The Southern-style Chicago Hot Dog
Number 100 in my Top Meals was Shrimp and Eggplant Casserole, and Number 99 is — The Southern-Style (Chicago) Hot Dog! I need to explain that this recipe is way more Southern than it is Chicagoan. I use the city’s name because that’s what this hot dog was called when and where I found the basic recipe, in the June 2008 issue of Men’s Health magazine.
First of all, according to the original recipe, a Chicago-style hot dog should be beef. Beef hot dogs are okay, but I’ve eaten so many sausage dogs at the Alabama State Fair and the Montgomery Biscuits’ baseball games I’ve been ruint. If I fix a dog, and it isn’t a big ol’ Southern sausage-dog, made mostly of pork, then I don’t want it in my hot dog bun. It’s like the difference between real Southern barbecue and Texas barbecue — real Southerners prefer pig barbecue. Pretend Southerners — the Texans, for instance — prefer beef barbecue. I’ll be the first real Southerner to admit that beef barbecue is not bad, but it’s also — unlike real Southern barbecue — not great. Of course, real Southern barbecue, like most Southern foods, would never be considered a health food. Eat it in moderation! If you can.
So … you must start this hot dog with the correct ingredients — and the first is a quality chunk of Southern sausage. You can pick and choose among thousands and still end up with a great dog. I prefer Hillshire Farm sausage, the ones that are hot-dog-sized, but Sam’s Fireside Gourmet and Johnsonville are good, too. Just don’t look for cheap sausage dogs. This isn’t a mess-hall–feed-‘em-all-cheap-junk-food recipe we’re talking about here.
Unpack your dog or dogs, boil them for ten minutes, then sauté in a half-tablespoon of butter (the tablespoon amount is marked on the side of the butter wrapper). Cut a slice and begin sautéing the dog in a frying pan until crispy, about two-three minutes.
The second ingredient is just as important — a whole wheat hot dog bun. Don’t you dare purchase a soggy, white-bread hot-dog bun! Never! I find it difficult to believe that everywhere I go, people still purchase and consume, for God’s sake, white bread. Don’t do it. The stuff is tasteless and bad for you. If you’re going to buy white hot-dog buns, you may as well go ahead and just fill them with cheap, chicken-filled hot dogs. My favorite buns are Nature’s Own. I think you can buy them everywhere. Take a bun, spread it apart, and drop it in the toaster. This step is crucial! The bun must be toasted. But be careful—they’re easy to burn in a toaster. Watch the bun closely. I always have to hit the cancel button on my toaster to keep the buns from burning. It’s all part of cooking. Cooking isn’t an easy-going pastime where you can toss a bunch of stuff in a pot and forget about it. If you do burn your buns, toss ‘em. They can’t be saved. The burnt taste will come through no matter how much of the crusty black stuff you shave off. Steel yourself and start over, this time paying attention.
Okay. You should be ready — one chunk of sautéed sausage, and one tanned whole-wheat bun. Don’t forget the “eat it in moderation” phrase a paragraph or two above. Next: Using real mayonnaise, which to me means Hellmann’s or Kraft (editor’s note: Duke’s), in that order exactly, apply at least a tablespoon to both leaves of the bun. Add some mustard — and not any silly gourmet mustard either — use plain French’s Classic Yellow Mustard or Mister Mustard Hot Original — and a tablespoon of each of the following: sweet relish, dill relish, drained Ro-Tel Chunky Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles, and banana pepper rings (mild, hot — your choice). Sprinkle celery salt on it and dig in.
Now — pretend you’re in Chicago, the wind is blowing icy cold off whichever Great Lake that fair city sits beside, and some Al Capone lookalike is shooting his sub-machine gun in the next block. But you don’t care, because you’ve got something no one else in the Windy City has — a genuine (sure, go ahead, pronounce it like we do:ngen-you-wine), Southern-Style, Chicagoan hot dog. Ahh. Life is good. It’ll be difficult to limit yourself to only one.
The Ingredients: Per One Dog:
- Good quality sausage dog.
- Whole wheat bun.
- One tablespoon butter.
- One tablespoon each: mayo, mustard, sweet relish, dill relish, chunky tomatoes, and banana pepper rings.
- One teaspoon or less, celery salt.
That’s it. Gobble it down as slowly as you can. Eat another.
P.S. A note on Mister Mustard. This mustard is my favorite, but it’s difficult to find in any of the local grocery stores. I order it online. It’s well worth it. It’s made by Woeber’s, in Springfield, Ohio, where the founder, Carl Woeber, settled when he arrived from Germany. It’s the only mustard I’ve ever found that has a kick to it, yet still retains a decidedly mustard taste. I prefer the Hot Original, not the Sweet. Scott Raab, in Esquire magazine in 2007, said that for him, finding Mister Mustard was like meeting “the true love of mi vida loca con condimentos,” and it was “a blessing upon every cold cut known to humankind.” Scott prefers the sweet. I think he’s from Cleveland. I don’t think he’s a Southerner. Stick with the Original.
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