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.
Hot dog rules
If you’re planning on enjoying hot dogs this Memorial Day, below are the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council’s tips for hot dog “etiquette.”
Never put hot dog toppings between the hot dog and the bun. Always “dress the dog,” not the bun.
Apply wet condiments first, then chunky ones followed by cheese and any spices or seasonings.
Don’t use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.
Don’t take more than five bites to finish a hot dog, or seven for a foot-long wiener.
Eat hot dogs on buns with your hands. Utensils should not touch hot dogs on buns.
Always lick away condiments remaining on the fingers after eating a hot dog instead of washing.
Note: Pizza bread is a big, thick, oval loaf that is seriously substantial.
The crusty exterior and fluffy interior of a pizza bread or a good Italian roll is essential here, and not just because it’s Italian. It must be sturdy enough to support loads of toppings and soft enough to soak up the flavorful drippings.
Fried potato wedges (see recipe below right)
Olive oil, for sautéing
Sliced bell peppers
Pizza bread or Italian roll
2 all-beef hot dogs
Make potatoes according to the recipe and keep warm. Next, warm a splash of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onions and peppers, and cook, stirring, for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
Get out a loaf of pizza bread or an Italian roll. Deep-fry 2 hot dogs.
While the dogs cook, use a sharp knife to cut a slit down the center of the bread to create a pocket; do not cut all the way through. Place the wieners in the bread and add a line of ketchup, if desired. Top with a pile of potatoes, onions, and peppers.
Fried potato wedges
Makes 16 wedges, enough for 4 hot dogs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges
Salt, to taste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and cook on one side for about 10 minutes, or until starting to brown. Flip potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes, or until browned. Flip once more and cook another 10 minutes on the third side, or until browned all over. Transfer potatoes to a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.
Spicy South African sausage roll
A typical example of the richly flavored fare of South Africa, whose culinary traditions have roots in Dutch, English, Indian and Asian cuisines. Boerewors sausage is a fatty, spicy beef-and-pork concoction that can be found at international food stores or online.
South African tomato sauce (see recipe)
Vegetable oil, for sautéing
Sliced white onions
In a skillet over medium heat, warm a splash of oil. Cook onions for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft and light brown.
Get out a classic bun. Grill boerewors; while the sausage cooks, lightly toast the bun on the grill. Place the grilled sausage in the bun. Top with a smear of brown mustard and a pile of cooked white onions. Serve with a small bowl of South African tomato sauce on the side.
South African tomato sauce
Makes 2 cups
This is a quick ketchup-like sauce. From “Haute Dogs” by Russell Van Kraayenburg.
One 16-ounce can tomato sauce
One 6-ounce can tomato paste
One 16-ounce can stewed tomatoes with their juices
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 whole clove
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon powdered garlic
1/4 teaspoon powdered onion
In a heavy-bottomed pot, stir to combine all ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove and discard clove. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 3/4 cup
2 tablespoons whole yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons whole brown mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of hot sauce
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch garlic powder
Grind mustard seeds until very fine. Combine with remaining ingredients. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.