir in the onion powder, salt, and poppy seeds and cook for another minute or two to toast the seeds. Taste and add more salt, if needed, then remove from heat and let cool.

  3. Make the hot dogs: bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the carrots, lower heat to medium, cover pan, and cook until the carrots are just fork tender (but not mushy or falling apart), 12 to 15 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

  4. In a large bowl whisk together the soy sauce, olive oil, pickle juice, maple syrup, onion powder, smoked paprika, and garlic until well combined. Add the softened carrots, cover, and marinate, turning the carrots once or twice, for at least 2 hours and ideally overnight.

  5. Preheat a outdoor grill or grill pan (if cooking indoors) to medium heat, and lightly oil or spray the grates with cooking spray. Remove the carrots from the marinade and place on the grates or in the grill pan. Grill, turning occasionally and brushing once or twice with more of the marinade, until they are nicely charred on multiple sides, 6 to 8 minutes.

  6. Transfer the hot dogs to split hot dog buns, and top with the bialy onions, mustard and/or ketchup, and some chopped pickle.


The Four Questions:

With Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen

Welcome to The Four Questions, The Jewish Table’s brand new (and soon to be semi-regular) interview segment featuring my favorite Jewish food luminaries! Just like the four questions asked at the Passover seder, I hope this series opens the door to insights, occasional revelations and, most importantly, more questions.

I’m truly thrilled to have Deb Perelman joining us for the inaugural interview. On the off off chance you are not already familiar with Deb, she is the founder of Smitten Kitchen - the blog you imagine when you think of food blogs - and the author of two (soon to be three!) widely and wildly acclaimed cookbooks. Her writing has charmed countless readers, and her recipes have inspired home cooks across the globe to be more adventurous (or as Deb says, “fearless”) in their own kitchens.

Here, we chatted about why Jewish food can be difficult to define, why noodle kugel is utterly confounding (though inarguably delicious), and what to expect from her forthcoming cookbook.

How would you define your relationship with Jewish food? And has it evolved over time?

Honestly, I would say my relationship with Jewish food is not terribly strong. My mom loved California cuisine and French cooking, so while we went to delis and ate challah, I didn’t grow up eating a lot of the foods my readers ask me about. (Which is why I sometimes reach out to you with questions!) A lot of my Jewish food knowledge has come in the years since starting Smitten Kitchen.

Jewish food can feel hodgepodge-y sometimes because Jews have lived so many places, adopted bits and pieces of the foods everyone around them ate, and then taken those foods to new places. So in Austria you find big soup dumplings that are just like matzo balls. And in Poland or Germany you see braided Easter breads that look like challah. I sometimes see these foods and think, “Hey, I thought those were mine!” But really you’re just seeing the connections that Jews have to so many places. Whenever people ask me what Jewish food actually is, I usually say, “It’s complicated.” But it makes sense because we make sense.

What kind of response do you typically get from readers when you post Jewish dishes?

Any dish I post that comes out of people’s experiences tends to get a lot of excitement and a lot of disagreement. Like with matzo balls, some people want them floaty and light while others want them leaden, so no matter which one I make someone is going to be disappointed. And with something like hamantaschen, they are traditionally this poppy seed pastry, but in my mind I want them to be more like tiny, buttery fruit tarts. So you end up hearing a lot of opinions sometimes.

Is there a Jewish dish that you think is underrated or misunderstood?

I feel like noodle kugel is one of the most confusing things on earth. There is this food blogger cooking his way through Ina Garten’s cookbooks. And when he got to her noodle kugel recipe, he didn’t really get it. I was like, “don’t even try!” It’s pasta, but it’s sweet with raisins and cinnamon. It’s served at dinner instead of for dessert. I get it because I grew up with it. But it truly doesn’t make any sense.

What should we expect from your next cookbook, and can you share the title yet?

Well, it is coming out in fall of 2022, but I’m not done writing it yet. (Shhhh!) On the days it’s going well, I’m so excited about it and truly think it will be the best book I’ve ever made. The idea behind it is that it features the best case scenario of every recipe. These are recipes you’ll want to keep - which is why the title is going to be Smitten Kitchen Keepers.

Thank you Deb!! Keep an eye out for the next The Four Questions interview, coming soon.