Baseball season is in full force. Opening day is always the signifier, at least in the northeast and midwest, that no matter what indignities nature has bestowed upon you, the longer, warmer days of summer are on the horizon.
A relatively new annual tradition in MLB is teams racing against each other to release the most obscene ballpark fare you can think of. This often takes the form of two random food items coalescing in a mash-up, or perhaps a typical item like a sausage or hot dog that is superdupersized. There’s exposure to be had.
But, are those meals … good? What would they be like if you tried to replicate them in your own kitchen, using high-quality ingredients? It was time to enlist the help of John Carruthers, one of the principals of ManBQue, a Chicago-based grilling troop who we’ve collaborated with before on a cadre of hot dogs and sausages, and whose new cookbook, Eat Street, is slated for an April 26th release.
BURGERIZZA (Turner Field, Atlanta Braves)
When I suggested this, John was skeptical. Actually, that’s a nice way of saying it. He swore and then begrudgingly resigned himself to it. It actually ended up pretty good! It made sense as a sandwich, not just as two disparate things getting shoehorned together, and the pizza was sturdy enough that it didn’t fall apart when you started eating it as such.
The pizza pies had six-inch diameters; the burger patty was just over a half pound of ground sirloin, brisket, and short rib, topped with Kraft singles (which worked here), and four slices of homemade bacon.
CHILI TACO DOG (Marlins Park, Miami)
This was a Usinger’s dog topped with homemade chili, crunchy sweet slaw, fresh cheese, and bright lime aioli. The flour tortilla may not be authentically Mexican, but this mash-up dish doesn’t purport to be. Like the burgerizza, it also turned out better than it may have sounded in theory.
BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER POUTINE (Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays)
Weirdly enough, actual descriptions of this Aramark creation from our friends up north were hard to come by. Eventually John found this tweet, indicating that the dish is comprised of breaded cauliflower in buffalo sauce with cheese curds, gravy and scallions.
While the Blue Jays’ version is vegetarian, we opted to use brisket gravy. Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t the kicker. The deep fried cauliflower was splendid, and it’s highly recommended that you try it at some point, whether or not for the purposes of trying to recreate this exact meal.
KOREAN PORK BELLY SANDWICH (Multiple ballparks)
As John joked, Andrew Zimmern was nice enough to take time off from eating crickets, intestines, and fermented dumpster garbage to create this dish for a handful of ballparks (Minnesota, KC, Philly, Boston, and more) this season.
It’s basically fried bacon with grilled pineapple, and the flavors do a good job of balancing each other out. John added a gochujang sauce to up the zestiness.
This might not be the best dessert if you’re on a diet, but damn if it wasn’t exquisite. Here, The bourbon vanilla ice cream (the Diamondbacks use fro-yo for some reason) in the long john doughnut was topped with Mexican chocolate-chili sauce and vanilla goat’s milk cajeta, recipes of which are in the new book.