June 22, 2016

When Hot Dogs Go Gourmet

Don't be afraid to get a little funky with your hot dogs toppings.

Hot dogs are an American classic, in part because they are so delightfully simple. They’re delicious, portable and well-suited to be sold from a cart on the street corner, at the ballpark or in your favorite diner. However, many chefs have applied their culinary academy training to making truly exceptional dogs. Whether you prefer to perfect your technique in a time-honored style or forge ahead with exciting new flavors, you can find plenty of inspiration in some of America’s best frankfurters.

Perfecting the traditions
Crafting a great hot dog doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. Many establishments serve franks in accordance with longstanding traditions, setting themselves apart with fresh ingredients and impressive technique. That attention to detail has been plenty to make certain stands world-famous.

“New York dogs feature beef franks, mustard, onions and sauerkraut.”

The hot dogs served at stands in New York City are generally all-beef franks with yellow mustard, steamed onions and sauerkraut. Nathan’s Famous has become an international chain of restaurants, but the original stand in Coney Island still stands as a testament to the appeal of that old-school dog. According to Gothamist, it’s still worth braving crowds of tourists to dig into this classic. Customers can also have chili and cheese thrown on the dog or enjoy an order of crinkle-cut french fries.

In operation since 1939, Pink’s Hot Dogs in Los Angeles is most celebrated for the chili dogs, also featuring onions and mustard, served since the stand’s inception. However, the selection has expanded over the years, and it includes options like a Polish dog or pastrami Reuben dog. In keeping with the Hollywood locale, the restaurant also offers a number of special items named for celebrities. The Giada De Laurentiis dog, for instance, offers nine inches of meat topped with sauteed mushrooms, onions and peppers, tomato and mozzarella cheese.

Chicago’s approach to the hot dog is well-known, and many residents insist there is no other way to have one. Made with an all-beef frank, the Chicago-style dog features chopped onions, sweet pickle relish, tomato, peppers, a dill pickle spear, celery salt and yellow mustard on a poppy-seed bun. Restaurants like Fatso’s Last Stand show off what they know best by turning out countless dogs with those classic toppings every day. There, however, the signature dish is the char dog, a Chicago dog that is grilled over charcoal rather than steamed.

Themed hot dogs are becoming especially popular.
Cincinnati’s Senate earned a prominent place on Food & Wine’s list of the best places for a hot dog in the U.S. That’s because chef Daniel Wright produces an array of unusual and fantastic variations. For instance, the croque madame tops a beef frank with Black Forest ham, bechamel, and a poached egg, served on a brioche bun. Meanwhile, the Korean dog comes with house-made kimchi, braised short rib meat and pickle.Experimenting with new flavors
While few meals are more satisfying than a hot dog prepared in the style you’ve enjoyed since childhood, sometimes you want something a little different. That’s why so many chefs have found success by adding bold new flavors to their franks. You may want to incorporate some ideas from these unique takes on the old reliable hot dog into your own cooking.

NoMad Bar took the New York Post’s nod for the finest frank in town with Daniel Humm’s decadent version. The nine-inch kosher dog is wrapped in bacon and arrives on a brioche bun topped with black truffle mayonnaise, celery relish and Gruyere. Pair this over-the-top dish with one of the many fine cocktails on hand for a fully grown-up hot dog experience that still fills you with childlike glee.

The Duck Inn in Chicago specializes in creatively preparing the namesake fowl, and the restaurant’s hot dog is no exception. The sausage combines duck meat and fat with beef, wrapping it all in bacon. Chef Kevin Hickey tops his creation with cheese sauce, pickled jalapenos, Calabrian chili relish and a cucumber pickle that is house-made overnight.

Whether you’re striving to make the best Chicago-style hot dog or breaking new ground for frankfurters, you’ll find that this is one widely loved dish with limitless potential. If you apply what you learn in an accredited online culinary institute to preparing great franks, you may find that people line up to try your cooking.