Ljúffengur Íslensk Pylsur!
I have some pretty awesome friends, who in turn have awesome family. Case in point: Tim (of Texas Wieners fame) and Janelle (who wrote about the fantastically-named “Mustard’s Last Stand”) have a cousin Mike, who recently returned from a week-long Icelandic vacation with his lovely family. Before they left I talked with Mike, with whom I not only share a first name but also a love of hiking and the outdoors, about their plans for the trip. After discussing the virtues of Iceland’s many natuarl beauties, I jokingly asked if he was planning on bringing back any of the fabled hot dogs that Icelanders are so obsessed with. Little did I know what Mike had in store . . . .
About a month ago Mike and his family had returned from Iceland and I got to talk to him about the trip–which was, of course, amazing. I asked if he enjoyed the hot dogs and he started in on how he brought back an entire Coleman cooler filled with vodka and hot dogs. Holy crap! He had brought over a couple of packs for us to try out but this was just the tip of the iceberg, which consisted of ten or so different packets of hot dogs.
One of the packs of dogs (hereafter referred to as pylsur, the Icelandic word for hot dog) came from Germany, which was a bacon wrapped weisswurst and the other was pure Icelandic pylsur: a mixture of lamb, pork, and beef with subtle seasonings and just a bit of smoking. We topped the dogs with the condiment mixture I mentioned in my last blog post: the CaJohn’s spicy and sweet mustard with some sweet beet and horseradish mustard. I know this isn’t the usual toppings one would have in Iceland but they worked just fine anyway, and still allowed the very unique flavorings of the pylsur to come through.
The main event, he told me, would happen when he had a big cookout later in the summer. After having a taste of the two types of pylsur he had brought over, I was ready to clear my calendar for the rest of the summer in anticipation of the cookout.
The notice came about a week ago: Janelled texted me to get ready, Mike’s doing the cookout next weekend and you have to come. My response? Hell yeah!
Not only did this mean an opportunity to try the full range of pylsur that Mike shipped home, it also showed me how a real man grills. When faced with an assortment of tongs, spatulas, and other grilling implements, you toss them all aside and turn the hot dogs with your hands. This is the man whom I will be facing in Tim’s annual BBQ smoke off next month and I’m a little intimidated because this is the most intense thing I’ve seen at the grill–ever!
Mike kept pulling packets of pylsur out of the cooler, piling them on the grill, and I kept drooling. We had no way to know exactly what these pylsur were–best we could do is tell whether they were imported from Germany of were Iceland’s finest. Some were regular wiener-sized (never thought I’d say that) and some were in the range of half-pounders; some were wrapped in bacon, others were white sausages speckled with pepper. Every once in a while Mike would pull out a pack and we’d puzzle over the cryptic writing, trying to grasp what deliciousness resided within.
Mike was joined by Dougie, Janelle’s brother and the other half of their smokeoff team. What he lacks in the ability to keep buns from burning on the grill, Dougie more than makes up for in his charm. Since there were so many pylsur, Mike had to keep the fire going on two grills but he handled it with the cool calm of an expert pitmaster.
I got to taste four different types of pylsur in all, which meant that there were another four or five I didn’t get to try. I had one of the larger half-pounders, which tasted very much like a knockwurst but with a bit more sweetness. Another one I had was a regular-sized pylsur but it was white like a weisswurst and had pepper sprinkled throughout–very spicy! I also tried a couple of the regular pylsurs but couldn’t really tell the difference between the two.
So what goes on top of an Icelandic pylsur? Well according to a few websites I’ve read, the condiments are mustard, raw onions, french fried onions, ketchup (more about this in a second) and a remoulade-like relish. We didn’t have the relish but all of the other bases were covered, thanks in part to Nick Loeb who sent me some of his amazing product: Onion Crunch. While visually resembling its more humble cousin, French’s Fried Onions, Onion Crunch is about 100% more delicious. I’m a sucker for a green bean casserole at Thanksgiving and know I’ll be busting out the Onion Crunch for the topping this year.
The other condiment that we would have been without is mustard. Now you may be thinking: what, you don’t have mustard? What kind of crazy guy are you? Well, let me rephrase that: without Mike, we wouldn’t have had Icelandic mustard. You may notice a gravy-colored sauce on the pylsur; that’s the pylsusinnep that is Icelandic mustard. It doesn’t have a very strong flavor, it’s slightly sweet and very thin. I couldn’t bring myself to put ketchup on the bun (Alex, you may have something to say about that) but paired it instead with some good-old yellow mustard.
With all of the toppings in place, I could understand why these are all the rage in Iceland. The sweetness of the lamb pylsur and the pylsusinnep, combined with the savoriness of the Onion Crunch made for a perfect pairing. I wish I would have had more room left in my stomach for more than the four pylsur I tasted but I know everyone went home from that cookout happy, whether they tasted the hot dogs or downed a few of the Icelandic vodka and tonics. Thanks to Mike and his wonderful family for hosting–you guys truly are amazing!