This is the season for baseball, backyard grill-fests and hot dogs galore. Americans will consume about 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.
The secret to a truly great ballpark frank lies in the toppings, says Texas food blogger and hot dog obsessive Russell Van Kraayenburg, and frankly speaking, there are more than 100 ways to cook that dog. Van Kraayenburg, whose blogs include Chasing Delicious and the cocktail-centric Boys Club, showcases all those styles from the plain Jane to the Fenway Frank, the Thai Fried and the Ecuadorean Street Dog in his new cookbook, “Haute Dog” (Quirk Books, $18.95, 168 pages).
Turns out that the all-American classic pops up in countries around the world, from South Africa (a spicy boerewors sausage roll), to India (a chutney-topped veggie dog) and Germany (the triple bratwurst). Our side of the Atlantic boasts scores more, wrapped in buns, rolls, cornbread batter and even waffles – and topped with every condiment imaginable, from ketchup and mustard to barbecue sauces, slaws and a vast array of produce. Naturally, we had questions.
You’ve got some truly amazing franks in “Haute Dog.” What was the very worst idea you encountered?
There were quite a few – a lot in Scandinavia, where they put mashed potatoes on them or there’s one with shrimp salad. I like mashed potatoes, but not on my hot dog. And shrimp salad?! Not a favorite of mine.
What was your happiest discovery?
The spicy South African sausage roll was the biggest surprise. My father is a South African immigrant, and I grew up with a lot of South African food, including boerewors, which is Afrikaans for farmer’s sausage. When I discovered (the hot dog), I thought, “Can this be real?” I called family back there, and yes, it was.
Now that you’ve thoroughly explored the world of franks, what’s your favorite these days?
If I’m in a restaurant or a park, I always try something new to see what they’re doing with it. At home, the Chicago Dog. You put a pickle on a hot dog – I’m sold.