Those of you old enough to remember that famous jingle (or happened to hear it in the movie “Demolition Man”) know that today’s installment of “Food Week” on the JMD blog is about hot dogs. Now, read on…
Being one of the potentially most mysterious of foods (as a child, you had to make sure it really wasn’t made from…well, you know), hot dogs are an American staple. The hot dog, however, has more variety than simply what it’s made from (really, you shouldn’t even read the ingredients…you already know it’s not good for you ’cause it tastes good!).
The other big mystery about hot dogs is how they’re cooked. For today’s post, we’re going to delve into a few of these methods I’ve come across over the years and we’ll end with a few anecdotal stories.
It’s been many decades since my sister and I used to visit my grandparents’ house in Keystone Point. In those days, garbage cans were the old silver aluminum cans with a lid that (before the inevitable denting) snapped close over the top of the can. (Small digression, I still recall the “coolness” of the trash bins that you opened the door and there was a merry-go-round type contraption that you could turn to get to the trash cans)
Occasionally, Dad would have us sit out back in the yard overlooking the canal and guarded by the big Ficus tree. He would grab the lid from the metal trash can and turn it upside down. Into the top, he would throw some charcoal and we would stick some hot dogs on sticks and cook them over the flame (if we were lucky, we would end the night with toasted marshmallows, too). No question, the best way to cook hot dogs is over an open flame.
Take me out to the ballpark
The classic dog is the ball park dog. Historically, this is a boiled hot dog of dubious origin, just big enough to be noticed inside the doughy bun. Latter day options include “foot long” (that must be before cooking) and sausages, but the original hot dog is the regular sized boiled and occasionally still worthy of the name “hot” dog.
To this day, my required meal choice on any sort of sporting event is a hot dog, soda and bag of peanuts. Actual temperature hot is optional.
Smoke gets in your eyes
For about ten years, I lived on the fourth floor of a condominium. The place was mostly the home of older individuals and thus had numerous (and tedious) rules, mostly against anything fun. This included having even a small hibachi type grill on the balcony.
To continue my hot dog eating ways, then, I had either to boil them (not a good choice without a ball park) or come up with something new. I determined to try broiling them in the oven.
I had a small broiling pan perfect for a couple hot dogs. I moved the rack up to the top, turned the oven to broil and waited. About a minute in, the fire alarms went off as the house filled with smoke. Nothing was on fire, mind you, it was just the hot dogs’ escaping juices burning so quickly they never really “dropped” into the broiler pan.
I tearily ate the dogs on the patio while I waited for the house to clear. I have to say they came out super crisp and dry. With some minor adjustments in temperature and spacing, this method served me well for many years.
It’s a gas, man!
Obviously, with my many posts about barbecuing, you know how I cook dogs today. I still love them crisp (even a shade burned), and the gas grill does a fine and mostly smokeless job of cooking them. These days, I primarily use all beef dogs like Sabrett or Nathan’s bigger than the bun.
<Note: I have tried micro-zapping dogs. Eh.>
A few words about how I like my dogs. Whether it’s a regional thing or just me, I like both ketchup and mustard on my dogs. I prefer yellow mustard, but I can swing to brown when required. Loads of chopped onion where available (or those tasty onion sauces) and relish or sauerkraut. As mentioned in a previous post, I can shift over to chili dogs if I know there’s a good one available.
Not all my dog experiences have been happy ones. There was the time I went to a Marlins game and they ran out of hot dogs (how does that happen at a baseball stadium?) and there was the time a hot dog almost killed me. Seriously.
As a teenager, I was an assistant manager of a used bookstore. Considering neither the owner nor his daughter showed up much, you could have dropped the “assistant” tag, for my money.
On the weekends (school kid, remember?), I would run a full day, from morning opening to evening closing. On those days, I usually ordered from the local delis and sandwich shops.
One day, a new place opened that primarily sold hot dogs. How cool! Of course, I ordered a couple of dogs immediately. They had dogs from “around the world”, or so their menu said, and I ordered a chili dog and something called a “Chicago” hot dog.
The delivery took a while and I was ravenous when the dogs arrived. I tore into the “clean” dog (non-chili) and took a whomping bite, about half the dog. Suddenly, my chest felt on fire, my eyes watered and I literally stopped breathing (okay, maybe only for a second or two, but time seemed to stop). I dropped the dog in the middle of the floor and started gulping my soda (as soon as my throat worked again).
Apparently, this “Chicago” dog had some nasty peppers in it and I swallowed one whole down the gullet where it detonated. I am here to say that I have never felt anything like that before or since. I was sure I was having a heart attack (at 17)! Wow.
Once I wiped my eyes and settled down, I threw the remaining dog away, wiped up the floor and finished off the other (thoroughly enjoyable) dog. Though I ordered from the place in the future, you can bet I stayed out of the midwest.
That’s not even the first time food almost killed me. We’ll get into that tomorrow. It’s sure to bring tears to your eyes.