Friday, May 10, 2013

Oklahoma prime rib redux.

Fried smoked baloney sandwich with dill pickle spread. © Ryan Schierling
"What the hell are you smoking?"

I get that question from time to time, especially when I come up with oddities like Chicken-fried Chicken a la King Ranch Chicken or the unholy marriage of gas-station snack-pack jerky and cheese inside a homemade jalapeño popper. But today, since you asked, I'm actually smoking bologna, thank you.

Bologna, Italy would have been my first guess as to the genesis of smoked bologna. They probably figured out every way imaginable to prepare that mishmash meat loaf and I'm betting the guy that perfected it wasn't named Oscar Meyer. But, from what I've heard, Italy didn't want to have anything to do with this bastard-child treatment of their lard-studded mortadella. The Sooner State takes full responsibility for the further preparation of this one.

As with any legendary regional recipe, there are disputes when it comes to origins. Cheap and plentiful, fried bologna sandwiches have been around forever, and everyone from states south of the Mason-Dixon line probably has a fond childhood memory of their favorite version. Smoked bologna is another tall-tale altogether, with a pair of pushpins stuck squarely in a map of Oklahoma – one in Tulsa and the other in Oklahoma City. Stories go back fifty or sixty years about the creation of "Oklahoma prime rib" and wherever it started, you know there had to be some drinking involved. 

I went to the deli case at the grocer and asked the clerk "how much is that chub in the window?" pointing at an all-beef bologna block that looked to be about four pounds. She asked how I'd like it sliced, and I replied "Nope. Not necessary." When it was handed it over the counter, I proudly cradled the vacuum-packed fatty in my arm like a good little beef baby, grabbed some beer and headed for the checkout. 

Once home, I got a fire started with some pecan wood in the Weber. I peeled the red casing off the bologna and scored it with 1" deep cuts, rubbed it down with yellow picnic mustard and applied a light dusting of all-purpose seasoning. Once the temperature was at 250-degrees in the Weber, I put a water pan under the grates, positioned the bologna chub over it, and cracked open a beer. Bologna is already cooked, and it's not going to absorb a ton of smoke flavor because of the density, so two hours was about right to get some nice color on the outside and a little smoke into the cuts. 

(L) Bologna before. (R) Bologna after. © Ryan Schierling
The dill pickle spread may be unconventional, and nontraditional, but the flavor profiles were exactly what I was looking for with this smoky, rich hunk of beefy bologna. 

Once the bologna is in the smoker, mix the cream cheese, chopped pickle, chopped onion and dill together and let rest in the refrigerator. When the chub is smoked, and you're ready for sandwiches, cut the bologna into 1/2" thick slices and pan fry them on a hot, dry skillet. The thick slices won't curl up like the thin stuff did when you were a kid, so just get a little sear on both sides and sandwich 'em up. Start with a toast bottom, a hot bologna slice, smear on some dill pickle spread onto the baloney, top with another piece of toast, and you've got a fried Oklahoma prime rib sandwich to be reckoned with.

Smoked fried bologna sandwiches

1 loaf of white sandwich bread

1 3-4 pound chub of your favorite bologna
yellow mustard
bbq rub or seasoning

Skin the bologna chub and cut 1" deep slits into it. Rub with yellow mustard and apply a light dusting of whatever bbq rub or seasoning you like. Smoke at 250-degrees for two hours. 

Dill pickle spread

16 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup chopped dill pickle
1 cup chopped white onion, (if you have time, marinate in dill pickle juice a few hours or overnight)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a stand mixer or use a spatula to fold everything together well. Add salt (and a little pickle juice, if you like) to taste. 

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