One of the things about being a food lover, as I’m sure you can attest to, is maintaining the stacks of magazines, books, clippings and notes that you keep over the years. However organized one strives to be, inevitably things go misplaced. That’s what happened to me as I sifted through 13 years of materials in my library trying to find a recipe that I swore I saved somewhere. But right when I was about to give up and throw in the towel of frustration, I came across a tiny note I wrote to myself many years ago.
It read “Panamanian Hot Dogs.”
Now, I can’t really remember where it came from and if it is really Panamanian, but I do remember the recipe as if it was yesterday. But why Panama? Did an acquaintance once tell me that’s how she enjoyed her dogs back home? Did I read a report? This rusty noggin was confused.
By the way, if you’re reading from Panama, call me.
The small bit of paper opened a floodgate of memories, of hot dogs and cookouts and meals at home where, yes, we had hot dogs. And then it made me think of my better half, a man so in love with hot dogs that we cannot pass by a burger stand, a Wienerschnitzel, a ballpark, without him automatically saying “Mmmm. I love hot dogs” as if he had just been hypnotized by a magician.
If you subscribe to Adam’s logic regarding hot dogs, they truly are the perfect food. Meat and bun, assorted condiments, easy to eat and so easily personalized. And if your concerns of strange animal parts and saturated fats make you shy away from dogs, it’s easy to replace it with turkey or vegetarian meat alternatives, which sometimes I actually prefer. A hot dog in any form tastes good.
In trying to find out about the origins of this Panamanian Hot Dog, hot dog recipes began to flood my brain. I thought about all my years living in Chicago, devouring Chili Char Polishes from Wiener’s Circle. I thought about hot dogs from Sonny’s, a little neighborhood tavern in Galveston, Texas we’d visit as kids. I thought about the Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs with Jalapeños and Mayonnaise that can be found from Latino vendors all over the streets of Los Angeles. And that was it. The rusty noggin clicked and I decided that the week would be devoted to America’s favorite – The Beloved Hot Dog.
Over the years I’ve had to write fun clever advertising copy about the history of the hot dog, who stakes claim to the original dog, which European immigrant brought it with them through Ellis Island, etcetera etcetera etcetera blah blah blah. Enough! At this point it does not matter. What matters is that they are here, they are one of man’s greatest inventions and I challenge you to find someone who doesn’t like hot dogs. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.
Oh, ok, back to Hot Dog Week at Chez Matt.
Because of my love for the dog and the fact that I had a few recipes I wanted to try I decided to begin the tradition of Hot Dog Week. Yes, a different dog every day. And this is just as good a time to start as any as it’s been too hot to cook. I didn’t really have to do much persuading around the house in order to celebrate Hot Dog Week. Because of the increased caloric intake of eating hot dogs five nights in a row, we did what all professional eaters do. We trained. We planned. We drank water. We took it easy leading up to the event. We restricted fat and calories, knowing we were about to quickly ramp up. We did it right. Remember, we’re professional big boys.
Monday’s festivities began with all beef dogs, steamed, and served on a fresh hot dog bun with mustard, relish and ketchup. This is the kind of hot dog you’d get a game. So deliciously plain in all its basic glory. Nothing fancy, but just right. I was tempted to squeeze some fancy smoked onion mustard I had in the fridge, but didn’t. Just plain old yellow stuff for this dog.
Ingredients: All beef franks, bun, yellow mustard. Maybe some relish or ketchup. Maybe.
Chili with anything is good. Chili on top of a hot dog? Even better. These reminded me of the hot dogs my mom would make about twice a year for us on Friday nights. Needless to say it was a treat. Take a standard wiener and bun and top with chili.
There’s really no way to mess this up.
Midweek and we found ourselves ramping up for my favorite part of the first annual Hot Dog Week. It was no coincidence, I simply saved the best for last! Now, for those of you who have never had a Chicago-style hot dog, let me tell you, it’s completely different. At first odd and strange, they grow on you after time (eat enough and you can say that literally.) The addition of cucumbers, salad peppers, tomatoes and celery salt may make you scratch your head, but please, please, let’s applaud the efforts of those who are at least trying to increase some fresh veggies into their diets. Even if it is on top of a hot dog.
The combination of hot dog and cool, crunchy veggies actually makes this one of my favorite hot dogs ever. Unfortunately I didn’t have the proper bun when I made this at home – it should always be a poppy seed bun.
Ingredients: Poppy seed bun, beef frank, cucumber spears, pickle spears, mustard, tomato slices, sport peppers, chopped onions, celery salt. Absolutely no ketchup. Got that?
If you live in Los Angeles and venture out past 8 o’clock to a bar, club or just work the corner of Santa Monica & Highland in heels and a wig (you know who you are) then you certainly know all about an LA-style hot dog. Its street name does conjure up pejorative thoughts, but hey, so what. Sold from food carts by street vendors at night, this hot dog is wrapped in bacon, grilled, and dressed on a greasy bun with grilled onions, freshly grilled jalapeños and mayonnaise. It is simply dangerous street food on so many levels. And you know what? It’s so utterly spectacular and terrible that you can’t help but love it. I mean really love it. Like obsess about it. But you should enjoy it, as you don’t know where it came from, if it was even sanitary or if you’ll end up in the emergency room. But like most street food sold in nefarious corners of a city, you take your chances. What is life without a delicious little gamble?
Ingredients: You can’t possibly make this as good as you’d find on the street. But you can come close by wrapping bacon around a frank, cooking it and topping the hot dog with grilled onions, grilled jalapeños and cold, creamy mayonnaise. I don’t even want to think about cholesterol right now.
I’m still stumped about the origins of this hot dog. But that doesn’t really matter. The addition of savory grilled onions, pineapple chunks and crushed potato chips make this hot dog an all-in-one affair, complete with a side dish (your chips) and your desert cup (the pineapple.) It definitely gives you the sweet and salty action, and it’s fun to eat, in a very messy kind of way. Those pesky chips!
Ingredients: Buns and weenies, topped with grilled onions, pineapple chunks and crushed potato chips. You could use ketchup or mustard if you wish, but I like it as is.
In conclusion: Our first annual Hot Dog Week was a smashing success, and I can no longer fit into my work pants. I wish I could say I don’t want to see another hot dog for quite some time, but that’s just impossible. I’d do it all over again if my doctor would let me. Now it’s back to light fare for a bit, but I’ll certainly still be dreaming of dogs.