- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

For Super Bowl Sunday, what could be more appropriate than a hot dog? Not just any hot dog. The American hot dog.

This staple of children’s menus and scourge of health fanatics has undergone a metamorphosis that should please fans and foes. It has gone gourmet to include high-quality ingredients and fussy toppings.

“Taking the familiar and making it outstanding has happened in sandwiches, ice cream, burgers and pizza. Hot dogs were next on the comfort food list,” says Mark Sobczak, who, as hot dog chef for Vienna Beef, maker of red hots in Chicago, spends his days dreaming up super dogs along the lines of the Caribbean hot dog — wrapped in a tomato basil tortilla with bacon, pineapple salsa, balsamic onion and pepper Monterey Jack cheese — for restaurants that serve the all-beef Vienna.

“Hot dogs aren’t just the old standard anymore,” says Becky Mercuri, author of “The Great American Hot Dog,” to be published by Gibbs Smith in spring. “More creative combinations are defining the term ‘hot dog’ in a way that’s more akin to sausages when you think about turkey dogs and chicken dogs. It’s very exciting.”

According to Miss Mercuri, the haute dog has come a long way from its inception, an American offshoot of sausages imported by immigrants and termed “hot dog” in 1895 as a derogatory to describe the fare served at late-night lunch wagons. Since then the name has defined a particular kind of sausagelike sandwich in which the meat is highly processed to smoothly fill a casing.

Determinedly American, the hot dog quickly became a regional favorite, topped with red chili in New Mexico, pepper relish in New Orleans and smothered with pizza toppings in a pizza crust in New Jersey. In 2005, Americans ate 1.5 billion hot dogs purchased from supermarkets alone, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

“A hot dog consists of the bread, the filling and the topping, and each element is an important part of the whole,” says Miss Mercuri.

With the advent of premium franks such as the American Kobe beef hot dogs from Snake River Farms (www.snakeriverfarms.com), grass-fed beef sausages from Panorama Meat (www.panoramameats.com), and veggie dogs from Morningstar Farms (www.morningstarfarms.com), diners have a much improved selection over traditional mystery meats.

Hot Doug’s in Chicago dishes wild game wieners, and the minichain Frankitude in Miami recently introduced the salmon dog. Top chefs gone to the dogs include David Burke at David Burke at Bloomingdale’s in New York, with a Kobe beef frank topped with mustard oil and angry (or spicy) onion relish, and Janos Wilder of the J Bar in Tucson, who tops the J Dawg with crema poblano, pickled cactus, whole-grain mustard and black beans.

As restaurants have proved, the hot dog is a versatile food, which should be the starting point for the creativity of home cooks aiming to grill up franks for a classic Super Bowl feed.

It’s a chameleon meat, so evenly textured and only slightly smoky that it can bend in the direction of the Caribbean with the right toppings and the Yukon with others.

David Burke’s angry onion relish

The “angry” indicates a spiciness that comes from the mustard oil. .

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups pickle relish

3 cloves roasted garlic, peeled and mashed

2/3 cup chicken broth, reduced to 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons mustard seed oil

In a medium pan over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.

Transfer onion to a bowl and allow to cool. Mix with pickle relish, roasted garlic, reduced chicken broth and mustard seed oil. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes about 2 cups.

Vienna Beef Hawaiian dog

1 7-inch Vienna Beef hot dog

1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce of choice

2 slices canned pineapple

1 ciabatta roll

1/4 to ½ cup shredded lettuce

2 slices Swiss cheese

1/4 cup Vidalia onions sauteed in 1 tablespoon canola oil

Split hot dog lengthways down the middle. Char-grill on both sides while you baste with teriyaki sauce. Grill pineapple and cut in chunks. Split roll in half and cover bottom half with lettuce. Place grilled dog on lettuce, cover with Swiss cheese, sauteed onion and pineapple. Cover with top of roll, cut it in half and share with a friend. Makes 2 servings, but can easily be doubled, tripled, whatever.

Chicago fire dog

1 Vienna Beef Spicy Polish sausage

1/4 cup sliced green bell pepper

1/4 cup sliced red bell pepper

½ cup sliced white onion

1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil

1 ciabatta roll

1 tablespoon commercially made chipotle mayonnaise

2 slices pepper Monterey Jack cheese

Split sausage lengthways down the middle. Char-grill on both sides. Saute green and red peppers and onion in 1 tablespoon oil until soft, adding more oil, if needed, to prevent sticking. Toast roll. Slice roll in half and spread chipotle mayo over both sides of roll. Place hot dog, skin side down, on bottom half of roll, top with jack cheese and sauteed bell pepper and onion. Cover with top half of the roll. Makes 1 serving.

Vienna Beef gourmet dog

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, divided

1 shallot, chopped

2 apples, cored and diced (peeling optional)

2 pears, cored and diced (peeling optional)

1/4 cup apple brandy

Dash cinnamon

1 teaspoon brown sugar, or to taste

Dash salt

1 (6-inch, 1/4-pound) Vienna Beef hot dog

1 ciabatta roll

1/4 cup buttermilk blue cheese

In a small pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter with shallot and cook for 1 minute. Then add diced apple and pear and cook until fruit starts to caramelize. Add brandy and set aflame with a match. Put out flame by adding remaining butter and season to taste with cinnamon, brown sugar and salt. Reduce by half.

Split and grill hot dog. Split and toast roll. Place hot dog, skin side down, on bottom half of roll, add fruit compote with the sauce and top with cheese. Place in heated broiler and broil until cheese starts to melt. Watch carefully, since this can happen quickly. Remove from broiler, cover with top half of bread and serve. Makes 1 serving, but can easily be multiplied.

Prairie dog with avocados

6 beef hot dogs

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 hot dog buns

Guacamole (recipe follows)

Tomato and corn salsa (recipe follows)

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Slowly sear hot dogs in oil in a frying pan until slightly browned. Place hot dogs in buns and add guacamole on one side of the hot dog and tomato and corn salsa on the other side. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Makes 6 servings.

GUACAMOLE:

2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled and seeded

1 plum tomato, cored and diced in 1/4-inch pieces

1 clove garlic, minced

½ small onion, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Dash white pepper

Juice from 1 lemon wedge

With a fork, mix together avocados, tomato, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and lemon juice to achieve a smooth consistency. Refrigerate until using.

TOMATO AND CORN SALSA:

3 plum tomatoes, diced in 1/4-inch pieces

½ red onion, chopped

½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1/4 jalapeno chili, seeded and minced

4 tablespoons fresh or frozen cooked corn

1 clove of garlic, minced

4 springs cilantro, chopped

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Dash white pepper

In a bowl, gently mix together tomato, onion, bell pepper, chili, corn, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until using.

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