Baseball great knocks one out of the park with cookbook

If you can stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Ron Sherman of Middletown has been a serious griller for the past 20 years. “In the summertime, I grill once or twice a week … in the the wintertime for special occasions — turkey for Thanksgiving, chicken, pork shoulder, anything that requires low and slow heat.”

His wife, Ildiko, volunteered him to assist me when I put out a notice on social media that I was looking for someone to help me try out a new recipe. She knew that her husband never wants to pass up an opportunity to cook outdoors.

“I was very excited about reviewing a recipe and getting a chance to cook out on the grill,” Ron Sherman said.

So this is how our adventure together went as we tested Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan’s recipe for Tex-Mex Taco Dogs, which combine tacos and hot dogs into one delightful concoction.

Q (Post). How many hot dogs have you grilled?

A (Sherman). A few hundred, usually at family gatherings when there are kids.”

Q. What’s your favorite tip for grilling?

A. Get to know the grill. They all have a different personality. They all have hot spots and cold spots. The temperature’s not always even. That’s why you have to move things around. I like to keep one side hot and the other not-so-hot.

Q. What’s your favorite tip for grilling dogs?

A. Put them on diagonally. Then as you roll them across the grill, they make spiral marks, which are very pretty. The visual appearance is part of the appeal.

Q. With this recipe, you have dogs, buns and taco shells. What is the most challenging part of grilling them together?

A. Getting them all done at the same time. The hot dogs take the longest, so I put them on first. That also gave me an indication of how hot the grill was. And when the hot dogs were halfway done, I put on the buns and shells until they were done. The buns took a little longer so I moved the hot dogs to a cooler spot while the buns cooked.

Q. What did you think of the taco dogs?

A. A great change of pace from a normal hot dog. The different textures and flavors, the toasty taste of the buns, the hyper-crunchy taco shells, the coolness of the fixings, along with the spiciness of the sauce — were very delicious. The sauce is absolutely awesome. It’s creamy and spicy. It would be good on a lot of different things. I can see myself using this sauce on breakfast eggs, a chicken sandwich — it’s like a new condiment. Even with tortilla chips as a dip.

Q. And what do you like the most about this recipe?

A. The grilling. It’s hot, it’s outside and it uses fire.

The book: “The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes from a Texas Kitchen” by Nolan Ryan; 172 pages, $25. Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

What you get: When it comes to beef and grilling, baseball great Nolan Ryan covers all the bases: hamburgers and hot dogs; T-bones, rib eyes and strip steaks; tenderloin and sirloin; roasts and Sunday specials; beef ribs; brisket, flank steak and flat iron steak; salads and sides; and desserts. Plus, Ryan offers his best tips for grilling.

In his own words: In collaborating with Cristobal Vazquez (“Chef Cris”), executive chef at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington,” Ryan writes, “The recipes we came up with are in some ways just the starting point on a journey of southwestern flavor: our goal is to liberate any chef to make good choices based on personal preferences, what’s in the pantry, what’s within the budget and who is on the guest list for brunch, lunch or dinner.”

What we made:

TEX-MEX TACO DOG (Page 38)

8 all-beef hot dogs

8 hot dog buns

8 hard taco shells

1 recipe Taco Sauce (recipe follows)

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded

2 cups Pico de Gallo (Page 34)

8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sliced pickled jalapeños

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup Salsa Roja (recipe follows)

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grill grates.

2. Slit the hot dogs lengthwise, halfway through, and grill them for 6 to 8 minutes, turning frequently.

3. Toast the buns and the taco shells on the grill.

4. Place a taco shell inside each bun and a hot dog inside the taco shell, and top with taco sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese and jalapeños.

5. Serve with sour cream and salsa rona on the side.

TACO SAUCE

Makes about 3 cups

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 pound ground chuck (80-20 meat-to-fat ratio)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup tomato juice

1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat and cook the onions until golden brown. Add the ground chuck, stirring until crumbly and then add the chili powder, paprika, salt and garlic powder. Cook, stirring until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

2. Drain off the excess fat and add the tomato juice. Reduce the heat to low and cook the meat, stirring until the juices almost dry up.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

SALSA ROJA (Roasted Tomato Salsa)

8 large Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

4 jalapeño peppers, stemmed and halved lengthwise

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 small white onion, cut into chances

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil

1/2 cup chicken broth

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (leaves only)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Spread out the tomato, jalapenos, garlic cloves and onion chunks on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss gently with your hands to mix.

3. Roast the vegetables until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

4. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender and add the chicken broth, lime juice and adobo sauce. Blend on low speed for 3 to 5 seconds. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper and blend for another 3 to 5 seconds. The salsa should be chunky so don’t over blend.

5. Serve the salsa hot or cover and refrigerate to serve cold.

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