This could be The Next Big Thing. I can picture it already: the smiling NYC street vendor takes a spicy Moroccan sausage-on-a-stick off the grill, dips it in falafel batter, and deep-fries it right on the spot. He hands it to his anxiously awaiting customer, who blows on it for a moment, takes that first bite… and has to steady himself on a nearby parking meter as he becomes weak in the knees from sheer pleasure!
Like the New York Lottery ads used to say, “Hey, you never know…”
The idea came as a result of thinking about corn dogs, i.e., how ridiculously delicious they are (I’d never had one before moving to the South; so many wasted years!) but also, sadly, how alarmingly bad they are for you. If Fettuccine Alfredo is, as someone once famously referred to it, “heart attack on a plate”, then corn dogs are arteriosclerosis on a stick. Still, they are awfully good, and I’d had it in the back of my mind to work on some healthier variations.
So I found myself one evening with a package of beautiful ground lamb in one hand, a box of falafel mix in the other, and the proverbial light bulb over my head. I was so intrigued by the idea that I had to make it immediately. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right sticks for the task (only thin bamboo skewers), nor did I have enough oil for deep frying. Dead end, you say? Not likely.
So, the full-sized, deep-fried version of my bound-to-be-famous-someday Falafel Dogs will have to wait because, impatience being the mother of compromise, I used what I had available and made a very tasty, shallow-fried, appetizer version.
You can use any Moroccan merguez recipe for these. My merguez recipe below is not as spicy as most, and I left the traditional cilantro out (I made a cilantro/yogurt dipping sauce instead) and added a touch of sweetness with the dried apricots (golden raisins would be nice too) and a note of astringency with the celery leaves. Also, I used Fantastic Foods’ falafel mix, but I think any other mix should work just fine.
Here’s a photo of the Mini Falafel Dogs With Creamy Cilantro Yogurt Dip below.
1 box falafel mix (I used a 10 oz box)
2 eggs, beaten
2 lb ground lamb
2 or 4 inner stalks of celery with leaves, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
3 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 Tbsp cumin powder
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp cayenne
32 short wooden skewers, or 16 long skewers cut in half
Oil for frying
Prepare falafel mix according to package directions, with the addition of the two eggs. Set aside.
In large bowl, mix together the next 13 ingredients (lamb through cayenne). Divide the mixture into eighths, and form 4 small cylinders out of each eighth (for a total of 32). Insert a skewer into each sausage and grill or broil until just done. Allow the sausages to cool a bit while you heat up the oil to the temperature recommended for the falafel mix. You’ll need at least half an inch of oil to shallow-fry them.
When you’re ready, add a little additional water to the falafel mix to get a very thick batter consistency. Mixes vary, so you will have to eyeball this; start with a couple of tablespoons and take it from there. If you accidentally thin it too much, add a little plain flour to fix it.
Take one of the sausages and swirl it into the batter, trying to get a good thick coating. If it’s not adhering well, try dusting the sausage with a little flour first. Again, mixes vary so you’ll have to see what works best for you.
Fry a few at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pan or you’ll lower the temperature of the oil too much and your falafel dogs will turn out greasy). Cook until nicely browned, turning once. Drain on paper towels.
Serve plain or with a dipping sauce. A slightly thinned mango chutney would be nice, or you can make an easy yogurt sauce in a food processor by mincing together one clove (or more) fresh garlic and a small handful of cilantro leaves, then mix in a cup of plain yogurt, half a teaspoon of ground coriander, a pinch (or more) of salt, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of cayenne.
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