by Kate Heyhoe
The All-American summer: beaches, baseball, outdoor living, and hot dogs.
Unlike the other parents in the neighborhood, my mother never fed me or my brother hot dogs. Perhaps that explains my love for them today.
I remember my first exposure to what I thought were hot dogs. It was my eighth summer and I attended a girlfriend's birthday party. I don't remember the girlfriend's name, what we did or anything else other than what we ate. Funny how food memories can work like that; I often recall the dinner that went into my mouth but am entirely forgetful of the conversation that came out of it. Unless, of course, that conversation revolves around the food at hand.
Anyway, the birthday girl's parents were grilling up wieners—bratwursts, bockwursts, kielbasas, knockwursts, Italian sausages and Hebrew National kosher beefs. Not an Oscar Mayer in the bunch. The sausages (or "haute hounds" as the parents called them) were heaped on big platters, ready for us to cradle into soft, crusty rolls—hearty French and multi-seeded rolls, mind you, not hot dog buns. Our tiny hands slathered the rolls with assorted condiments befitting such noble sandwiches: coarse ground Dijon and spicy German mustards, sauerkraut with caraway seeds, hand-chopped pickle relish, and finely diced red onions. I systematically sampled every type of wiener and combination of condiments, like a mathematician practicing algorithms. But for me, math was never so rewarding.
Later on I came to know and love the traditional street-cart and ball game hot dogs—and their American relatives, corny dogs, which I sampled at their birthplace, the Texas State Fair. I know these aren't considered gourmet foods, but dog-gone-it, there's something about them that is homey, satisfying, and comforting. and as summertime swoops in, sausages and hot dogs seem to taste even better.
James Beard, an icon of the gourmet kitchen, was a frankfurter fan. He recommended seeking out well-seasoned franks in ethnic markets, describing supermarket frankfurters as "dreary hunks of pressed meat."
In James Beard's Simple Foods, he writes about "a classic of American eating that goes back as long as I can remember—the Coney Island red hot..." and describes the joints that made that style of hot dog famous as stores "with a great steaming frankfurter dripping with chili painted on the window."
But Beard went beyond simple with three frankfurter recipes in a 1956 House & Garden article. In the first recipe, he says to cut a gash in the frankfurter, fill with mustard and a cheese strip, wrap a slice of bacon around it, and grill. In his next bacon-wrapped variation, the dog is stuffed with garlic butter, chives and parsley. Finally, a mash of bleu cheese, chives and parsley are jammed inside the dog, and of course bacon is wrapped around it before grilling.
If you're feeling a bit daring with your dogs of summer, consider these well-honed regional variations:
Baltimore Dogs—dogs that are split and deep-fried
Boston Bull Dog—topped with baked beans and BBQ sauce
Chicago-Style Dog—with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, dill pickle wedge, peppers, and celery salt on a steamed poppy seed bun
Coney Island Dog—topped with chili, onions and cheese
Kansas City Dog—dog with sauerkraut and melted cheese
New York City Dog—topped with steamed onions and pale yellow mustard sauce
Clearly, haute dogs made with exotic ingredients have taken a favorite place among frankfurters. Jody Maroni's Sausage stands feed airport travelers from Newark to Los Angeles, as well as supermarket and mall shoppers. Bruce Aidells' specialty sausages can be found in upscale gourmet markets as well as Sam's Club warehouses.
For home cooks who want to make their own gourmet sausages, I recommend Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book (Ten Speed Press). You'll find recipes from this bible of sausage making and sausage fixings excerpted below—just in time to welcome in the dog days of summer.
Some of the anecdotes above appear in The Hot Dog Companion: A Connoisseur's Guide to the Food We Love by David Graulich (Lebhar-Friedman Books).
Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book Recipes
Kate's Global Kitchen for May 2002:
05/03/02 Do Mom a Favor: Don't Take Her Out
05/10/02 Painting a Vanilla Sky: In the Sweet Kitchen
05/17/02 Leaping Lettuces: Off with Their Heads!
05/24/02 Cheeseburgers in Paradise
05/31/02 Haute Hounds & Hot Dogs
Copyright © 2002, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created May 2002
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