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Volume 41 Issue 15 • August 18-24, 2011
now in our 41th season

To the Dogs

by Jenn Farmer - Chef and Food Fancier

When it gets really hot outside, and at the end of the day I don’t want to cook dinner.  Then I realize it is August and no one else wants to cook either (the restaurants have lines out the door!).  I turn to the grill and find simple things to throw on it.  Lately I have enjoyed traditional outdoor, in-the-hand delights.  Red hots, wieners, rippers, frankfurters, sausages, Coney’s, durgers, franks, white hots, snappers, and even (gasp..) tofu dogs, are back in style.  Quick, for a snack or a meal, the hot dog has long been a United States staple, right up there with apple pie.  How do you like your dog? Grilled, griddled, boiled, fried, steamed, broiled, baked, or even in the microwaved?  Next important question, how do you like them cooked?  Just heated through, with a crisp outer skin, or even, like my dear mom, burnt to a crisp?  Now we get to the good part, what is your favorite condiment?  For me personally it depends on the brand of hot dog, and my mood.  I could go on for hours about the different dogs out there, so I will just highlight some of the more famous of the summer street meats.  

I spent a lot of time in Chicago as a youth, and the street vendors have all sorts of great sausage and toppings.  One of the classics is the Maxwell Street Polish.  It is a Polish sausage that is fried or grilled and placed on a bun.  If that wasn’t delicious enough, they add grilled onions, mustard, and sport peppers to it.  Sport peppers are Chile de Arbol, that have been cooked up, and are a bit spicy, but not over the top. 

Also popular is the Chicago-Style Dog.  It is a Vienna beef dog, on a poppy seed hot dog roll.  Don’t stop yet, it’s time for toppings.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  the order the toppings are placed on the dog is crucial to getting all the flavors in every bite, they take it seriously!  First yellow mustard, green relish, fresh white onions chopped, two tomato wedges, a kosher pickle spear, two sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt.  This hotdog is highly addicting and truly the epitome of comfort and gourmet food.  You can definitely duplicate this dog at home, but if you are in Chi-town, tell them to “drag it through the garden,” you will sound like you have done this before, and you will get the works on the dog, in the proper order!

In New York, there are all sorts of great hot dogs, but the favorites are Nathans, Hebrew National, and Sabretts.  Nathans is traditionally served with spicy brown mustard, sauerkraut, and griddled onions.  The Sabrett is served with mustard, sauerkraut, and sweet onion sauce.  The balance of the three really makes these garlicky dawgs something special.  Unfortunately the onion sauce recipe is a secret, but there are several great recipes I think are just as good, and some better than the original.  Here is one of them. 

Sabrett Style Onion Relish

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 red onions peeled  and sliced thin and chopped up a bit
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1/2 a teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4cup crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the sliced onions and garlic until the onions are soft, but not browned.  Mix the water, cornstarch, tomato paste, and syrup together, and then add to the pan.  Bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about half an hour.  Add the vinegar and simmer for about 20 more min (add a little water if necessary to prevent sticking.  Taste and season if necessary.  Makes enough for 4-6 Sabrett’s  dogs.

Going out west?  Pinks are the most famous dogs in Hollywood.  Pinks has been in the same location since 1939.  It still serves its legendary chili dog, among other newer spins on the hot dog.  It has lots of famous personality photos, and even has several dogs with celebrity names.  I love their chili dog, but they have one called America the Beautiful dog that contains a jalapeno dog, pastrami, bacon, lettuce, and tomato, that I sometimes have dreams about. 

Tucson, AZ has the Sonoran, a very famous dog.  Wrap a beef dog in bacon, fry it on a griddle until the bacon is crisp and throw it on a bolillo roll, add mayo, mustard, ketchup, pinto beans, cotijo cheese, chopped onions, tomatoes, and green jalapeno salsa.  That is a meal I want to eat over and over again. 

Back to the East Coast and the famous Maine Red Snapper, a tasty hot dog that is red—actually neon red—in color.  Other greats are Detroit Coney Island Dog with chili; onions, sweet relish and mustard, and other than the hot dog have nothing to do with Coney Island.  Rhode Island has its famous meat sauce and onion weenie called the “New York System,” which is not eaten in New York.  Connecticut and New York also have the Texas Dog (again not ever eaten in Texas),  also delicious, with bbq sauce, and cole slaw.

Unfortunately I could go on and on about all the sorts of frankfurters out on the market, and all the toppings.  The list is endless.  Please don’t be offended if I forgot your favorite, I have left a lot of my favorites out as well.  I do have to give kudos to a new style of wiener that is out there.  They are made with an Asian twist.  They have slaws with cilantro, papaya, banana ketchup and other flavors from the Far East.  Personally I love kimchi on my dog, but am up for trying anything new!  Enjoy your favorite street meat on the grill.  Go out and something new on an old favorite today, you could be very happy you did. 

Spicy Cucumber Relish

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and small diced
  • One half of a red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 white onion, small diced
  • 1 stalk celery, small diced
  • 3 jalapenos, finely minced
  • 1/8 cup salt
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon celery seed
  • 1/2 tablespoon dill seed

Combine all the vegetables in a bowl with the salt and fill with ice water.  Allow to soak for 4 hours in the refrigerator.  Meanwhile, mix the sugar, vinegar, and seasonings in a pot and bring to boil. Cook until sugar dissolves.  Drain the vegetables & add to the hot liquid. Simmer for about 15 min.  Allow them to cool, then use as you wish, on hot dogs or hamburgers. Serves 4-8.

Cranberry Ketchup

  • 1 pound cranberries
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • A few whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar

Place the mustard seed, allspice, cinnamon, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a cheese cloth sachet, and close tightly.  Cook the cranberries, onions, and about a half of a cup of water, covered.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, until mushy.  Remove the sachet.   Puree the cranberry mixture, until smooth.  Add the vinegar, sugar, and salt.   Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.   Stir constantly to prevent scorching, until the mixture is thick like tomato ketchup.  It should be allowed to chill for a few days (up to two weeks) before using.  It can be canned in sterile jars for future use as well.  Makes about one pint of ketchup.


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