Hot dogs are the ultimate comfort food. These “tube steaks” evoke memories of summer barbecues, smoky flavours, and a variety of condiments and sauces to personalize to your taste. You can recommit to this fast-food classic by exploring options such as gourmet franks or sausages, better buns, different cooking methods and an amazing variety of freshly prepared toppings. Easy-to-prepare and delicious, these fast and decadent hot dog recipes should wow family and friends alike.
It Goes Better with Bacon
You can transform an ordinary hot dog into a decadent pleasure by wrapping it in bacon. In fact, what doesn’t go better with bacon? Simply wrap a slice of bacon around the frank and secure it at both ends with a toothpick. Then cook until crispy on a barbecue, or in a frying pan or oven (boiling and microwaving don’t work well). Generally speaking, it is grilling the barbecue that gives this sandwich the best, smoky flavour. But beware that hot dogs cook quickly and char easily. When at the grill, be aware that the dripping bacon fat will make the fire flare up, threatening the hot dog with unwanted char. Keep a spray bottle of water close at hand, so you can douse flames as they rise up.
Onions and Peppers Kick It Up a Notch
It’s hard to improve on the perfection of a bacon-wrapped hot dog, but a topping of fried onions and green peppers (or hot peppers if you want heat) will put you in a new league. Slice the onions thin and start them frying in oil, over medium-high heat first, and add the peppers later, only cooking enough so they are crisp. Then sauce according to taste. A sweet chili sauce works well here. Buns are really the unsung heroes of the hot dog experience. Instead of the usual soft white buns, go to your bakery of choice to explore some other bread options. You could go for the more chewy texture of a ciabatta or Panini bun, or the earthy flavours of full grain, or the long, flat hoagie, or . . . the choices are endless.
The Sweet Seduction of Caramelized Onions
If you are going to go more gourmet with, say, a nice sausage, you should consider spending more time on your onions. By slow-cooking them (very slowly, so have patience) in a couple of tablespoons of virgin olive oil, stirring often to prevent burning, you can make soft, sweet caramelized onions. Once these have been plumped on the sandwich, drizzle on your piquant mustard of choice to provide a great taste contrast.
Chilli Dogs Take the Ballpark Home
It’s easy to enjoy the ballpark flavour of chilli dogs at home. By cooking this treat yourself, you can adjust the ingredients, perhaps adding fresh chilli peppers to the onions you fry to boost the heat quotient to respectable levels. A good chilli dog recipe will offer just the right balance of beef, garlic, onion and chilli powder. The concoction should have a firm bun to contain the flowing chilli. And for final garnishing, chopped, raw red onion and tangy grated cheddar cheese work well.
Coleslaw Covered Frankfurter
Some things go so well together that you should actually put them together: a hot dog with a side of creamy coleslaw is popular. Why not take the next step? Use the coleslaw as your topping for a thick, all-beef frank. This can be rounded out with a bold dash of barbecue sauce. The recipe for the coleslaw and BBQ sauce should balance the tang and kick of the sauce with the creamy sweetness of the slaw, and its vinegar undertones.
Chilean Italian-Style Hot Dogs
Hot dogs came to Chile in the 1920s and the country played with the toppings to create an exciting mix of Latin and European flavours. The Chilean Completo Italiano traditional hot dog sandwich is made with diced tomato, mashed avocado and mayonnaise – the colours of the Italian flag. Other toppings include a lo pobre (fried onion, fried egg, cheese), alemán (tomato, mayonnaise, sauerkraut) and atómico (tomato, sauerkraut, mayonnaise, avocado, American sauce, hot chilli sauce).
Easier Than You Think: Sausage with Homemade Sauerkraut
A hearty Polish or German sausage that, after grilling, is topped with sauerkraut – its briny, vinegary taste, seasoned with caraway seeds – is hard to beat. The only other condiment allowed in this divine pairing is your mustard of choice (Dijon works well). Sauerkraut aficionados will be happy to hear that it’s not hard to make your own. But be patient. Fermenting takes two to six weeks.
Dress Up Plain Bread
Sometimes when you want to make a hot dog or sausage, you might not have the right buns in stock. Then it’s acceptable to wrap it in plain, fresh sandwich bread, but give it something different with your choice of cheeses. You could use grated Gruyère or Comté cheese, melted in the barbecue or under the broiler and then garnished with sweet chilli sauce or Dijon mustard.
A Spanish Sausage Married to an Argentine Sauce
The choripán is an Argentine street food that unites chorizo sausage with chimichurri, the Argentine sauce. Chimichurri is a garlic-laden herb sauce used as a marinade and accompaniment to grilled meats. (While chorizo is a spicy Spanish pork sausage, meat-loving Argentina does make its own.) You can also use salsa criolla on your sandwich – a local creole sauce made with onion, tomato and pepper.
There’s Ketchup and Then There’s Ketchup
Yes, yes, we know. Ketchup and hot dogs isn’t unusual. But rather than the same sweet red stuff you usually use, have you ever made your own ketchup with depth and flavour never found in a commercial bottle of the stuff? This Epicurious recipe includes a purée of whole tomatoes, garlic, onion, chilli powder, paprika, cinnamon, allspice, brown sugar and cider vinegar. Once cooked, it lasts chilled for up to one month in your refrigerator.
Liberate Your Piggy – Put it in a Blanket
You can also break the hot-dog-bun tyranny by putting your piggy in a blanket. Pillsbury suggests using its frozen crescent roll dough to wrap cheese-stuffed hot dogs and baking. And Martha Stewart suggests doing the same with all-butter puff pastry around Andouille sausage and honey Dijon mustard. The choice is yours.
While We Are Talking About Wrapped
Another fast way to wrap a sausage is to use fresh pita bread. Grill sausages – say, sweet or spicy Italian – and put them into the pitas with baby romaine lettuce and a full-grain mustard or a sweet honey mustard. If “pita” makes you think Greek, then you can exchange the mustard for tzatziki, the Greek yogurt, cucumber and garlic dip.
Drag it Through the Garden Chicago Style
Yes, when cooking a Chicago-style red hot, they call it “dragging it through the garden.” This must be the city’s version of a vegetable platter, with toppings that include mustard, pickle, tomato, onion and relish. You can liven the mixture with the addition of sport peppers or pepperoncini.
Some Like It Hot . . . and Sweet
There are legions of people who love to put barbecue sauce on hot dogs and just about anything else. They are usually divided into camps that include “sweet,” “spicy” and “smoky.” This recipe for BBQ sauce combines sweet and spicy, with heat supplied by jalapeno, red and black pepper, and is given a sweet boost with brown sugar, honey and apple juice. The sauce would work well in conjunction with sliced cucumber and crispy onion-bit condiments.
Mexican Salsa Makes Your Hot Dog Dance
To give your hot dog or sausage some spice and energy, just add salsa. While there are grocery shelves full of the condiment, you can bring more to the table by making your own. This simple recipe combines fresh diced tomatoes with thinly sliced jalapeno peppers and chopped scallions. Up the jalapeno heat as far as you like and you can substitute chopped red onion for the scallions (or use both). Melted cheese can also work in the mix.
Be Inventive: Create Something More Than the Sum of Its Parts
When you are creating your own hot dog recipe, don’t be afraid to be innovative and mix ingredients. This plump lamb sausage combines a Hawaiian, Japanese and American pedigree, with toppings that include fresh pineapple, a drizzle of teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise and a generous helping of roasted pork with crispy skin.
A Time for Haute Hot Dogs
With a French spin, you can take your ordinary hot dog sandwich and turn it into something more chic. Imagine a warm, crusty baguette loaded with Dijon, mayonnaise (or mustard or ketchup) and finished with a barbecued wiener. You take the loaf, trim the ends, cut it in thirds and then hollow a pathway down the centre of each of the baguette pieces, which you will fill with quality BBQ’d “ball park-style” wieners and toppings of choice. Place the baguette on the top shelf of the barbecue for the last part of the cooking, so it is warmed before filling.
The Classic Danish Hot Dog
Apparently Danes love their hot dogs – more than most. On many street corners in Copenhagen you’ll find pølsevogne (hot dog or sausage carts). The classic pølsevogn serves hot dogs with lots of nifty ingredients, including apple ketchup, mustard, remoulade, chopped onions, crispy onions and sweet pickles. Here’s a recipe for crispy shoestring onions.
Sausage Leftovers? Excellent!
If you have sausages left over from a meal, that’s good news. You can repurpose them into a sandwich with crusty baguette bread, white cheddar cheese (the older, the better) and a mixture of hoisin sauce and ketchup that salutes East and West at the same time. Although this recipe calls for steamed and sliced cabbage, we are equally fond of sprinkling on fresh avocado and tomato.
Get Yourself into a Pickle
If your taste veers to pickles, there is a variety you can use to garnish an all-beef gourmet hot dog in a natural casing, lying on a bed of arugula lettuce. An interesting mix might be garlic-heavy kosher pickles, bread-and-butter sweet pickles, sour or half-sour pickles and, finally, red chili pickles, to set everything ablaze. Finish with a drizzle of mustard. And have a glass of beer or water at hand. With dozens of ways to enjoy hot dogs, there’s no reason you shouldn’t make them the cornerstone of your summer diet.