Hot diggity dog: hot dogs aren't just ballpark fare any longer as the traditional American food has gone gourmet.
The basic concept of the hot dog hasn't changed much since the 1870s, when Charles Feltman, a German butcher in Brooklyn, New York, began serving beef sausages sandwich style. It was revolutionary in ways, and he started a food trend with "frankfurters." However, it was one of Feltmans employees, Nathan Handwerker, who became legendary for his hot dog stand on Coney Island, serving 5-cent sausages, half the price of his former employer.
After consuming more information than I ever thought possible on the subject, I have learned that hot dogs, more than most foods, remain attached to their regional roots. Every area has its original, especially in New York- and Chicago-dog lands. Perhaps it's the ball fields and street carts that fill the busy inner cities; regardless, it's the citizens who are fanatics about how one should dress a dog. They are fervent believers that they birthed and raised the most original and tastiest hot dog. And now, the rest of the country has their dog in the race-topping hot dogs with anything and everything, according to their geographic locations and favorite local ingredients. The best hot dogs seem to have happened by accidental fusion of street foods and the trendiest condiment of the day.
Toppings and accruements have evolved from yellow mustard and pickle relish to chipotle-laced aioli and cotija Mexican cheese for Southwesterners to chili and cheese, and, of course bacon and comeback sauce in the Deep South. We love our dogs nestled in soft, cottony, fluffy fresh buns. Only a cornbread bun could possibly make it better. Taking hot dog toppings to a new level, some restaurants tout an all-beef dog topped with grilled pineapple, toasted bread crumbs, a dusting of fresh herbs, and a drizzle or two of flavor-spiked pink and green mayonnaise-based sauces.
Lazy summer evenings in Mississippi are wonderful for grilling hot dogs. The grill brings out the flavors of an all-beef dog. They are versatile and affordable, so try a few of these recipes or dream up your own. Make yours the most original and best-tasting hot dog ever. Happy summer y'all!
DIXIE DOGS Fried okra on a hot dog? It gives the dish an unexpected crunch and is fabulous with Comeback Sauce! 8 all-beef hot dogs 8 slices smoked bacon 2 cups Southern fried okra 1 cup Comeback Sauce 1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced 8 hot dog buns 1/2 cup or more of sweet pickle relish 1 cup coleslaw, prepared Louisiana Hot Sauce and yellow mustard if desired Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Wrap each hot dog with piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Fry okra and set aside. Make Comeback Sauce and chill. Place hot dogs and onions on grill and cook, turning every 5 to 7 minutes until bacon is cooked on all sides and onions are browned. Remove from grill. Wrap buns loosely in foil and place on grill for several minutes until warmed through. When ready to serve, place hot dog in bun and top with onions, relish, slaw, and fried okra. Drizzle Comeback Sauce over hot dog, adding hot sauce and mustard if desired. Yield: 8 servings
SOUTHERN FRIED OKRA 1 cup buttermilk 1 egg 2 teaspoons hot sauce 1/2 cup cornmeal 1/2 cup flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen sliced okra Vegetable oil In a small bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg, and hot sauce together. In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, flour-, salt, and pepper. Soak thawed okra in the buttermilk for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove okra from buttermilk and dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Heat oil to 325 degrees in a small pan over medium heat. Drop okra in hot oil and fry until golden. Remove okra with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate, keeping warm until ready to serve. Yield: 8 servings COMEBACK SAUCE The perfect Southern condiment for everything! 1 cup mayonnaise 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup chili sauce 1/2 cup ketchup 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 2 teaspoons dry mustard 1 tablespoon hot sauce Kosher salt to taste Fresh ground pepper to taste In bowl of food processor, combine all ingredients, and blend until smooth. Check seasonings. Chill until ready to use. Yield: 2 cups SANTE FE HAUTE DOG I am not opposed to canned chili one bit Hot dogs should be fun and easy! Find a brand you like and season it up a bit! 8 Sourdough Hoagie rolls 8 all beef hot dogs 2 cups vegetable oil Salt and pepper, to taste 2 onions, sliced very thin into strings 1 (28-ounce) bag shoestring potatoes 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 2 cups chili (canned or homemade) 8 ounces cotija Mexican cheese 1 cup pickled jalapenos Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap hoagie rolls in foil and heat 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and keep warm until ready to serve. Place hot dogs in a pan of boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes and remove pan from heat. Let hot dogs sit in hot water until ready to serve. Heat vegetable oil in a shallow pan until oil registers 325 degrees. Place onions in oil and fry until golden brown. Remove onions from oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Lightly season fried onion strings with salt and pepper. Add French fries to hot oil and cook until golden brown. Remove potatoes from oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. When ready to serve place a handful of potatoes on each plate. Top with warmed bun, hot dog, chili, cola cheese, jalaperios, and fried onions. Serve immediately. Yield: 8 servings
THE NEW YORKIE WITH ONION SAUCE Traditional sauce for the New York hot dog! 8 all-beef hot dogs, grilled 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 3 yellow onions, peeled and sliced 1/4 cup marinara sauce 11/2 teaspoons paprika 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper Salt and pepper to taste 8 hot dog buns, warmed In medium pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and onions and saute until tender. Add marinara sauce, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Simmer over heat for 15 minutes. Check seasonings, adding salt and pepper if needed. Place hot dogs in warmed buns and spoon sauce over meat. Serve immediately. Yield: 8 servings
CLASSIC CHICAGO HOT DOG Chicagoans refer to the addition of hot dog toppings as "walking the dog through the garden. "Keep in mind that "sport peppers" are very hot and should be used sparingly. 8 all-beef hot dogs, cooked in water or grilled 8 poppy-seed hot dog buns French's yellow mustard 1 onion, chopped 1 cup sweet pickle relish 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges 4 whole dill pickles, cut into long wedges 1 jar sport peppers (pickled whole hot peppers) Celery salt for sprinkling In a pan of simmering water, cook hot dogs for 10 minutes. Turn heat off, leaving hot dogs in water to keep warm. To steam buns, place in a steamer over same pan fitted with a lid until ready to serve. Place each hot dog in a steamed bun, and dress with remaining ingredients as desired. Yield: 8 servings
THE FUSION DOG Inspired by Dogzifla Hotdogs in sunny California, of course! Vegetable oil for frying 10-12 egg roll wrappers cut into thin strips Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 tablespoon chili powder 1 package hot links or all-beef hot dogs, cooked 1 package soft Hoagie rolls, split and toasted 2 sweet onions, thinly sliced 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled 1 avocado, thinly sliced 1 cup Kewpie Japanese Mayonnaise blended with 1/4 cup Sriracha sauce Ponzu citrus soy sauce to drizzle Heat vegetable oil to 325 degrees in a medium-sized saucepan. Add egg roll strips and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt, pepper and chili powder. Place one hot dog in each hoagie roll, then top with onions, bacon, and avocado slices. Using a squirt bottle, squeeze mayonnaise mixture over each hot dog, and top with fried egg roll strips. Lightly drizzle Ponzu sauce on top as desired. Yield: 8 servings
photography by bonnie dickerson