Hot Dogs or Haute Dogs, You Decide - No. 147
They go from tailgate to ball game to dinner party with just a few wardrobe changes.
MAYBE IT WAS MY WRITING ABOUT SMASH BURGERS in July, but I just got a call from Hot Dogs:
Hot Dogs: How come you never give us any mention in your newsletter?
Me: Don’t get defensive.
Hot Dogs: No Smashed Dog recipe. No Hot Dog Week. If it weren’t for football and baseball, we’d feel unloved.
Me: I’ll get on it. Nothing I like better than an underdog…
Something strange was happening. In the past week I had seen Eric Kim’s recipe in the New York Times where he waxes on about Chicago dogs. (My favorite, too.) My friend Susan was texting me about a chili sauce she made to pour over hot dogs that is sooo good, but wait, this is the friend who runs marathons and is into organic farming? And then Caroline Chambers writes about Snake River Farms wagyu beef hot dogs over on her newsletter.
My world was going to the dogs, and so I let it…
I made the chili sauce. My husband made his slaw. I bought all-beef Sabrett hot dogs with natural casings and soft brioche-y buns.
How do you feel about hot dogs?
I’m conflicted. On one hand, I’m all in. On the other, I don’t want to know what’s in them.
Somehow it feels more saintly to buy ‘’good’’ hot dogs. But are they any better for us? They taste better, I can tell you that. And it’s not like I eat them everyday. But actually, to write this piece and take these photos, I did eat them every day for the last five days…
My mother used to split hot dogs down the middle, but not all the way through, so they were butterflied, and she’d sauté them in a skillet and make a sandwich out of them. We used to fill split hot dogs with a strip of American cheese and run them under the broiler. Or we’d wind refrigerated dough around them and bake them off until crispy and call them ‘’swirly dogs.’’
You didn’t know this would be a tell-all, did you?
And before I had kids when I was working in Atlanta there used to be a street vendor who would drive a food truck to the park downtown, and he’d grill hot dogs and ‘’run them through the garden.’’ I believe that’s code for Chicago dogs…Pile them with good tomatoes and dill pickles, yellow mustard, celery salt, and pickled peppers, and that line for his hot dogs took the better part of a lunch hour. But it was worth it, and just anticipating that hot dog made me feel like I was perhaps on Michigan Avenue and not two blocks away from the newspaper office with deadlines to face when I got back.
Savoring hot dogs is a rite of fall. Yes, it’s a bit of summer, too. It’s right in the middle. Sort of where we are at this moment.
My son and husband went on some baseball trips together and got knowledgeable about all things hot dogs at MLB stadiums. When they were in Milwaukee they discovered Usingers, and to this day there are Usinger brats filling my chest freezer.
In fact, when I told my husband about this story, he asked if we needed to order more brats… Let’s just say, if we have a power outage any time soon and I need to divest of the contents of that freezer, it’s gonna be one big old Oktoberfest at our house.
To give hot dogs some overdue love, I reached out to Scott Hines, who writes the Action Cookbook newsletter here on Substack. Scott lives in Louisville, KY, and is an architect by day, writer by night, dad of two children, and somehow balances home and careers, and when there’s time, likes to grill out. But I wasn’t sure if Scott was a hot dog or burger guy…
Me: So, Scott, hot dog or hamburger?
Scott: That’s the essential summer cookout question, right?
It's a tough decision for me to make, because I love a good hamburger. But forced to choose, I've gotta go with the hot dog. While a good burger is sublime, a bad burger is an abysmal experience: dry, crumbly, even sooty.
There's no such unpredictability with hot dogs. When they're good, they're good, and when they're not... honestly, they're still pretty good.
Haircut then a hot dog, trip to New York with hot dogs, local baseball along with hot dogs, seems hot dogs are sentimental at Scott’s house.
About a month ago, Scott and his wife took their kids to New York City. They had both lived there for about a decade and had met there, but their kids hadn't been since they were young.
‘’We were awfully hungry by the time we got into Manhattan, but I knew exactly where to go; we headed to Gray's Papaya on W. 72nd street, where I could get the Recession Special—two hot dogs and a drink for $3.50.
‘’The kids got theirs plain, while I opted for onions and sauerkraut, and we ate them leaning on a high-top table out on the street. They comported themselves like naturals, my daughter looking especially at home watching the busy street with a hot dog in her hand. I had visions of her moving to the city as soon as she graduates college just like I had, but quickly chased those thoughts away; I'm not ready to think about that yet. (She's 5.)‘’
At home, Scott cooks Nathan’s hot dogs and prefers them grilled. ‘’A sizzling sausage on a charcoal grill screams fall, and it's a perfect one-hand food, keeping your other hand free for a beer or maybe a cornhole bag.’’
Me: But Scott, what about being a parent and feeding your kids hot dogs?
Scott: There are times I've felt guilty about serving my kids hot dogs, even when I'm buying the good all-beef brand; they certainly don't have a connotation of healthy eating. But as a parent, I've learned to pick my battles; there are nights where we'll enter a protracted trench war over eating a vegetable or lean protein, and I hold my ground then. Some nights, it's just okay to make them happy, and getting to answer "hot dogs" when hit with the "Daddy, what's for dinner?" makes me into a minor hero.
Hot dogs get dressed up. Mais oui!
Time to share how I recreated a Chicago dog, the recipe for that chili for chili dogs, tell you where to find the slaw, and even share a recipe for when hot dogs go uptown and visit a French brasserie.
It’s just purple cabbage sliced and cooked down with apples, pears, and onions, a bit of chicken stock, a splash of nice white wine, a bay leaf, and then you pile the brats or weisswurst, knockwurst, even the lowly hot dog on top.
But first, a few basics:
The Hot Dogs. Buy good ones. All beef. Natural casings. They will pop when grilled, steamed, or air-fried (7 to 8 minutes at 350 degrees F).
The Condiments. Have fun with the mustards! I’m usually not a fan of ballpark mustard because it is the WORST for getting out of white jeans or a favorite shirt, but hot dogs plead a case for it. My favorite mustard is something our son shared with us—Lowensenf, an extra-spicy German mustard. But when that’s gone, the coarse-grain mustard or even Dijon will do. Especially the latter on weisswurst, the white sausages so good steamed on top of red cabbage.
The Buns. Same as with hamburgers. Buy squishy ones, or just serve those dogs alongside good rye bread.
The Slaw. Here’s another link to my husband’s slaw recipe. Shake it up for fall and use half purple cabbage.
Glad I listened to Hot Dogs. They did need some love, and it’s starting to feel like fall already. And I’m grateful to Scott who played along. Here’s how to check out his amazing newsletter about food, fatherhood, and fun. Sounds like hot dogs to me!
Coming Thursday for Paid Subscribers: PLUM TORTE!
You know it’s September when the blue-black plums come into season, so dust off the springform pan and bake a big plum torte for the weekend. And if you have no plums then I’ll show you five other ways to use other fruits in season or in the pantry to bake this most popular cake of fall.
- xo, Anne
Anne Byrn: Between the Layers is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Carolina Chili Sauce for Hot Dogs
Thanks to my friend Susan Puckett for sharing Kathleen Purvis’s recipe in the new Edible North Carolina cookbook, by Marcie Cohen Ferris. I’ll admit, it’s an odd way to cook ground beef, but cooking it in water softens it and gives it that fine texture you expect with chili sauce. Season how you like. I added the garlic, and I also increased the cooking time so the flavors will concentrate. So good!
Makes a lot. Serves 12 to 16 or more. Freeze the leftovers.
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (not too lean; I used half chuck and half ground round)
1 large onion, peeled and diced, about 1 1/2 cups
4 to 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 cups water
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Crumble the beef into a large pot. Add the onions, garlic, and water. Turn the heat on medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Stir and break up the beef, and once it is cooked through, add the tomato paste, ketchup, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and salt and pepper.
Stir and simmer for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat lower if needed so it doesn’t stick. You want it to cook down and thicken. Serve warm on a chili-slaw dog, or let cool, then store in the fridge for up to two days, or freeze for up to three months.
How to Build a Chicago Dog
Nowhere on this list will you find ketchup!
1 all-beef frankfurter
1 poppyseed hot dog bun or a plain bun brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with poppyseeds
Sweet pickle relish
Chopped white onions
Ripe tomato slices or quarters
A dill pickle spear
Dash of celery seed or salt
Couple of sport or little pickled hot peppers
Place the hot dog in a small skillet and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, and let it cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until done. Or, air-fry at 350 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the hot dog pops its skin. Or grill over charcoal.
Steam the bun on a rack over the skillet or heat it in the oven. Place the hot dog in the bun and spread with mustard and relish. Top with onions, tomato, dill pickle, celery seed or salt, and place the hot peppers on top.
Braised Purple Cabbage with Apples, Pears & Sausages
This recipe could not be easier. It’s really not a recipe at all. Just a method. Begin with a small head of purple cabbage, which turns this brilliant color of purply-pink as it cooks! Serve with brats or weisswurst, or even roasted chicken. If you buy pre-cooked franks, you can place them on top of the cabbage as it steams. If the sausages need cooking, do that in a separate pan and serve alongside. I like the cabbage to be soft, but if you want more texture, cook it less.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 small head purple cabbage
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
2 small apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 small pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Water or chicken broth to cover
1/4 cup white wine or apple cider
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
4 to 6 cooked weisswurst, knockwurst, or apple-chicken sausages
Rinse the cabbage and pat dry. Cut it into quarters, removing and discarding the core and any outside damaged leaves. Slice the cabbage into strips and place in a large bowl and cover with water. Meanwhile place the butter or oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, the fruit, and the garlic to the pot. Saute until soft, with a little browning, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Add the cabbage to the pot, and cover it with the soaking water or with chicken broth. Add the wine, the bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low to let the cabbage simmer until soft, about 45 to 50 minutes, stirring frequently, and checking from time to time to make sure the liquid doesn’t evaporate. If so, replenish just to half-cover.
If desired, place cooked sausages on top of the cabbage the last 15 minutes of cooking. Serve with buttered rye or pumpernickel bread and plenty of mustard.
Loved the mention of split-dog sandwiches, especially on rye with American cheese--Mom specialized in them a gazillion years ago. I wish I could post a photo of Glinda at Nathan's Coney Island in a bitterly cold February, wolfing down the hot dogs (it started out as a pilgrimage of sorts, then ended by accident at a Russian mobster's Valentine's Day party in Brighton). I imagine everyone has a story or two that involves the national dish. So bad for your body, so good for your soul.
You haven’t lived until you have tried the fresh made hot dogs and buns at The Hot Dog Works at Cherry Grove Beach. All sirloin dogs, fluffy fresh baked buns and fresh cut toppings . Topped off with in house made mini pies. Worth the trip to the grand Strand!