Light a fire under the classic cookout staple with a host of healthy and tasty ingredient alternatives.
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There exists no consensus on the origin of the term hot dog. One popular but largely apocryphal story posits that in 1901, a New York Evening Journal cartoonist, Tad Dorgan, was at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan, watching a New York Giants baseball game. The frankfurters sold at the game inspired him to draw a dachshund in a bun, but since he couldn’t spell dachshund, he wrote hot dog instead.
Another possible origin: a frankfurter vendor in Paterson, NJ, named Thomas Francis Xavier Morris. An interesting character, Morris was a Caribbean immigrant who had spent time in Europe as a strongman, married a European woman, and then moved Stateside, where he opened a highly popular restaurant selling franks. His nickname? “Hot Dog Morris.”
Only three things are certain when it comes to hot dogs: They’re delicious, they’re American, and they’re terrible for you. Fortunately, their unhealthiness might not be so certain anymore. We caught up with Russell van Kraayenburg, Texas food fanatic and author of hot dog–focused cookbook Haute Dogs, to teach our old dogs some new tricks.
Nicknamed the “dragged through the garden” dog, this all-beef dog with relish, tomatoes, peppers, and pickles was a complete meal for a nickel in tough economic times. Thanks to its veggie-heavy content, van Kraayenburg calls it “one of the lightest—and dare I say, most nutritious—dogs out there. If you’re looking for a dog with sweet, spicy, and garden-fresh flavors, this is the one for you.” To stay authentic, though, “be sure to keep the ketchup far, far away.”
INGREDIENTS 1 all-beef hot dog 1 bun Yellow mustard to taste Neon-green relish to taste 2 tomato wedges 3 whole sport peppers 1 dill pickle spear Celery salt to taste
DIRECTIONS Pan-fry hot dog. Toward the end of cooking, steam bun. Place dog in bun. Top with a line of mustard, a spoonful or two of relish, tomato wedges, sport peppers, and a pickle spear. Sprinkle with a dash of celery salt.
"You may not think of vegans when you think of hot dogs,” admits van Kraayenburg, “but with today’s soy dogs, veggie dogs, and other not-dogs, it’s easy to find and enjoy a meatless frank.” The star of this dog, other than its fresh-veggie accoutrements, is the arugula pesto. “Don’t judge too quickly,” van Kraayenburg warns. “You’ll be surprised just how good a soy hot dog can be.”
INGREDIENTS 1 soy hot dog 1 bun 1 tbsp arugula pesto 1 tbsp vegan mayonnaise 2 tomato wedges 1 tbsp alfalfa sprouts 1 tbsp mushroom slices 3 cucumber slices
DIRECTIONS Steam hot dog. Place it in bun. Top with pesto and mayo. Add tomato wedges, sprouts, and mushroom and cucumber slices.
According to van Kraayenburg, the hot dog you’re likely to encounter at Kansas City Royals games—an all-beef dog with melted Swiss and sauerkraut—“has little to do with Kansas City.” Instead, he proposes a “real” KC dog that fully embodies the smoky, meaty essence of KC. After a long day of grilling, “stack some burnt ends, a sloppy helping of Kansas City barbecue sauce, plus a few pickle slices, and you’ve got one heck of a protein-packed dog.”
INGREDIENTS 1 all-beef hot dog 1 bun Handful of burnt ends (chopped-up pieces of meat cut from ends of brisket or other barbecued meats) 2 tbsp Kansas City barbecue sauce 2 tbsp bread-and-butter pickle slices
DIRECTIONS Grill hot dog. Place it in bun. Top with burnt ends, barbecue sauce, and pickle slices.
“Since it’s covered in salsa verde, a spicy ají sauce, ketchup, mayo, and mustard, you may need a bowl to eat this dog,” van Kraayenburg admits. The key is to slow-simmer the dogs in water seasoned with garlic, chopped tomatoes, onions, and more than a little hot sauce. Granted, you’re unlikely to find this on an actual street in Ecuador, but that’s their loss, not ours.
FOR ECUADORIAN WATER BATH 5 garlic cloves Handful each of chopped tomatoes and chopped onions Hot sauce to taste Enough water to cover dogs (depends on skillet size)
FOR HOT DOG 1 all-beef hot dog 1 bun Ketchup to taste Mayonnaise to taste Yellow mustard to taste 2 tbsp salsa verde 2 tbsp spicy ají sauce Chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish
DIRECTIONS Combine Ecuadorian Water Bath ingredients in a skillet. Add dog and simmer for eight to 10 minutes. Place dog in bun and top with a line each of ketchup, mayo, and mustard. Add a couple spoonfuls of salsa verde and ají sauce. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
Descended from the combination of minced meat and cubed speck (pork or beef fat) with spices and preservatives (mostly vinegar) favored by early Dutch settlers in Africa, boerewors is the South African equivalent of a hot dog. Van Kraayenburg suggests serving it with sautéed onions and South African tomato sauce, a thin, spicy ketchup with chunks of tomato. Says the guru, it’s a “spicy, flavorful hot dog...The marriage between Dutch, English, and Indian cuisines is delicious.”
INGREDIENTS 1 tbsp vegetable oil, for sautéing 2 tbsp sliced white onions 1 bun 7 oz boerewors sausage (available at high-end grocery stores) 2 tsp brown mustard South African tomato sauce, for dipping
DIRECTIONS Warm oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook onions until light brown, about eight minutes. Grill boerewors. Toast bun. Place grilled sausage in bun. Top with mustard and onions. Serve with a bowl of South African tomato sauce.