These Dogs Are Hot!

Hot dogs are funny things. No matter how sophisticated your tastes are, you still crave them – especially this time of year. After all, they are a mainstay at baseball games and backyard barbecues. We New Yorkers also have our hot dog street vendors. Two-to-go as you stroll Midtown on a sunny day – nothing like it. Anyway you can get them, you do. I’m certainly no exception.

Hot dogs – or Franks, as we called them when I was a kid – have always been a personal favorite. Mom would pop them into the broiler during the winter months or on a grill during the summer. At the same time, she’d lay out those frozen French fries on a baking sheet and place them in the oven. All that was left was the warming of some baked beans and sauerkraut and boy, a feast was born. It was like a day off for her, since her meals usually consisted of two-hour stints in the kitchen. This was a 20-minute fix for a hungry family.

Sauerkraut and mustard toppings were de rigueur when I was young. As I hit the New York City pavement my first year of college I discovered the onions in tomato sauce so generously offered by the hot dog vendors. I don’t know what goes into that stuff, but it’s addictive. Of course, being obsessed with food as I am, I wanted more. That’s when I ventured into the college hangouts for an eclectic array of toppings. Raw onions, sweet relish, and melted cheddar were my first foray into that world. Then, of course, there were chili dogs. Sloppy, but heavenly. Did I stop there? No. I wanted some pork, so I began to request crispy bacon with my dogs. Hey, I was in my late teens and early twenties. That was health food to me back then.

So what about now? Well, I’m still up for any combination of toppings I can get. One of my favorite hangouts is Lansky’s Deli on Columbus Avenue and 71st Street in New York’s Upper West Side. They feature a foot long dog – fried, of course – and topped with anything you like. I prefer crispy pastrami bits, cheddar cheese, ketchup and sautéed onions. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I usually start with an appetizer. You guessed it – pigs in a blanket. Listen, if I’m doggin’ it I’m going all the way.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m limited. I do include the hot dog in some classic cuisine. (Well, maybe not classic but definitely cuisine by the strictest definition of the word.) That means my homemade mac in cheese will often sport pieces of grilled hot dogs in the mix before it goes into the oven to crisp up. The smokiness of the dogs is a perfect counterfoil to the mellow cheese sauce. And you haven’t tried my hot dog frittata. Don’t laugh. I sauté sliced hot dogs in some olive oil until nicely seared. After removing the slices from the pan, in goes lots of sliced onions. When they are caramelized, I return the hot dog slices to the pan and add the beaten eggs. When the frittata is just about done, I cover with slices of cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Let me tell you, this is a meal fit for a king. You must try it.

Whatever you do, be sure to buy the best quality hot dogs you can find. There is a difference. Dogs that plump up when you cook them are suspicious to me. Oh, hot dogs do grow a bit when the hit the grill, broiler or boiling water. But they shouldn’t end up looking like knockwurst. That a whole different animal for a different blog. And as for your buns, the choice is really up to you. I can eat a hot dog in Italian bread or sandwich in the pita. It’s more about the dog and less about the bread for me. Please be sure that the hot dog bun or roll or whatever is at least warm, though. Nothing worse than a sizzling hot dog in a piece of cold bread.

I continue to look for new ways to top my hot dogs. Lately, I’ve been getting into chutney. I like the way the sweetness plays with the saltiness of the dog. I’m also fooling around with sautéed jalapenos. I usually accompany this with a blue cheese and dollop of sour cream. Hey, let me know what you come up with. I’m in the mood for something new this weekend.

Victor Ribaudo

Putting on the Dog . . . Chicago Style, That Is

We all have our guilty pleasures. Mine is an occasional hot dog. Coney Island style with its chili topping, Red Hots from Maine or Chicago style with its unique combination of condiments. They’re all delicious, but I have to admit they always taste better at a ball game. However, you can come very close preparing your own. Why not try the Chicago style?


All beef hot dogs with natural casing (The natural casing produces the required snap when you bite into it.)

High-quality hot dog buns, preferably poppy seed

Yellow mustard (not brown or Dijon; ketchup is a definite no-no)

Sweet pickle relish (yes, the neon green one)

White onion, chopped (Vidalia is a good choice.)

Ripe tomato, sliced into thin wedges

Crunchy dill pickle spears (neither too spicy nor sour)

Sport peppers

Celery salt


1. Bring water to a boil in a pot with a steamer insert. Steam hot dogs for 5 to 6 minutes.

2. Steam rolls until heated through.

3. Place each hot dog in a bun.

4. Squirt yellow mustard directly on hot dog preferably in a zigzag pattern.

5. Add a generous amount of sweet relish

6. Place chopped onions on top of dog.

7. Place two tomato wedges between the top of the dog and the bun

8. Place pickle spears between dog and bottom of the bun.

9. Place sport peppers, either two whole or sliced, on top of dog.

10. Sprinkle a dash of celery salt over dog. Chow down!

Photographer Bill Brady

Written by Victor Ribaudo

Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika

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