I’ve been pretty jazzed about the Week 3 hot dog at the Blue Rooster Food Co. It comes to us from Chef Fred Eliot of Petite Jacqueline. Despite my all-too-infrequent visits to PJ, I’m absolutely in love with this place. Whether you’re there for a weekend brunch, a mid-week lunch, a nighttime dinner or one of their various special event meals, the ambiance always seems perfect. I’ve found the wait staff to be one of the best in Portland, and the food is consistently amazing, especially the criminally underrated French Attitude Burger, which I contend may be the best in the state.
Eliot’s contribution to the Chef Series—the French Connection—is a Blue Rooster hot dog topped with Raclette cheese, a cornichon & spring onion relish, foie gras mayo and fried shallots.
As a side note, I was first exposed to Raclette cheese a number of years ago while on a four week journey through Switzerland and Italy. After flying from Boston to Zurich, I took the train to the picturesque village of Lauterbrunnen, where I had my first meal at a Swiss restaurant. Feeling adventurous, I confidently declined the English-language menu that was offered to me. Instead, I studied the German-language menu for a good 20 minutes before deciding on a dish that I thought would be comparable to your typical chef’s board—a couple of meats and cheeses that I could pick away at over the course of an hour or two while enjoying a couple of glasses of wine. Needless to say, I was shocked when my waiter returned with a small plate of dried meat and several bowls of pickles, potatoes, onions… along with some sort of device from which he dispensed an impossibly large amount of hot, gooey, deliciously nutty-flavored Raclette cheese on to my plate. What’s more is that every time he sensed that I was beginning to put the smallest of dents in the food in front of me, he would return to dispense MORE cheese, MORE pickles, MORE potatoes, until I finally waved him off. It proved to be one of the highlights of my trip (which is saying a lot, since three weeks of it were spent in the culinary mecca that is Italy) and a dining experience which I’ll never forget.
(Largely as a consequence of this meal, I have always thought of Raclette exclusively as a Swiss cheese. But sure enough, a quick Google search confirms that France also produces and supplies Raclette. This same search suggests that French Raclettes tend to have a smoother texture and a more mild flavor, which may might be notable, as it pertains to my experience with the French Connection hot dog, as described below.)
Anyway, back to the French Connection. The buttery foie gras mayo and the crispy, fried shallots provided the hot dog with a “comfort food” feel, making it the type of thing I might try to replicate at home on some cold, rainy autumn day. Working my way through the sandwich, I consciously endeavoured to get a bit of onion and a bit of mayo in with each bite of the hot dog.
That said, the most dominant flavor—the Popeye Doyle of this sandwich, if you will—here was the spring onion and cornichon relish which had a sharp, slightly-astringent (albeit not to the point of being unpleasant) flavor. I found that I enjoyed the relish best when it was commingled with the the rich mayo (clearly the Alain Charnier in this scenario).
Weird analogies aside, if I had to offer up the smallest of criticisms about the French Connection hot dog, it would be that I wanted for the Raclette cheese to have more of a presence on this sandwich. Perhaps because of how easily it melts, or maybe because of the potency of the relish, or the differences between French Raclette and Swiss Raclette—or possibly it owes simply to the fact that my most significant previous encounter with raclette involved literally mountains of the stuff—the cheese seemed to be a bit player here when I wanted it to the the leading man.
Though I’m trying to limit my hot dog consumption to one per week, were I to re-order this hot dog in the future, I might offer to pony-up an extra dollar or two for a double-dose of that Raclette. Either way, the French Connection is a worthy and inventive addition to Blue Rooster’s Summer Chef Series and one worth trying for yourself.