I love junk food. Handmade junk food, that is. On Saturday nights, my mom used to make us popcorn balls with Steen’s syrup or homemade potato chips, fried crisp and puffy in a big iron pot. Junk food didn’t start out bad–it’s festival food, fun, crunchy, salty, sweet, creamy. Such treats defined our culture of fun from our beginnings, simple, uncomplicated, communal. But somewhere along the way, they went horribly wrong. They became something we ate every day, filled with chemicals, preservatives, false things that belied an external face of sunshiny, innocent fun. Well, I’d like to reclaim junk food. Not every day, of course, and never the false versions. I want my children to grow up enjoying corndogs and caramel apples, hamburgers and pigs in a blanket, kettle corn and doughnuts. Junk food even has the Michael Pollan seal of approval:
Food Rule #39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.
There is nothing wrong with eating sweets, fried foods, pastries, even drinking soda every now and then, but food manufacturers have made eating these formerly expensive and hard-to-make treats so cheap and easy that we’re eating them every day. The french fry did not become America’s most popular vegetable until industry took over the jobs of washing, peeling, cutting, and frying the potatoes — and cleaning up the mess. If you made all the french fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they’re so much work. The same holds true for fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies, and ice cream. Enjoy these treats as often as you’re willing to prepare them — chances are good it won’t be every day.
But it won’t be never either. I hereby reclaim good junk food with patriotic pride–American fun wasn’t made in a factory.
4 Salt & Time Hotdogs (or highest quality dog of your choice)
1 egg, beaten
1 c. whole milk
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. sugar
salt & cayenne
peanut or grapeseed oil for shallow frying
Buttermilk-Roasted Pepper Dipping Sauce
3-4 peppers (a mix of sweet & hot is good), roasted, peeled and chopped
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. buttermilk
2 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg and milk together. Whisk in the baking powder, corn meal, salt & pepper, flour and sugar. Skewer the hotdogs. then dip each one in the batter, coating well. Heat oil in a frying pan with 2-3 inch sides until a drop of batter dances and bubbles when dropped in. Quickly transfer the corndogs to the hot oil, turning to fry both sides. When crispy, drain on paper towels or a brown grocery bag. Serve immediately, with yellow mustard and Buttermilk-Pepper Dipping Sauce.
For Dipping Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.