Today is National New Jersey Day. The state motto is Liberty and Prosperity. Originally, I wanted to accomplish two things to honor New Jersey, the 3rd state to join the Union. The first was to share some of her history and high points. The second was to create an awesome New Jersey Style Supper, complete with all the trimmings. In my research, I was sidetracked, so we’ll have a fun adventure instead.
Call me ignorant of the east coast, I know very little about that part of the country aside from Hallmark Movies of romance in Vermont, New Year’s Eve in Time Square and that autumn in the New England states will take your breath away. So imagine my surprise, when scrolling through photographs of the New Jersey shores that I came upon Lucy the Elephant. Wow – had to know more.
It seems that back in 1881, the U.S. Patent Office granted James Lafferty a patent giving him the exclusive rights to make, use or sell animal-shaped buildings for seventeen years. To give the rights to a single individual tells me there wasn’t a high demand for animal-shaped buildings at the time. Initially named “Elephant Bazaar”, Lucy was the first of two Elephant Buildings. The other was the Elephantine Colossus, built in 1885 as part of Coney Island. The second was nearly twice the size of Lucy, although the designs are nearly identical. It held a cigar store in one leg and a diorama in the other, with hotel rooms within the elephant proper, giving panoramic sea views. The Elephant Hotel on Coney Island was actually built before the Statue of Liberty, so it was the first thing immigrants saw until it burned down in 1896.
Lucy still stands in Atlantic City. She was built to provide potential real estate customers aerial views of land parcels from her carriage that Lafferty hoped to sell along the Jersey Shores. Through the first half of the 20th century, Lucy served as a restaurant, business offices and tavern. By the 1960s, Lucy had fallen into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition. A group of citizens, the Save Lucy Committee, were given a 30-day deadline to move the edifice or pay for its demolition. Through various fund-raising events, Lucy was saved. On July 20, 1970 she was moved about 100 yards west-southwest to a city owned lot and was completely refurbished. The repairs took 4 years to complete, during which time Lucy’s doors were closed to the public. In 1976, Lucy was designated a National Historic Landmark. Most recently, in July 2016, Lucy announced her candidacy for President of the United State at the celebration of her 135th birthday. Today tours are available for what is dubbed the oldest roadside attraction in America.
The other interesting thing I learned about New Jersey is that these people are very serious about their Italian Hot Dogs. And they take great pride in this.
New Jersey Italian Hot Dogs are traditionally served on pizza bread, topped with bell peppers and onions. Okay, so the pizza bread is an interesting twist. But the New Jersey Italian Hot Dog doesn’t stop there. Nope, the dog is fried, cut into chunks and served with fried potatoes. We aren’t talking potatoes on the side. These crisp golden spuds go right in the pizza bread along with everything else. Then it gets a good squirt of mustard.
If I ever get to the Jersey Shores, I want to sit in Lucy’s shadow while dining on an Italian Hot Dog. In the meantime, I saw let’s make these right at home.
New Jersey Italian Hot Dog on Pizza Bread
1-1/2 cups Warm Water
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
4-1/2 cups Flour
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
2 teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Roasted Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon coarse-ground Black Pepper
1 packet granulated Dry Yeast
2-4 additional tablespoons Olive Oil, for preparing baking pans
To prepare the dough, place all of the items in pan of bread machine in the order listed,except for the yeast. Using your index finger, make a small indentation (“a well”) on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer. Place the yeast into the indentation. Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug the machine in, press the “Select” button, choose the “Pizza Dough” cycle, then press “Start”. You will have 2 pounds of dough, ready to use, in about 55 minutes.
While the dough is rising in the machine, using a pastry brush or a paper towel, generously oil two 15 by 10-inch rectangular baking pans with the additional olive oil.
Remove dough from bread machine pan and divide it in half. The best way to do this is with a kitchen scale. The dough will be slightly sticky, yet very manageable.
Form each piece of dough into a ball and place it in the center of an oiled pan. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a hole through the center. Using your fingertips, form into a 6-inch round ball of dough with a 1-inch round hole in the center. Set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour-1 hour 15 minutes. Dough will be about 7-1/2 inch round with a 1/2-inch hole in the center. One-at-a-time, bake each pizza bread on center rack of 350 degree oven, 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Please serve these the same day they are baked.
Italian Hot Dogs
2 lb Gold Potatoes
1 large Yellow Onion
2 Green Bell Peppers
12 tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
8 (1/4-lb) All-Beef Franks
1 tablespoon Sea Salt
2 teaspoons dried Oregano
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
Yellow or Deli-Brown Mustard as desired
Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Cover in water until ready to cook. Peel and thinly slice onion into slivers, set aside. Stem, core and thinly slice bell pepper into strips, set aside.
Heat 8 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet over 250 degrees. Add the hot dogs, increase the temperature to 260-275 degrees and fry/saute, using a pair of tongs to keep turning them as they cook, until they are golden on all sides. This will take 10-12 minutes. Remove the hot dogs to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside (they’ll go back in to warm up later).
Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the skillet and stir 1 tablespoon of salt into the oil. Increase the skillet heat to 275-300 degrees and add the diced potatoes. Fry/saute the potatoes, using a large, slotted spatula to keep turning them as they cook, until they are tender through to the center and nicely browned. This will take 10-12 minutes, or a bit longer, depending upon the size of your dice. Using the spatula, remove the potatoes to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. It’s really hard not to eat these salty morsels — show some will-power!
Add the last 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, followed by the onions and green bell peppers. Sprinkle the oregano and pepper flakes over all. Return skillet temperature to 260-275 degrees and fry/saute these veggies, using the spatula to keep them moving around in the pan as they cook, until they are crunch-tender (or too your liking). For me, this takes 8-10 minutes.
Add the potatoes and toss to combine them with the onions and bell peppers. Do not cook for any amount of time, just toss ’em in.
Place the hot dogs on top of all and allow them to reheat, about 1-1 1/2 minutes. Turn skillet off, slice the bread, slice the dogs and heap on your toppings!