Sunday, August 21, 2016

Chili Cheese Salt Potatoes at the Altamont Fair


Every year I go to the Altamont Fair (here are glorious scenes from a past fair) with the stated purpose of locating the most ridiculous fair-food item available on the premises. This year I wandered far and wide but didn't see anything that really struck my fancy.

Feeling a bit peckish on the way out I thought I might just stop by the Sap Bucket for a hot dog and some salt potatoes. The ol' Sap Bucket serves Glazier's, the classic red hot of the North Country Michigan, one of my favorites. Gorging on a hot dog with a side of salt potatoes seemed quite the fitting end to my day at the fair.


A salty boiling cauldron of salt potatoes is a fixture in my summer household. The moment when your teeth pierce the taught skin of a Hinerwadel's and the tender tater-meat pops into your mouth is a singular culinary experience. Even more so then the hot dog I was looking forward to the taters. 

Standing in line my eyes fell upon the Salt Potatoes on the signboard. Then my eyes fell upon the topping options. Chili-Cheese Salt Potatoes! Yes, please. It is possible that this has been offered in the past, but I never noticed. I cannot tell you the last time that I have been so excited for food. My plan of salt potatoes as the side dish to a hot dog immediately fell away. I ordered only the adorned potatoes so that I might maintain focus.

Beautiful. So beautiful.


I absolutely loved this. The bright yellow canned cheese and the workaday chili melded with the tender taters and made for a beautiful fair food experience. As I sat eating a breeze relieved the oppressive heat, twangy country music played in the background, I heard children laughing, watched my kids repeatedly spill their snow cones, and all was right with the world. I had made the perfect fair food choice.

My bowl of potatoes came with two forks. I laughed at this. I laid low the entire bowl in minutes.


Ah, life is good sometimes. Isn't it?

On the way out of the fairgrounds we did have a minor tragedy. Our small gentleman fell and got quite a nasty booboo knee. He made me take a picture for documentary purposes. He was quite proud that he stopped crying so quickly.


A passing EMT helped us out with an enormous bandaid and a high-five and I made an emergency trip to the ATM for cash for some palliative Maple Floss.


And that was that. We packed up into the car and trundled back to Delmar. We made a pitstop at Stewart's for some drinks (a sixer of Genny red eyes for dad), and that was that. This was one of those days that felt very full of life. Life swirling around in all of it's hot, sticky, noisy glory...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fried Peppers, Prinzo's, Genny, Griswold, Gardening. All That Good Stuff in One Meal.


I've always said that one of my "going to the electric chair/last-meal" requests would be an order of the roasted hot peppers from The Franklin Hotel in Rome, NY. A plate of those peppers with some crusty bread, washed down with a nice cold beer is hands down one of my favorite dining experiences. Jon In Albany has a great picture of a mess of the peppers over on his weblog. I've always been too busy stuffing my face to take a picture.

Such is my obsession with this particular dish that I devote a section of my garden to the cultivation of Italian "long hot" peppers. I have been cycling through varieties over the years to try to pin down my favorite. This year I did Lombardo peppers. They are OK but a little small and tame in flavor. I'm thinking of trying Sigaretta De Bergamos next year. The peppers The Franklin uses are very large and fleshy and I should ask the specific variety next time I'm by...

Anyhow, my 8 or so plants have begun to issue forth ripe fruits. These are some of the first.


A great plate of fried peppers contains a spectrum of red to green. This batch was a little towards the green side because I am impatient. I prefer mostly red with a few green 'uns.

Now before we get on to my cooking method we should discuss the accompaniments to your plate of fried peppers. A nice, crusty, no-nonsense "Italian Bread" is what you want. Around here I will always go with a loaf of Prinzo's (Delaware Ave., Albany). I generally grab my loaves over at the Delmar Market. So on my way home from work last night I stopped in, bought a bunch of stuff, and when I got home I realized that I had forgotten my Prinzo's loaf...

Undeterred, I jumped back in my car and headed back to the store. There I came face to face with confirmation that the universe is conspiring against me. Standing in front of the bread shelves was a stooped, elderly man behind a cart. I don't know if you have ever been to the Delmar Market, but to see a cart is very rare. It is more of a "grab a couple things" sort of place.

Now, what did I see inside this man's cart? Well, the very last two loaves of Prinzo's bread in the store, that's what. The loaves were there along with several packs of Prinzo's hard rolls (with poppy and without!), also - carrots. I am convinced that this guy was some sort of mischievous supernatural beastie that had taken human form for the very purpose of messing with my much anticipated plate of peppers...

Undeterred, I improvised.


I bought a ball of Prinzo's pizza dough. I've found that if you shape it into a loaf, let it rise for 45 minutes, mist it, and cook it in a humid oven at 425 for a half hour or so, you get quite a serviceable loaf.

Back to the peppers. I like to cook them in cast iron. I use my beloved Griswold.


I cook them low and slow in plenty of oil. I also slap a pot cover over the peppers to steam them for a bit. Towards the end, when the peppers are very soft, I throw in some coarsely chopped garlic to cook for a while.


The whole mess gets dumped on a plate. Oil and all. That is what the bread is for. Oil-sopping.


There is the complete meal. Pretty as any painting...

You need to drink beer with your feast. An uncomplicated American lager is best. I would slap an IPA out of your hand if I saw you having one with this meal at my table. I prefer good ol' Genny lager. A nice red-eye tall boy. Perfect. Just perfect...

Rip off a heel of bread and sort of stuff a few peppers in. Maybe run it through the oil a bit...


That right there is what you need to do.

Sigh, I owe a trip out to the Franklin. Although my efforts were delicious, nothing beats their take. Eating ripe Italian long hots is something I look forward to all year long. This hot, dry summer was perfect weather for this sort of pepper. I am almost thinking a field trip to the Utica/Rome area might have to go down before the month is over...


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