It’s the traditional thing to eat on the U.S. Independence Day holiday: The all-American Hot Dog. I’ve got a few DOs and DON’Ts for you that will make your holiday Frankfurters even better than before and celebrate the wondrous spectrum of cultures that have melded into the North American Mosaic.
The leaders, in the thick of the competition – and the mustard shower – at the
2013 Nathan’s Original Fouth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island.
The contest – the first real competitive eating event outside of pie and
watermelon games at county fairs – is as much a holiday tradition
as the Hot Dog, itself!
The basic All American Hot Dog, as we know it, was, indeed, invented in New York City in 1916 by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker. He and his wife started selling Dogs on buns from a stand at Coney Island in 1916 and never looked back. You can still get Nathan’s Famous Dogs at any of several hundred vendor carts all over NYC, as well as at the original location, on the beach at Coney Island – not to mention in selected delis and grocery stores across North America.
Dogs by the numbers…
Here’s a great quote for you, from a recent post about the state of the Dog in America:
“…no day is better for hot dog consumption than the Fourth of July, when Americans [are] expected to eat about 150 million of them — enough to stretch from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles more than five times.”
Nevertheless, the popularity of classic Frankfurter, which will be paired forever in our psyches with good old yellow mustard, is on the decline. Why? One theory postulates that the slowing birth rate in North America is causing a shortage of children – traditionally the biggest consumers of Hot Dogs. Another theory says most immigrants to North America these days are from Asia, not Europe as in the last century, and the Asians just don’t have the same ‘Sausage’ traditions in their culinary cultures as Europeans do.
But that doesn’t man the Dog is dieing, by any means…
Upgrade your Holiday Dogs!
I”ve gathered a few tips for you, designed to make your 2014 holiday Hot Dogs the best ever…
- Grill or pan fry your Dogs. Boiling them does nothing for the flavour. Grilling, especially, does wonders!
- Don’t puncture your Dogs. That will just let the natural fat and flavours run out with the leaking juices. If you overcook pierced Dogs they will be tough!
- Don’t press or squeeze your dogs. First of all you risk breaking the skin and losing the precious fat and flavours in the Dog’s wonderful juices. More importantly, you risk overcooking the skins on your dogs making them tough. You want a nice, thin, crispy skin with a hint of colour, not a piece of charred leather.
- Which brings me to: Don’t overcook your dogs! Remember, they are already fully cooked when you get them. You just have to warm them through, toast the skins just enough to give them a nice *SNAP* when you bite into them, and then dress them up right…
- Keep it classic with the Buns. Don’t go crazy with big, fancy Sausage buns for your classic Hot Dogs. You don’t want to mask the flavour of your Dogs with aromatic competition from Herbs,Seeds or Ancient Grains. And you definitely don’t want to fill up on bread!
- Keep it classic with the condiments. Piling on too many sauces and toppings will just result in a muddy flavoured, overpowered Frankfurter on a soggy bun. Following are come suggestions for dressing treatments for several classic Dog ‘styles’…
- If you are serving Chili Dogs, make sure the Chili Sauce is rich and meaty and let it be the star condiment. A little mustard and some finely chopped onions would be fine, too, according to Coney Island style aficionados.
- If you are going Classic American Ballpark style, be sure to use real Ballpark Mustard (finely-ground Brown Mustard with a hint of sweetness). Ketchup is also traditional, along with good old Sweet Pickle Relish.
- If you are going German/Polish style, Sauer Kraut is the classic topping. Mustard is also a nice touch, but go easy. No, repeat NO Ketchup on this one!
- If you are going Funky Fusion style, anything – and I mean anything – goes. Let your imagination be your guide! Just remember the basic rule which might be encapsulated in the statement: No more than three condiments and/or toppings per Dog. Don’t smother the poor, noble creature!
And while you’re at it…
This year’s 4th of July Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, starts at noon Eastern Time!
Have a great holiday!
~ Maggie J.