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Hot Dogs International!
The best of Summertime 'Dogs!!!
The World's Greatest 'Hot Dog Dishes'

By David Rosengarten
The Rosengarten Report
July, 2004

When it comes to dressing up your dog, anything really does go! There is no science, there is no 'better and worse,' there are no rules that must be respected. During this tasting, I tried hard to find some dressing-up theme that follows good logic.....and came up only with lots of great, seemingly random possibilities.

I can offer some help, though, for your dog-dressing decisions--by listing some leading hot-dog traditions, combinations that have stood the test of time. The following list of regional and international 'hot dog dishes' comes with recipes, and addresses, that'll enable you to mimic these great dishes at home. Just remember that all hot dogs are already cooked when you buy them, needing some fire just for aesthetic reasons--and that the hot dog world endlessly debates whether direct fire methods like grilling, or water methods like boiling, produce a better-tasting dog. Me? I love 'em both ways--but if you have a dog with amazing snap, nothing emphasizes that crunch like a dunk in hot water.

The New York Hot Dog
The pushcarts on the streets of Manhattan usually offer you boiled beef franks, for which you have your choice of two warm toppings.

One classic way to go is warm sauerkraut on the dog, mustard on top of that.

The other way--one that has grown enormously in popularity--is a warm tomato-ey onion mixture over the dog. (I also like to top that mixture with a little mustard.)

Here's a great recipe that reproduces the 'street onions' of Manhattan:

New York City Street Onions for Hot Dogs
I love making this at home--since the steam-table stuff on the street is usually diluted, and usually over-cooked from standing around. If you like that street quality, by all means add water to the following recipe and cook longer--but I like my onions just a tad fresher and tastier than they are on the street.

Makes enough for 12-16 hot dogs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 firmly packed cups of thinly sliced onions (about 2 large or 4 medium onions)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
1 tablespoon flour
8 ounces canned, smooth tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch ground cloves

1. Place the vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and the garlic. Cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 20 minutes the onions should be softened but not browned.

2. Add the flour, and stir well to distribute evenly among the onion slices. Cook for 1 minute, stirring to make sure the flour doesn't burn. Add the tomato sauce, water, corn syrup, vinegar, bay leaves, mustard, cayenne and cloves. Stir well to blend. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cover, and cook very slowly for 45 minutes. If the mixture has become too thick, add a little water. Serve on New York-style hot dogs.

The Rochester White Hot:
In Rochester, NY, and throughout the Western New York State area, a specialty is made of White Hots--white-colored hot dogs, sort of like brats in a hot-dog size, cooked on a griddle. To make a reasonable facsimile, you can use brats. Or you can get the real thing, the Natural Casing White Hot Dog, by contacting www.zweigles.com

Now, once you have your griddled White Hots, you're going to have to do them justice by serving them in the Rochester style. As any member of the Kodak family can tell you, you need to put that dog on a bun, top it with mustard, chopped raw onions.....and a few tablespoons of meat sauce! Yes, it's a little odd--a thin, pebbly, spicy meat sauce on top of the dog. But it has its own wacky logic, and a White Hot wouldn't be a White Hot without it. So here's how to make the sauce:

Meat Sauce for Rochester White Hots
Makes enough for 8 hot dogs
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 tablespoon minced onions, plus extra for garnishing dogs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of crushed thyme leaves
1 1/4 cups water

1. Place the beef, 1 tablespoon of the onions, the paprika, black pepper, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, salt and thyme leaves in a small saucepan. Pour water over all, and mix well. Place saucepan over low heat, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours; the mixture should be very slowly simmering during that time.

2. Remove cover from saucepan. Simmer very slowly for another 1 1/2 hours. When the time is up, the meat sauce should be a thin gravy, a little watery, not dried out.

The Chicago Hot Dog
Now we come to not only one of the best hot dog dishes--but to one of the grandest traditions in all of gastronomic America! And it takes a lot for me to say that--because, as a native New Yorker, I grew up with a kind of antipathy to 'stuff' on my dogs and burgers and sandwiches. However, that prejudice is softening fast--and it was the magnificent Chicago Hot Dog that really made me see the error of my ways.

OK, here goes: First you cook a Chicago Hot Dog. Griddle or boil? You see it both ways in Chicago--but I prefer to boil the dogs for this dish.

So.....you place the cooked dog on a poppy-seed-hot-dog-bun. It has to be poppy seed! (You can trick up your own by lightly steaming some hot dog buns, then sprinkling poppy seeds on their sides when they're still moist from the steaming.) You put yellow mustard on the dog. You put flourescent green relish on. You add slices of tomatoes, and short hot green pickled peppers that in Chicago are called 'sport peppers.' You add chopped onions. You lay a long, thin slice of dill pickle alongside the dog. You sprinkle all with celery salt, and you wonder how, with inspiration like this, the Cubs can have gone so long without winning a championship.

The Kansas City Dog
Here's some intriguing food history. The Reuben Sandwich is usually thought of as a New York invention, but a man in Nebraska named Reuben Kolakofsky claimed credit for it. Is there a preference for Swiss cheese and sauerkraut in that part of the country? It certainly seems so when you behold the Kansas City Dog: a magnificent wiener with melted Swiss and sauerkraut. If you want to be ultra-Kansas-City-authentic, make sure to serve it on a sesame-seed roll.

The Corn Dog
I love this usually-maligned thing, the staple of many a Midwest state fair--as long as the batter is light and, after deep-frying, the coating's not greasy. Here's a great recipe for it:

State Fair Corn Dogs Makes 6 corn dogs
1 quart vegetable oil for frying, plus 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for dredging hot dogs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
6 hot dogs (I would choose a plump, New York-Chicago dog, like Usinger's)
6 sticks (see NOTE)

1. In a medium saucepan (it must be wide enough to accommodate several hotdogs frying at once), heat oil to 375 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, sugar, dry mustard, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg and the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. Whisk wet ingredients into dry, whisking only until lumps are gone.

3. Pat hot dogs dry with paper towels. Place flour for dredging on a plate. Roll a hot dog in the flour, tapping off excess. Using a fork or tongs, dip floured hot dog in batter. Drop into hot oil. Fry about 3 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. You can fry 2 or 3 at once, but let the oil return to 375 degrees F between batches. While still hot, skewer each dog with a stick, pushing the stick about halfway up into dog. Serve immediately with ketchup and mustard.

NOTE: Your Corn Dog stick has to be solid enough to support the dog without bending or breaking. Bamboo skewers, for example, may not be firm enough. I have found the perfect Corn Dog stick right in my kitchen drawer: the chopstick. The one you choose should be a few inches longer than the hot dog, and should have a pointy end to facilitate pushing the stick into the hot dog.

The Southern Slaw Dog
One of the great variations in the Southeast U.S. is the slaw dog. Associate Editor T.J. Robinson, who hails fromAsheville, North Carolina, raves about the version in his neck of the woods. A beef dog--best if it's a foot long--is boiled, and goes on a roll that fits it. Then you add any combo of mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise; T.J. likes all three. On top of that goes spicy, bean-less chili--particularly the Bunker Hill brand that T.J. buys in the supermarket. Then some chopped raw onions. And, to crown it all, the eponymous cole slaw--made, in Asheville, made with buttermilk, vinegar, sugar and mayo. Be sure to put on a wet suit before eating. You could simplify this thing a lot by just putting some yellow mustard and cole slaw on a dog; it still tastes great.

The Mexican Dog
On my trips to Mexico I'd never had a hot dog--until last year when a friend who was showing me around said 'What? You've never had a hot dog in Mexico? They're fantastic!' And he was right.

The one that I tasted, from a roadside stand in the Guadaloupe Valley of Northern Baja, was a garlicky beef dog (Sabrett or Nathan's would be great) that had been wrapped in bacon, and griddled until crisp on the outside. It was placed in a yellow-ish, eggy kind of roll (Martin's Potato Rolls, made in Chambersburg, PA, and widely distributed, would be ideal.) On went mustard, ketchup and mayo. On top of that went diced raw onions and diced raw tomatoes. On top of that went a fresh green salsa (see recipe below), topped by a few squirts of good bottled hot sauce.

Tomatillo Salsa
Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
3 medium-sized tomatillos, husked and chopped into 1/4 ' pieces
6 tablespoons roasted, peeled and chopped poblano chiles, or green bell pepper
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, veins and seeds removed, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (about 10 sprigs)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Season to taste with salt. If the salsa seems runny and wet, place in a colander and squeeze lightly to drain off excess liquid.

The Reykjavik Hot Dog
Well....it gets cold in Iceland, and you need a hot dog! On a trip last winter, I heard all the locals talking about hot dogs......so I, of course, couldn't rest until someone took me to the local hot dog stand. I'm glad someone did. The regular-looking hot dog bun got smeared first with a sweet red sauce, not unlike barbecue sauce. On top of that came the master stroke: a layer of crispy, crunchy fried onion bits (I think the Durkee's product out of the can would work perfectly.) The dog was laid on after that, then topped with yellow mustard on one side, and a 'remoulade sauce' on the other side (a green-tinged mayo.) To make the sauce, just add a little green relish to mayonnaise in a food processor and whizz it up. The crunch of the onion, alongside the creamy sauces, is fantastic!

The Swedish Hot Dog
There's one other great cold-weather variation that I'm aware of. In Sweden, they serve a steamed, bologna-like dog on a large, foldable flatbread called 'tunnbröd;' a good substitute in the U.S. would be a big-diameter, floppy flour tortilla. Before you put the dog on it, however, you must smear the bread with a very large quantity of hot and heavy mashed potatoes; don't go light on the spuds, for this is no light dish. The dog goes on top of the potatoes, followed by mustard, ketchup, green relish and dried dill. Roll it up; it all works beautifully together!

NOTE: Some Swedes take it one step further--to a place I've never wanted to visit. Believe it or not, the crowning touch, to some, on the hot dog I just described is.....a......blob of mayonnaise-y shrimp salad.

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