Hot Dogs Made A Believer Out Of Me

Recipe: Red Hot Hot Dogs

Willing suspension of disbelief: It’s the concept that enables most forms of art, that makes childhood precious and allows me to love the Harry Potter books just as much as my nieces.

And it also lets us eat commercial hot dogs – even after we’ve read The Jungle, or talked to someone who’s done the job of daily dog turning in a convenience store. Hot dogs take me back to New York City, when I was a college student whose Broadway budget allowed for tickets and bus/ train fare to the city a couple times a semester, but not for a dinner more elaborate than what I could get from one of the many hot dog vendors in Manhattan.

I loved those dogs – I never once stopped to worry about what was in them – beef, pork, who knew? It was a hot dog; a category all its own. And so great smothered in mustard and eaten on the street – in Times Square, before Disney got there – a time and place where willing suspension of disbelief was more than a little helpful, for a variety of reasons.

Growing up I wasn’t much of a hot dog kid (unlike my nieces). I never got to a major (or minor league) ball park till I was in my early 20’s. My mother loved corndogs at the state fair, but I wouldn’t touch them.  I did usually come around if she made fried hot dog sandwiches – I’m flying my white trash flag now – but only reluctantly.  As a child, those uniform tubes of meat that could be anything freaked me out.

But I made up for it on the streets of New York.  But when I left New York State, I left those dogs behind. Chicken sausages became my bun filler of choice, and I never really thought about hot dogs again.

Until now.  Until Charcutepalooza.

I have to admit after last month’s adventures, I wasn’t thrilled to see that the July challenge involved stuffing yet another sausage. But, if you’re in you’re in, and my nieces were coming to visit for the 4th of July. It was the perfect chance to make another food they love (like the Canadian bacon), and get a totally honest critique.  How many eight year-olds or eleven year-olds do you know who are shy about expressing their opinions on food?

So, I set aside my doubts, and did it all again – I ground up my meat, emulsified it (carefully, this time), stuffed in a casing, and smoked it. And since I was setting the grill up to smoke, I also made red pepper relish to go with our dogs, and turkey pastrami to round out the weekend.   At least I’d have a fallback meat.

I ended up with three small, odd sized dogs – destined to be my taste test, fried and served on sourdough bread, just the way my mom would have done it.

I was astonished, and sorry that I to be testing them alone – and ashamed I ever doubted my Charcutepalooza mission. These dogs are a keeper – worth every minute involved in their preparation, worth tolerating the ickiness of working with a meat paste, and worth all the work in meticulously cleaning the kitchen afterwards.

My dogs are made from chicken and pork ribs – I still haven’t quite been able to gear myself up to work with beef.  I adapted my Red Hot Hot Dogs from Charcuterie, but they are different
enough that I feel comfortable sharing my recipe. And anyway, if you are at all interested in this meat adventure, I’m hoping you’ve already bought the book – it will replay you ten-fold; and that’s even if you never make anything other than the sauerkraut and Russian dressing.

And my nieces? They shied away from the red pepper relish and the homemade sauerkraut. But with a full serving of ketchup, and in spite of the cayenne, my homemade dogs disappeared in record time.

Charcutepalooza: I believe.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Wonderful post. I felt the same way about the hot dogs. Positively remarkable.


    • Thanks, Cathy. The hot dogs are a keeper. And you are such an inspiration. I’m really looking forward to binding next month – though, I don’t think I’ll be bringing home a whole pig head….


  2. Wonderful post! Loved that auntie was a hero to the girls.


  3. How wonderful that you could have such honest taste testers. I loved our hot dogs too but it is just such a lot of work and not sure I would ever make them again unless I suddenly acquire a commercial grade stuffer!


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