Sure, the hot dog is considered a very low cut of meat, regardless of whether it’s made from beef, chicken, pork, or a combination. But that’s part of the reason it’s so popular. It’s affordable. Plus, you can cook at numerous ways, and pile darn near anything except chocolate cake on it.
I love hot dogs! Most of the time I get good quality dogs (kosher beef are excellent, by the way), but I still pick up the budget packs from time to time. I’ll boil them, nuke them, fry them, grill them, burn them over a fire. No toppings at all, or piled so high I can barely get my mouth around the result. I’m easy; if it’s a dog and a bun, I’m good to go!
I remember a Boy Scout camping trip when I was a teenager. We were hiking the C&O Canal in sections. There was a shoulder emblem you got and everything. On one particular weekend of hiking, a bunch of the dads got brand new aluminum trash cans and took them to the Saturday overnight camp site. They built fires under each of them and dumped gallons of water and hundreds of hot dogs into them.
When we all arrived, tired, grimy, sweaty and famished, the hot dogs were ready to go. There were enough bas of buns to go around that a big group of older guys (including me) grabbed a bag each and gathered around one of the cans. It seemed as if it was only a minute when we were all finishing our eighth hot dog and grabbing for another bag of buns. I wasn’t even using condiments. Bread. Meat. Done. I need another.
After the second 8-pack, several of the boys dropped out, but not me. About half of us were left to dive into Bag #3. A few didn’t make it to the end, and only two of us opened Bag #4. By then, we’d had TWO DOZEN hot dogs each! My opponent made it through two more hot dogs for 26 total. Relying on pride and stubbornness alone, I managed to pack down one more dog and was crowned Hot Dog Champion by my peers for eating a grand total of 27 hot dogs! The fathers called me something far different!
Boiled on a bun gave way in later years to microwaved on a bun, often with nothing to go with it. When I have time, I’ll fry the dogs up in a bit of butter, then toast the buns. I’ve been known to put mustard and pickle slices on my dogs, and I have a chili dog recipe I love. Then, of course, there are dogs grilled to perfection over a good bed of coals. And when I want to let my Inner Neanderthal out to play, I’ll opt for dogs over an open fire. To my mind, there’s nothing better than being out in the wild, roasting meat over an open fire under the starlight. Talk about Heaven!
One of the really cool things about hot dogs is the fact that you can turn the lowly sausage into masterpiece creations by adding your favorite toppings. If you’re toppings are cool enough, others will start doing dogs your way. And if enough others follow your lead, you could end up with a dog that everyone knows by name, and maybe even associates with your area. That’s how most regional hot dogs got their start.
Below are several of the different ways I’ve seen hot dogs prepared. It’s not hard to recreate any of them, so have some fun trying out new ideas. Let’s take a look at what we have:
The Empire State serves up its beef hot dog boiled or cooked on a griddle, then topped with mustard, sauerkraut and sweet red onions.
Influenced by its south-of-the-border neighbors, the Lone Star State enjoys its Tex-Mex hot dog grilled or griddled and topped with chunky salsa, Monterey Jack cheese and sliced jalapeños.
Named for the area’s famed desert, the Sonoran hot dog is a beef frank wrapped in bacon, then cooked on a griddle and piled with pinto beans, grilled onions, chopped tomatoes, mayonnaise or sour cream, mustard and salsa verde.
Kansas City Dog
In the City of Fountains, a hot dog is cooked on a griddle, sandwiched in a sesame-seed bun and topped with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. Call this the Reuben of hot dogs.
The Windy City likes its beef hot dog cooked on a griddle, set in a poppy-seed bun, slathered with mustard, and garnished with chopped white onion, sweet relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers (small hot peppers) and celery salt. This is one of my favorite “lots-o-toppings” dogs.
Nicknamed the Dragged Through the Garden Hot Dog, Georgia’s favorite griddled frankfurter is covered with coleslaw.
California is a big, spread-out state, so sometimes it’s hard for them all to agree on a single idea. There are tons of ways you’ll find dogs served here, including a burrito/hot dog mashup that puts the sausages in a flour tortilla along with chili and pastrami. Called the Oki Dog, this one actually comes from Okinowa, hence its name.
A version you can get from street vendors in LA and San Francisco is the Downtown Dog – a Mexican-style hot dog wrapped in bacon, then topped with onions, jalapenos, bell peppers, mustard, ketchup and salsa.
Street vendors in Los Angeles also serve the “Downtown Dog” or “Danger Dog” a Mexican-style bacon-wrapped hot dog with grilled onions, jalapeños, bell peppers, mustard, ketchup and salsa as condiments.
Say Coney Island and people immediately think of New York. Oddly enough, though, it’s in Michigan that you’ll find Coney Islands – restaurants the specialize in Coney Dogs, as hot dogs are called around here. The ingredients are quite specific: a hot dog made of beef and pork in a natural casing, nestled in a steamed bun, then topped with chili (no beans), diced yellow onion and yellow mustard. Detroit-style offers a runnier chili, while Flint-style is a thicker chili.
New Jersey Dogs
There are two main Jersey styles, the first being the Potato Dog, which includes stewed diced potatoes combined with spicy mustard, the spooned on top of a spicy hot dog. the Newark (or Italian) dog is deep fried, the popped into a pocket formed in a quarter of a pizza crust. Mustard, fried onions and peppers go in next, then topped off with crispy, fried potatoes.
Down here, they add chili, cole slaw, onions and, sometimes, mustard.
Very similar in concept to Cincinnati Chili, these hot dogs are topped with chili (no beans), cheese and onions. You can also add some mustard for extra kick.
Rhode Island Dogs
These dogs are made from a small, thin frankfurter made of veal and pork, thus giving it a different taste from a traditional hot dog made of beef. On top of that goes a special regional version of Chili, which is then covered with finely chopped onions, celery salt, and yellow mustard.
In Seattle, they split the dog before grilling, then topped with cream cheese and grilled onions.
This is my chili dog. An all-beef hot dog is pan fried or grilled over open flame, then put in a toasted bun. Each side of the bun gets a pickle slice (dill!), then comes the chili. Over that I sprinkle some chipped onions and a bit of Parmesan cheese. No one has ever turned down a second dog!
Now you have 14 different ways to dress up your dogs. Obviously, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other ways to fix them, and WhoNose how many different toppings you could use. But this is a good, strong start.
My advice is to get a bunch of hot dogs, buns and toppings and try them all out at a hot dog party with a bunch of friends. You can all try different styles and decide which you like best. And, of course, this would be a great way to
Play with your food!
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