Baseball and Bad Food. Batter up!
Spring, the time of year when the parsley-like scent of freshly cut grass is overwhelmed by the pungent aroma of hot dogs floating in a pool of steaming water and the motor drone of lawnmowers is punctuated by the crack of a fastball against a gleaming maple baseball bat. Baseball season – the season of mustard-drenched hot dogs, CrackerJax, rubber cheese nachos dotted with soggy pickled jalapeños, and garlic fries so potent in their stench there’s no need to swallow one to taste it. Terrible food and beer in flimsy plastic cups, what isn’t there to love about baseball season?
My interest in baseball has always been lukewarm at best. I couldn’t care less about stats, couldn’t name more than one or two current top players, and certainly not a local one. The last Diamondback I actually had an interest in was Danny Bautista, and that was perhaps due more to his delightful merengue at-bat music than whatever else he may have done while there. I could for a time keep score of a game, greatly enjoying any time I could fill the box with a backwards K (striking out while looking). I’m perhaps more interested in how good the player looks in their uniform, or how entertaining they are as a player than actually how good they are.
Really, I am a superficial baseball fan, and if nothing exciting has happened by the third inning, and as a rule, nothing exciting ever happens by this time, the search for food begins–a search guided by a hopeless optimism that the food will be somehow better than it was the previous season, that the nacho cheese will take just a little bit longer to coagulate, the hot dog will be less shriveled, and the sauerkraut less dry. But every year things remain the same, yet every year I still bite into that overpriced hot dog while a plastic tray of nachos slowly solidifies while perched on my knee. Perhaps it would be better if I paid more attention to the game than my stomach or enjoy my baseball at home where I can build something better than our average hot dog.
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound tomatoes, medium diced
½ small white or yellow onion, small diced
1 cup water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2-4 dry red chiles, such as California or New Mexico
2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 hot dog rolls
1 tablespoon softened butter
Butter leaf lettuce
1 avocado, sliced
1 mango, sliced,
Place the shrimp, panko crumbs, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper into a food processor and puree until smooth. Form the paste into 16 even portions and roll smooth. Dampen your hands slightly when forming the shrimp balls to ease the process. When finished, place them in the freezer to help them set.
Soak the dry chiles in boiling water until soft, approximately 15-20 minutes. Puree them, along with ⅓ of the diced tomatoes, Mexican oregano and distilled vinegar until completely smooth. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, seasoning with some of the salt, and cook until transluscent. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute or two. Add the diced tomatoes, cook until slightly softened, adding the chile-tomato puree. Bring to a simmer and add the shrimp balls. Simmer gently until cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and gently mix it in. Check seasoning, and adjust as necessary.
To serve, lightly coat the inside of a hot dog bun with butter and heat in a low oven, 250°F, until just warm. Line the bun with butter leaf lettuce, scoop some of the sauce onto the bun, topping with four shrimp balls. Top with more sauce, and garnish with sliced avocado, mango, picked cilantro.