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Dog tales: What You Need to Know About Hot Dogs & Sausages, with Great Recipes

"A waist is a terrible thing to mind." Anonymous

Why are hot dogs so popular? They are fast, kid friendly, they have saved many harried parents with no time to cook, and they just plain taste good. They also connect us with our childhood, our parents, and our hometown. The are also a cultural leveler because you can find anyone in line at a hot dog stand, from wealthy captains of industry to powerful politicians to movie stars to laborers and the homeless.

Hot Doggerel

Hot Dog Road Trip. Here's an idea for your next big cookout: There are scores of recipes for serving hot dogs and many hole in the wall hot dog stands have earned life-long followers with their unusual house style. Interestingly, many cities and regions have evolved a local recipe that is their signature breed. It has become part of their area culture and they cannot stand to eat them any other way. For them the unique scent and taste of the genre they know and love conjures powerful memories. Not counting the recipes unique to only one or two joints, there's The Coney Island Hot Dog and its brother the New York Pushcart Dog, The Chicago Hot Dog, The Detroit Coney and its sibling The Flint Coney, The Cincinnati Cheese Coney, The Rochester Garbage Plate, The West Virginia Slawdog, The Seattle Cream Cheese Dog, The North Jersey Italian Dog, The Texas Wiener, The Rhode Island New York System Hot Wiener, The Sonora Dog, and The Weenie Royale.

How to cook hot dogs. You thought it was simple right? Well it is, if you know what you're doing. Here are the best strategies for char dogs on the grill, on the griddle, split dogs, dirty water dogs, steamers, and nukes.

Preparing your buns. Believe it or not, there are several ways to handle buns.

All-Purpose Hot Dog Chili. In other articles I have attempted to come close to the classic regional chili sauce flavors. Here's my favorite recipe for hot dog meat sauce.

No ketchup on hot dogs. Some people will tell you that there is a ketchup controversy. There is no controversy. Many hot dog vendors in Chicago, renowned for their worship of the hot dog, won't do it. If you want ketchup on your dog, they'll point you to the bottles used for garnishing French fries and tell you to "go rune it yourself."

Sausagology: A taxonomy of sausages for your grill. Here are a few of the many kinds of sausages that you might find in a local grocery and how they are made.

Rating all-beef frankfurters. The all-beef frank is the premier frank in this cook's opinion, and here are my ratings of more than 30 of them in a blind tasting.

What's in a hot dog? You're not supposed to ask, but now that you have... Also, here are the facts about nitrates and nitrites. And did you know that the frank is only about half the calories on the sandwich?

Recipe: The Classic Chicago Dog. In Chicago, where hot dog stands far out number hamburger joints, there is one and only one classic recipe, and very little variation from it. It is the perfect hot dog.

Recipe: The New York Hot Dog. The story of American hot doggery begins on Coney Island with Nathan's Famous griddled dog and moves a dozen miles north to Midtown for the Sabrett with the classic orange sweet tart onion sauce on their pushcarts.

Recipe: The West Virginia Slawdog. Skip the sauerkraut and ladle the cole slaw on top of the meat sauce.

Recipe: The Detroit Coney. Detroit is home of the Coney Dog, smothered in an all meat chili made from beef heart. Here is the recipe for the Classic Detroit Coney.

Recipe: The Cincinnati Cheese Coney. Smother the frank with boiled chili, add onions, and then pile on the shredded cheddar.

Recipe: Sandra's Candied Cocktail Wienies. This is the famous recipe in Mom's recipe box. Don't forget the frilly toothpicks.

Recipe: Meathead's Ultimate Hot Dog. Please, don't tell anyone in Chicago I like Japanese pickled ginger on my hot dogs.

The hot dog creation myths. Who invented it, where did it come from, how did it get on the bun, and how did it get its name? Fact, not fiction.

Top dogs: Chicago's best hot dog stands. There are more than 1,800 hot dog stands in Meathead's home town, Chicago, far more than the sum of McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's. Some Chicago hot dog stands are practically institutions, decades old, handed down over the generations, with a devoted local following and diaspora of fans around the nation who make the pilgrimage back as soon as they get off the plane. Here are my faves.

Chasing the dogs: What to drink with a hot dog. Marlene Dietrich is reputed to have said that hot dogs with Champagne was her favorite meal, and I heartily agree, but there are other very good options.

My most memorable hot dog. I have eaten some great meals around the world, but one stands out.

My ride in the Wienermobile. In 2009 this hot dog got to ride shotbun in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. How cool is that?

Starting a hot dog stand. With very little up front, a good location, and long hours, you can make a good living.

Other Sausages

Recipe: The Wisconsin Brat Tub. Bratwurst are the official food of University of Wisconsin fans and Green Bay Packer fans. They are great tailgate food. Unlike hot dogs, brats are not precooked at the factory. In this recipe we take a classic Wisconsin technique and riff on it slightly. The brats are simmered first in beer, then grilled, then the beer is made into a sauce, and the brats simmer in the sauce. Touchdown!

The Classic Italian Sassidge Sangwitch. Tony Soprano loved them. You got a problem wit dat?

Recipe: The Italian Sausage Bomb. I have deconstructed the classic Italian Sausage sandwich, turned it into a meatloaf, rearranged the ingredients by stuffing it with the usual toppings, amped it up by wrapping it in bacon, and then smoked it.

...more to come (to be notified when new recipes and other articles are published, be sure to subscribe to our free, spam free, email newsletter "Smoke Signals").

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