I’m a sucker for seasonal whimsy so Mummy Dogs, the Halloween riff on pigs in a blanket, have always been a guilty pleasure. They’re easy enough for kids to assemble, a savory snack amidst the sugar tsunami, and, let’s face it--pretty adorable. But, it wasn’t until I spied plump wagyu beef franks at the market that I considered putting these horrifying hot dogs front and center for our annual Halloween potluck (for both kids and adults alike). In addition to premium beef, a couple things elevate this recipe from the ordinary. Like all things in life, they’re better with cheese. Just wrap a square or round of your favorite variety around the frank before you begin wrapping it in dough bandages. Second, baking the Mummy Dogs in a covered grill allows the meat and dough to absorb the aromas of a charcoal fire (and results in a delicious crusty bits of crust and cheese). Finally, dipping the terrifyingly enticing results in barbecue sauce covered with a mustard web (see above confession RE seasonal whimsy) transports these campy perennial favorites to the meat lover’s table.

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Like others among her generation, my mother was raised with a fear of undercooked pork. The culprit, of course, was trichinosis, the food-borne illness caused by undercooked meat. To avoid the risk, folks were encouraged to cook pork to a temperature that eliminated risk of illness--as well as any porky joy at the table.

Mercifully, trichinosis (and a generation of dry, chewy meat) is extremely rare these days, and we’re able to choose from different varieties of pork, including heavily marbled heritage breeds like Berkshire (known as Korabuta in Japan) that are less likely to dry out and offer a rich, deeply satisfying pork flavor. You still need to cook meat to a safe internal temperature, but with the tricks, you don’t have to sacrifice texture.

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Paula: Welcome to my perfect beach house meal. Here’s the scene: you’ve scored an icy bag of gorgeous Gulf shrimp (from that market right on the water) and everyone is hungry after a day in the sun. Game plan: build a fire, make a cocktail, and season the shrimp simply (drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of Mediterranean herbs) so they’re ready to go by the time your coals are glowing red. (When you have great seafood, you want to do as little to it as possible, right?)

Scott: You’ve set the scene perfectly. On a recent trip to the Gulf coast, we ate our way through our share of the local harvest. I spent plenty of time on that trip shelling and deveining shrimp, so this “shell-on” recipe is a welcome addition to the menu for it’s quick turn-around.

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Paula: Promise me you won’t save this recipe for Game Day. Sure, loaded potato skins join nachos and chicken wings in the indulgent, deeply satisfying category of party fare. But they’re too delicious to be relegated to sporadic occasions. Deep down, don’t you want to eat crispy, seasoned shells topped with bacon, cheese, and sour cream once a week? At least?

Scott: Game Day and potato skins do certainly have a deep and soulful connection, but I must strongly concur that potato skins and their attendant toppings should not be relegated to any particular event or time of year. [Slowly draws open coat to reveal “Free the Skins!” t-shirt.]

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