An Insight into Our Love Affair with the Beloved Hot Dog
While it is undeniable that something sublime and inexplicable happens to our palates as we age, some tastes do remain remarkably consistent from our earliest gastronomic memories until our deaths. I refer, of course, to our unremitting love for a good hot dog.
Birth of a Notion
For kids, the difference is a simple matter of logistics. A hot dog on a bun is simply superior because it is far more mobile than a steak on a plate. Mobility equals fun in this case. For adults, much of the problem is, undoubtedly, due to the proliferation of substandard ingredients and poor preparation of most of today’s commercially produced hot dogs. This characterization of the average frankfurter is too often true.Thus, unfortunately, for most adults, the lowly hot dog occupies a place of little or no respect.
Zen and the Art of Hot Dog Making
Making a hot dog is not complicated. In fact, as long as you start with quality ingredients, it is very difficult to go wrong. Some grill hotdogs over mesquite wood, some boil them in vinegar and beer while others may split them in half and fry them in butter. All of these preparations are fine although some are more usual with the following variations.
In any event, no matter how you prepare them, try some of these regional variations to get a true appreciation for one of the classic, American, culinary wonders. (Please note that ketchup never rears its ugly head in any of these recipes.)
The Original THREE from the EAST
Here a three dogs from The Big Apple, Philly and the Windy City that have stood the test of time. They are regularly, read daily, eaten by millions of people. These are the best f the best, timeless in their simplicity and renowned for their legions of dedicated fans. Some may criticize me for leaving out the Fenway dog. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good but, in the end, it’s just a dog with mustard and relish. I also heard that they actually import the dogs from some guy in Brooklyn.
New Yorkers eat more hot dogs per capita than anywhere else in the country do the recipe must be pretty good. Don’t fry your dogs in this recipe, though. For authenticity, they need to be boiled, let sit in the “dirty” water and boiled again. The vinegar and the double cooling produce the distinctive “snap” when you bite the dog.
To build, warm the bun but do not crisp it. Drop the dog on the bun and then add mustard, a little sauerkraut and that unique, “pushcart” hot onion sauce. When made properly, this dog is pure heaven.
When the dogs are ready, place one on a browned, poppy seed bun. Nestle some tomato slices down one side of the bun and pickle spears on the other. Add plain yellow mustard, chopped raw onion, green relish and, very importantly, celery salt.
This somewhat elaborate concoction is simply a taste and textural explosion for the mouth. The dog is soft and firm, hot and cold, sweet and sour and just full of love. Most importantly, combined with a good beer it covers the all the essential food groups.
This dog is easy enough to make. Ground fish and potato is pan fried in oil to create the cake. The dogs are usually pan-fried in butter. Place both meats on a very crispy bun and add the usual condiments. For the uninitiated, the Philly Combo is a powerful experience. In fact, finding a purveyor of this remarkable dish, in downtown Philly, at 3 in the morning, is much like finding an oasis in the desert. It is simply irresistible especially for those who can’t find their car.
The BEST of the REST in the WEST
So much for the good news, here’s the bad. Hot dogs, apparently, are an East Coast phenomenon. As you head west, they become blander, less stylized and lose any fan loyalty that the ones in the East produce. Then you cross the Rockies and something truly bizarre happens. Take a look.
A Parting SHOT at My Adopted Home Town
Houston, New Orleans and even Toronto in Canada claim some sort of cultural affinity for the hotdog. Each of these cities as well as dozens of lesser ones claims some special version that is only found in their town. While, these assertions are true, the hot dogs in question are merely store bought ones with the local cuisine thrown, haphazardly, on top.
Stop it guys. You all have great dishes that make me visit your towns over and over again. There is simply no need and no possibility to create a hot dog better than the Three Great Ones from the East.