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Chef Sun Aug 10 2008
Now that my heart is no longer aflutter and my breathing has returned to normal, I'm clear-headed enough to write about the encased meat sandwich that lured me to Hot Doug's on Friday. Kevin Haas won Time Out Chicago's contest to have his hot dog made and sold at Hot Doug's. It admittedly wasn't the sandwich I voted for, but I was delighted to try it anyway. I love the concept of combining a variety of different ethnic cuisines into one meal. And it almost works really well. But only almost.
The chorizo sausage is one of the best I've had. It packs a lot of flavor and spice in each bite, and it's not so greasy that you end up with orange juice running down your chin which was nice. Fat may add flavor, but too much fat flattens the flavor and ruins the taste. The spiciness of the chorizo was expected and enjoyable for the first couple of bites, but the spice of the sausage combined with the chili mustard quickly became overpowering and drowned out the flavors of the Asian pear chutney and the paneer. Which was a shame, because the chutney was heavenly and made only better by the chili mustard. The paneer was fried, which I hoped would add a little flavor to an otherwise bland, but soothing, cheese. Unfortunately, the paneer was cold when it was placed on top of the sausage, and served in large chunks, so they mostly fell off while I was eating. If the cheese had been in smaller pieces, so they stayed on top of the sandwich, or if the cheese had been soft and melty so it stuck to the sausage, I think the paneer would have provided the cooling sensation that it provides in many Indian dishes.
So while I had a very, very enjoyable lunch and would even end up ordering this sandwich again, I'd probably split it with someone because by the end of the sandwich all I tasted was the chorizo. Thankfully the ingestion of duck fat fries (which are so amazingly good) provided enough grease to counteract some of the spice so I could eat without sniffling while sitting just a few feet from Anthony Bourdain. Maybe I'm not done swooning after all.