Tuesdays are special around here. My wife works Tuesday nights, and while we miss her, it means that I get to leave work a little early and pick up the kids from school. We get to have dinner and do homework together, instead of a usual weeknight when at best I roll in from the train station at 7pm or I am on the road and gone altogether. But never on Tuesday, when it’s just us.
As the kids get older, there are more plans and activities on Tuesdays after school, so dinner gets more complicated. I drop my daughter at painting class at 4:15, which is about 20 minutes from home at that time of day, and she needs to be collected at 6, so it doesn’t really make sense to go home and even if I did there wouldn’t be time to cook. Instead, the boys and I go to the grocery store, swing back to pick up the girl, and only then can the cooking begin, around 6:45. Smoking a brisket just isn’t going to happen before bedtime!
I like to cook slow, and I like to cook from as close to scratch as much as possible, and when there is limited time that is of course a challenge. So Tuesday night has also become the night for a creative way to get a decent meal on the table in 30 minutes. Enter the Francheezie.
If you’re unfamiliar it turns out you’re not alone, much to my surprise. Googling the word leads to just a handful of references, one or two recipes, and a number of comments such as “In Chicago, you can find…” I had no idea the Francheezie was a local phenomenon, as it was something of a staple in my house growing up. It turns out even transplants to Chicago aren’t widely aware of it as it isn’t the sort of food adults would seek out–I emailed a friend, a New Yorker living in Portland, who spent 7 years in Chicago, about how one might dress up a Francheezie and he responded, “What the hell is a francheezie?”
The short answer is a hot dog, sliced open the long way, filled with cheese, and wrapped in bacon. At a hot dog stand in Chicago it would be deep fried, while at home it is often cooked in a pan or roasted in the oven. From there, you put it in a bun and top it, often the way you’d top a hot dog.
I wanted to kick it up, however, and make a grown-up Francheezie. It needed all of the smoky, gooey goodness of the version from when I was 10 years-old, but have a kick and layers of flavor that makes it work for the little ones at your table, and the ones who used to be little. Now, if someone ever asks you what the hell a francheezie is, you can answer, “It’s good.”
A Grown-up Francheezie
8 all-beef hot dogs (I used Ashland Veal Weiners which resemble a small kielbasa, but Vienna, Oscar Meyer, Hebrew National, etc, will all do nicely)
16 stripes of bacon
8 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thin and diced
8 sausage buns (The larger sausage/brat style is best, but hot dog buns are fine)
1 cup of red cabbage, shredded
1 cup of white onion, chopped fine
1) Make a long, deep slit down the side of each sausage. You want to form a pocket, so leave the ends intact and take care not to slice all the way through. Stuff 1/8 of the cheese into each pocket.
2) Wrap each sausage in two pieces of bacon. Stretch the bacon a bit for a tight wrap as this will help to contain the melted cheese.
3) Set each wrapped sausage onto a baking dish or rimmed sheet, cheese side up, and place into a pre-heated 400 F degree oven. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until you can see the cheese bubbling up and the bacon is browned to your liking. If you like crisp bacon, do the last five minutes under the broiler, checking them every minute so you don’t burn them.
4) Spread the inside of each bun with with BBQ sauce on one side and the mustard on the other. Place a wrapped sausage into each bun, and top with onion, red cabbage, and a sprinkle of celery salt. Serve hot.
Three ways to up your game with the grown-up francheezie:
* Instead of cooking in the oven, grill them over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes per side, until the bacon is beginning to crisp and the cheese is melted.
* Use smoked cheddar in place of the regular sharp cheddar. Combined with the grilling, this gets an even smokier flavor. (If you really want to smoke this up, grill roast these with woodchips on the charcoal, but that’s a post for another day)
* Punch up the red cabbage and onions by making bread-and-butter jalapenos, and chopping them into a red cabbage/red onion mix. Pour in 1/4 cup of the jalapeno juice and mix to create a killer red vinegar slaw as a topping.