So here's the thing: When former food editor Katherine Sacks first asked if I'd like to try the carrot "hot dogs" she was working on for her weeknight vegetarian column, I was a little skeptical. Once I tried them, however, I became a true believer and sent the recipe to my vegetarian sister-in-law. She also started out skeptical.
Granted, the ingredients do add up a bit strangely: Maple syrup with soy sauce? And canned adobo? But when the carrots are briefly braised in this seemingly incongruous triumvirate, the result is nothing short of eye-opening. The maple infuses the carrots with earthy sweetness, while soy adds a deeply savory essence and the adobo brings smoky heat. A turn on the grill marks them with wonderful char and gives the carrots some textural complexity. And, in fact, the method isn't so dissimilar from our preferred way to cook beef or pork hot dogs (i.e. boil then grill).
Don’t ask me what makes these plant-based sausages so delicious. (Is it the pea protein isolate?) Just ask me how much I love them.
When I got together with my family later that summer, I made the carrot dogs for my sister-in-law (tossing a few onto the grill for myself instead of the traditional hot dogs we were making for the rest of the fam) but skipped the slaw and corn nuts and instead topped them with our usual dog condiments: Mustard, relish, sauerkraut, etc.
One bite and she believed, too. At that same cookout, my grandmother's husband—not a vegetarian—ate the rest of the carrot hot dogs even though he wasn't factored in to the number of people we were making them for and they were supposed to last at least another day. They're that good. Seeing a pattern here? All it took to convert carrot hot dog-skeptics was just a bite of the actual carrot hot dog.
Alas, whenever we share recipe on social media, we cannot include a fresh-off-the-grill bite with each click. So the skepticism leads the easily offended inhabitants of the internet to fill the Epicurious channels with words of incredulous rage. They can't believe that we're trying to masquerade plant-based food as their beloved tube steaks. (Another spoiler: we're not—the word "carrot" is right in the recipe title!)
"Are you serious? A carrot between two pieces of white bread? You are losing your minds now. That sounds positively nauseating," says Facebook Helen, who's wrong anyway, 'cause it's on a bun.
Facebook Edward writes: "The worst thing isn't even that the whole carrot dog concept is utterly ridiculous. Why bother to follow a food site if they really don't give a crap about real food?" Excuse me, Edward, but plenty of "real" recipes have a bit of a metaphorical bent. Do you expect Baked Alaska to contain bits of lichen and permafrost?
"Really! Why mess with my favorite food? Not right! More than my eyes are rolling," was Facebook Jennie's lament, which, what does that even mean? Is Jennie doing body rolls about a carrot hot dog? Rolling down the river? Rolling in the deep? We could have had it all, Jennie!
As for Facebook John, "I mean they look pretty and all, but sofa king stupid." Which is probably autocorrect, but LOL.
In fact, the first time this recipe was posted on Facebook, it garnered 106 comments; the first time in video form: 334 comments. And sure, some of those were positive. But the majority were the equivalent of "Nope!", with the most adamant of the lot threatening that should carrot hot dogs become the world's only form of sustenance, they would choose starvation. Bye, I guess?
Others worried that should they make carrot hot dogs for their spouse, they'd be met with shame, degradation, and assured infidelity.
I have some personal experience with these same impassioned meat-or-nothing fanatics. When I wrote about our favorite store-bought hot dogs (don't worry! they're beef!) I received some of the most hateful messages I've ever gotten from another adult. One reader wrote in to tell me that if I'd never tried some random hot dog brand—which didn't even appear when I searched for it on Google—from his hometown, I had no f***ing idea what I was talking about. Sorry your hometown's not on the hot dog map, rando!
Most inexplicably, at least seven different commenters reacted with something to the effect of: "Why are you calling it a hot dog? It should be a hot carrot." Newsflash Facebook Mary, beef hot dogs are also not dogs. Should we call them "hot beef" instead? I once went to the Iowa State Fair and there was a stand selling "Hot Beef Sundaes." I admit, I didn't think that was super-appealing, but I didn't storm the tent with cries of "ABOMINATION!"
An internet search defines "hot dog" as a person who shows off, especially a skier or surfer who performs stunts or tricks, which is irrelevant here, but I find it hilarious. Even better, "hot dog" is defined as an exclamation "used to express delight or enthusiastic approval," as in "Hot dog! I've finally found something I can do that you can't." Also irrelevant.
What is relevant? The definition of hot dog as food: "A frankfurter, especially one served hot in a long, soft roll and topped with various condiments."
Okay, so Katherine's carrot hot dog is missing the frankfurter. The thing is, so is your hot dog (probably). Traditional German frankfurters are made from pork, but the most popular brands of hot dogs in America are all made from beef. So there. The carrot dog still has the smoky flavor, the bun, and the toppings—that last arguably being the most important part of a hot dog, anyway.
If your issue is with the carrot itself, listen, I hate baby carrots as much as the next sane person. I also understand the sadness that is a mushy, overcooked carrot.
Grilled carrots, though: they're delightful. On a bun? They're delightful and filling.
So to all the Facebook Donalds of the world, who let us know that "If a vegan/vegetarian comes to my place for a backyard shindig, I already have a menu set and won't deviate from it. Not for one person. And I will also make sure to sit next to that person, with my juicy, drippy burger in hand and extoll it virtues at every bite" (sounds like such a good time, F.D.!), just, like, calm down. We're not talking life or death issues here. It's just a hot dog. Made from a carrot.Katherine Sacks
Originally Appeared on Epicurious