The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

2010 Year of the Hot Dog

I’ve noticed in the past how certain years seem to evolve into a cooking theme. It isn’t even intentional, it just happens. A new cookbook, a new piece of gear and suddenly you are doing a lot of similar items. This year actually had several themes: Grilled Paella, Grilled Pizza, Comfort Food and perhaps this is a subset of Comfort Food: Hot Dogs. I certainly didn’t start out the year with that in mind, it just happened. I started making so many dogs, they quickly rated their own section on the site. Then I had to add a second page on the site for hot dogs. Next thing I knew I was buying a book about hot dogs. So in this blog I am going to summarize the year I went to the dogs. I will provide links to the picture entries for each item I talk about. That way if you want to see more - just click on the picture link for that item.


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This whole thing started off innocently enough, it was the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend and I wanted to make some “traditional grilled food”, but I wanted it to be something I hadn’t made before. I quickly thought of these brats. I’d been wanting to make this recipe for a year and just hadn’t gotten around to it. It was from the Cooks Illustrated Summer Grilling Guide 2009 and it looked really good. From my time living in Detroit, I could remember how big brat were out in the Midwest and I was looking for something different. Around here brats are a relative unknown. Now I’ve already covered the cook in it’s own blog, so I am not going to repeat it here. If you are interested you can use the blog link below to read more.

  GRILLED BRATS IN BEER Hot Dogs Picture Entry

CHILI DOGS - 07-02-10

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This dog is the precursor, if you will, to my getting serious about hot dogs this year. It was the 4th of July and just like I did on Memorial Day Weekend, I wanted to have traditional food for the 4th. What is more traditional than a hot dog? Once again I wanted to look for a hot dog recipe I hadn’t made before. I decided on chili dogs and corn on the cob. This recipe had a quick to make chili, which is perfect if you just want to have some dogs without a lot of advance prep. My favorite dog is a Kayem Beef Frank with Natural Casings. I’d noticed there were some Nathan’s with a natural casing at the supermarket which was a first. Nathan’s has a big reputation as the best hot dog out there. I’ve used the Nathan’s skinless hot dogs to make smoked hot dogs, but my favorite dogs have a crispy snappy casing. This development was very interesting. So I grilled up the dogs and I used a traditional hot dog bun, as opposed to a New England style side split bun. The top split buns which are the standard bun everywhere but New England do seem to hold more toppings. The New England style buns are great for toasting. To cut to the chase: I enjoyed these dogs a lot. The chili was very spicy and while I liked the Nathan’s dogs with the natural casings, I couldn’t make a real judgement on them do to the spiciness of the chili. I decided I would have to do a head to head test vs. the Kayems, where I use simple toppings that allow more of the flavors of the dogs to come through. As I was eating the chili dog, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the N.Y. System Hot Wieners I’d had in Rhode Island as a kid. These thoughts planted the seed of the idea of trying to make N.Y. System Hot Wieners and those would be the start of something big.

  CHILI DOGS Hot Dogs Picture Entry


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As I mentioned above, while I was eating my chili dogs I was thinking about how good the N.Y. System Hot Wieners were. I was thinking I wish there was some way to make these. A week later I was asking my dad if he missed living in Rhode Island. He said what he misses the most was the food, he loved N.Y. System Hot Wieners and Coffee Cabinets (Coffee Frappe). My mother volunteered she missed N.Y. System Wieners and Del’s Frozen Lemonade. This stunned me because it came out of the blue, with no coaching from me. I decided that I needed to try to recreate a N.Y. System Hot Wiener, which was not going to be easy, because they are unique to Rhode Island. I finally did it, but it was quite the adventure. I shall refer you to the blog entry I wrote about my successful quest to recreate an authentic tasting N.Y. System Hot Wiener.

  N.Y. SYSTEM HOT WIENERS Hot Dogs Picture Entry

CREOLE DOGS w/ RICE - 07-21-10

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Behind the scenes I was still perfecting my N.Y. System Hot Wieners recipe. I found out that July 21st was National Hot Dog Day. I wanted to make something really different and began searching for a recipe that would fit that bill. I found a recipe for Creole Dogs with Rice that was like a hot dog paella. It was easily adaptable for the grill and was definitely not your average dog. Just what I was looking for. The dogs were grilled and cut into chunks. While the dogs were grilling, the remaining ingredients were sauteed in a large saute pan right on the grill. First it was some bacon which had been cut into thin strips. The bacon was pulled when it was done and some onion and garlic were sauteed using the bacon fat in the pan. Next came the rice and a spicy cajun seasoning blend, which proved to be extra spicy. Last up were diced tomatoes and when they were finished it was time to add back in the bacon and sliced hot dogs. The final step was to add in some fresh basil right before serving. This really was just like making paella and it also shared the wonderful flavorings you get with paella. The cajun seasoning that was added in gave these dogs a real kick and the recipe turned out even better than it had looked on paper.

  CREOLE DOGS & RICE Hot Dogs Picture Entry

PIGS IN A BLANKET - 09-28-10

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At this point in the year I was fully into comfort food mode having made GRILLED NACHOS, GRILLED SALISBURY STEAK, SHEPHERD’S PIE BURGERS etc. I had seen some commercials for Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and that got me thinking: I loved Wiener Wraps as a kid and I was wondering if I could adapt them to the grill. I love a grilled hot dog and an oven baked dog just doesn’t cut it. I also decided these weren’t going to be a hot dog wrapped in the dough. I wanted to add mustard, cheese and chili. To accomplish this I couldn’t just wrap the hot doG and leave the ends sticking out. I decided to use not one, but two pieces of crescent roll dough. This would enable me to completely encase the hot dog and prevent the chili from dripping out. I had to seal the serrations between the two pieces, which was easily done. Next I spread mustard on the dough, followed by slices of American cheese and some Hormel chili. I brought the dough and the dogs out to the grill and started grilling the dogs. Once the dogs were grilled I rolled up the wiener wraps and sealed them as best I could. I placed them on a small sheet pan and finished them indirectly at about 375 degrees (190 C). Two problems occurred here. The first was it was hard to get a good seal. If the crescent dough got any of the chili on it, the dough didn’t want to stick. The trick was having the right amount of filling so you could roll them out without the toppings squirting out to the edge. After a couple false starts I got the wiener wraps closed. The next problem was they took a lot longer to cook up than I expected, almost double. It was a cold for September day, but I don’t think that was it. I really don’t know what caused this and I was just patient and they finally finished up after around 20 minutes, about double what I expected. They were really good and I plan on trying them again, perhaps with some of my own dough. My latest cookbook ARTISAN BREAD IN 5 MINUTES A DAY has a dough recipe for making wiener wraps.

  PIGS IN A BLANKET Hot Dogs Picture Entry


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I was on a roll now and I was getting interested in all of the variations you could do with hot dogs. I started looking for a cookbook dedicated to hot dogs. I found a book that was just what I was looking for. It has regional recipes for hot dogs and sides from all over the country. It also discusses the history of the hot dog in each region and recommends some other hot dog stands to visit. The development of the hot dog around the country is a fascinating story. I wasn’t aware of how much of the history of the “All-American” hot dog is intertwined with Greek immigrants to America. I’ve been enjoying learning the history of the hot dog almost as much as I’ve enjoyed trying the tasty recipes found in the book.


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This marked the first hot dog I made from the Great American Hot Dog Book It hails from near by Cape Neddick Maine. It was a Greek influenced recipe that was quite similar to the N.Y. System Wiener. The two changes in this dog were the sauce and mustard. Instead of a meat sauce, this dog uses an onion/barbecue sauce that is unlike anything I’ve tried before. It gets reduced to a thick syrupy consistency. This dog also uses mayo instead of mustard. The order of assembly is first some mayo, then the thick Flo’s sauce, followed by diced onions and celery salt. These were a very tasty dog, unlike any I’d had before. I also made some poutine or wet fries,these were grilled fries topped with a brown gravy popular in Canada and Northern New England.

  FLO’S FAMOUS HOT DOG Hot Dogs Picture Entry
  POUTINE (Fries & Gravy) Veggies Picture Entry


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This three-way shootout pitted my favorite hot dog, Kayem All Beef Franks with Natural Casings, a local dog that has been a favorite of mine for quite a while. The contenders were Nathan’s Famous Beef Frank with Natural Casings and the relatively new Ballpark Angus Beef Franks. I baked up a fresh batch of homemade New England style hot dog rolls for the occasion. To be honest the results surprised me. The Nathan’s came in with a reputation of being the best dog out there. I found them a bit on the bland side and overly chewy. The Ballparks were also chewy, which was to be expected because it was skinless. They had some good beef flavor, but I also detected a flavor that really didn’t belong. If I had to guess I’d say it was some form of liquid smoke. My faves, the Kayems, won it easily. They had the best flavor and best consistency. They have a nice little quick snap when you bite into them and the insides were more tender than the other two. I really didn’t care for the other two, but if I had to pick one for next best it would be the Ballparks. I was really totally underwhelmed with the Nathan’s.


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When I had my first Hot Dog Shootout someone suggested I try another local dog Pearl’s Kountry Klub Franks. They are a large dog 1 1/4” (3 cm) in diameter and yes the K in Kountry and Klub is how they spell it. This time the results were closer. They both had a similar beef flavor, but the Kayems had more complex seasonings and flavor. The Pearl’s were a bit salty for my taste. The biggest difference was the casings. The Pearl’s were rather hard to bite into and a bit too chewy for me. I wondered if the tough casing was due to the larger amount of meat it had to contain. Unlike the last time I would not be disappointed if you put either dog on my plate.


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This dog from The Great American Hot Dog Book looked.great on paper but when I took my first bite I was so sure. The dog was simple enough: A grilled hotdog topped with KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce, melted cheese and onions. The first bite threw me. The BBQ sauce just didn’t seem right. I kept at it and with each bite I got more and more used to the idea of BBQ sauce and a hot dog together. By the time I finished the two dogs I was fully on board and liking them.


PAM’s PIZZA DOGS - 12-09-10

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Once again The Great American Hot Dog was the source for this dog that hails from Chattanooga Tennessee. The hot dogs and buns get grilled and then the bun gets topped with shredded mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and pickled peppers. The buns then make a quick trip to the boiler to melt the cheese. You need to keep a good eye on things so as not to burn the toppings. To finish the hot dog is added and then it is topped with marinara sauce. This was a very tasty hot dog combining two of my favorites: hot dogs and pizza.

  PAM’S PIZZA DOGS Hot Dogs Picture Entry


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Another Greek based dog with a meat sauce from The Great American Hot Dog. Cincinnati Chili is a unique chili that uses boiled ground beef and lots of herbs and spices. Based on a Greek stew recipe, this chili has a stew like consistency and tastes nothing like a Texas style Chili. It does taste a bit like the meat sauce from a N.Y. System Hot Wiener as they share some of the same ingredients. What makes Cincinnati Chili unique is the inclusion of unsweetened chocolate, allspice and cloves. The batch of chili the recipe makes was huge, but this was actually a good thing. Another way Cincinnati Chili is used is with Spaghetti. Spaghetti, Chili and Cheese, which is what I made, is called a 3-Way. A 4-Way adds onions and a 5-Way adds chili or pinto beans . I am not sure which I enjoyed more, the dog or the spaghetti. They were both excellent.

  CINCINNATI CONEY DOGS Hot Dogs Picture Entry


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This may be my last hot dog entry of the year and it is fitting that this year’s hot dog odyssey both started and ended with Bratwurst. The first recipe started by grilling the brats and then they went into a tub with beer, mustard and onions. This one reversed the process by sautéing the brats in beer for 20 minutes and then direct grilling them for 10 minutes. I kept the toppings simple: Dijon mustard. This simple cooking method treated the brats well. The brats had a nice crispy and tasty skin and was not all dried out on the inside.



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