The Pearl Experience
I’m a pretty frickin’ lucky guy. Case in point: a few months ago I get an email from Bud, one of the higher-ups at Pearl Meat Packing and my new best friend. To make a long story short, this beautiful man wanted to give me and my co-bloggers a ticket to heaven. Yes, my friends, this man turned over thirty pounds of encased meats to some of the most fanatical hot dog enthusiasts you’ll meet in New England, to dispatch with as we saw fit. My immediate reaction was to hole up in a dive motel and fawn over them like Gollum seducing his precious; saner minds than mine prevailed however and my wife suggested I hold them in storage until my birthday weekend for a big weenie blowout (yes, I am trying to come up with some rather suggestive double entendres).
First, a quick bit of info about Pearl. They’re a local meat packing company that specializes in all-beef franks. Bud gave me a small lecture on background of the dogs, of which we had two types: a 1/6 lb. dog that came in a five-pound package (on the right) and the 1/4 lb. dog in a four-pound package. They respectively use in sheep and hog casings and are a coarser grind than you’d find in most hot dogs. Bud took particular pride in the fact that the grind means the dog won’t bend to touch end-to0-end like most dogs, which have a grind that is so fine that the end product resembles a pate. Both of these can be picked up in most grocery stores in Massachusetts; I’m not sure how much of a presence they have in other New England states but I would assume they at least stretch into New Hampshire but possibly not far into Connecticut since there’s serious competition there (they’re pretty intense about Hummel Bros. down there).
So how do you cook ten pounds of hot dogs for 10 of your closest friends? Well since I’m such a fanatic I couldn’t decide on just one style so I decided to divide styles between the different sizes of dogs and settled on a copy of the Formaggio Kitchen’s Pearl-in-the-Hole and a West Virginia slaw dog.
So what’s a Pearl-in-the-Hole? Well, at Formaggio they grab a half-pound Pearl frank, grill it, smother it in delicious BBQ sauce and shove it in a half of a baguette filled with condiments of your choosing; my usuals are grilled onions, hot pepper relish and BBQ sauce. The great thing about this dog is that at the very end you hit a wiener-less spot that’s nothing but bread that’s sopping with sauce and onions; so utterly reminiscent of my favorite aspect of great BBQ joints that are the pieces of Wonderbread laying below a half-rack of ribs.
Now Jesus didn’t show up in a burn mark on the baguettes but I did have an odd halo that formed over my head while grilling these bad boys up. A quick rundown on how you build this dog: throw the dogs on the grill to get them nice & charred; dig the middles out of the baguette, which you fill with the BBQ sauce and sauteed onions and put alongside the dogs; let your friends dip the baguette’s harvested innards into the sauce so they don’t bite your fingers; give the dogs a dip in the BBQ sauce (bubbling in a pot on the grill); and then put it all together by screwing the dog into the baguette, producing a delicious and off-putting squelching sound.
So now you know what a ravenous hot dog devotee looks like. Yes, that’s right, he looks like a deranged Charles Manson just moments after scrawling a swastika into his forehead.
Now, on to the slaw dog! I’ll first have to admit that I’m a fan of the WV Hot Dog Blog and have been ashamed of my countless (two, really) attempts to grab their attention. Maybe this will do it, because I used the Marmet Yellow Slaw recipe that Stanton unearthed at a flea market last year and combined it with another famous WV HDJ recipe, a replica of Yann’s chli sauce.
Honestly for me this was the clear winner. It had nothing to do with the fact that I had spent an hour making the slaw and another 5 hours simmering the chili sauce; it had everything to do with the fact that the chili sauce was an amazing burst of heat and savory cumin-cinnamon blend that melded perfectly with the cool sweetness of the yellow slaw. For any of you readers out there who can’t make the trip, bring a little bit of the WV mountain country to your home with a tray of these dogs and a six pack of some cheap beer in your cooler.
But what of the Pearl dogs, you say? Well I didn’t admit it to Bud at the time but I’ve always been a fan of theirs, having first encountered the dog at Speed’s (which has since changed brands) and then at my neighborhood stand, Fred’s Franks. Their all-beef dog is the best you can get in New England. I’m a devotee of the coarser grind, which has a texture more enjoyable than the pate-like all-beef dogs, and their spice blend is near perfection because it doesn’t stand in the way of some of the more subtle condiments I’ve put on a dog (such as the zuchinni relish at Snappy Dogs). So if you keep making ’em, Bud, I’ll keep eating them.