Traditional Texas Food
Articles about Texas' most famous foods
by John Raven, Ph.B.
Hot Dachshund: Sausage in a Roll
If you don't like hot dogs, there is something wrong with you. We are talking about the assembled product -- not the bare sausage that goes by many names. It can be wiener, weenie, hot dog, frank or red-hot. They are all the same name for the sausage.
The term "hot dog", meaning the assembled product, came from a ballpark where the vendors were selling "hot dachshund sausage rolls". One of the reporters there wasn't sure how to spell dachshund, so he put it down as "hot dog", and the rest is history.
Perhaps the most famous hot dog is the Coney Island from the park of the same name on the coast up at New York. The Coney contains the classic hot dog ingredients: wiener, mustard, onions, sweet relish and chili sauce.
Bad BunsThe most disgusting thing in the line is the sort of gray colored, slightly warm wiener in a cold bun you might get at a concession stand somewhere. Close by is a fly-covered assortment of condiments you have to put on the mess yourself. Ugh! Avoid this if at all possible.
The very best hot dogs I ever met came from the Dairy Queen in Taylor, Texas during the late 1950s. The DQ had a hot dog machine with a place to warm the wiener, another place to warm the bun, and places for all the condiments. They were the standard mustard, chili sauce and onion variety. Sweet relish never caught on much around my part of the world.
Enjoying a CampfireThe universal best hot dog will be constructed over a campfire. The wiener will be semi-charred over the open coals on the end of a willow switch or a metal coat hanger. The buns warm by the fire. The chili sauce turns to a solid in its little pot on the edge of the coals. There is something about an open-fire-roasted wiener that just exceeds all expectations.
Persons under the age of 35 should not be allowed to roast a wiener over an open fire on a stick or coat hanger. Anyone younger that this will either burn the wiener beyond recognition or manage to drop it in the coals where it is lost forever. This is a waste of good food, and we don't waste food because people in Africa are starving.
For God sakes do not let little kids roast marshmallows over an open fire.
It has never failed that when small children are allowed to mess with marshmallows over an open fire they will let the marshmallow catch on fire. They will then begin to wave the stick back and forth with the flaming marshmallow on the end attempting to extinguish the flame. The marshmallow will fly off and stick to the bare skin of the most sensitive person in the crowd, usually the kid's younger sibling. This will cause much screaming and crying and ruin the party.
What's Your Flavor?What wiener to buy? you ask. You pays your money and takes your pick. The smallest, least stocked store will have at least three varieties of wieners. You can't go wrong with a brand name like Oscar Mayer. Oscar has six kinds of wieners to choose from.
Some folk say the all-beef hot dog has the best flavor. I like them, but I think they are a little tough. I try to avoid wieners containing chicken or turkey. If you like chicken or turkey weenies, be my guest. You don't want to know what "mechanically separated chicken or turkey" is. My criteria is, no chicken and least expensive.
Hot dog buns can be a problem. Most of what you see on the shelves are the little buns that are growed together in pairs like Siamese twins. It is near impossible to make a decent hot dog with these things. They tear apart way too easy. Find some individual buns that are fairly large. You can even use a Hoagie bun if you are building man size hot dogs. The buns need to be warmed prior to use. A hot dog built on a cold bun is a thing to pity. You can microwave the buns for just a few seconds. Leave them in too long and they will get tough. Best is to slightly toast the buns in the oven. About eight or ten minutes at about 350 degrees.
Mustard should be the classic yellow mustard that has been the staple for many years. Designer mustards are for more expensive dishes. The plastic squeeze bottle works good as long as it is near full. When it begins to get empty you can hardly get anything out of it except embarrassing noises. I prefer a screw top jar and a knife.
Onion should be minced and of the sharp variety. Either a regular white onion or a yellow onion. The sweet 10-15s and their ilk just don't get the job done.
I have come to like sweet pickle relish on my dog. Any good brand will do. Use a slotted spoon or a fork to dish it out so you don't get too much juice on your dog.
More articles:To me a hot dog is not a hot dog unless it has chili on it. The best chili I've found for the job is Wolf Brand chili with no beans. Everything just blends together in perfect harmony. Several companies made what they call "hot dog sauce". I just don't like them.
To assemble your hot dog, you warm the wiener, bun and chili. Use separate pots. Open the bun. Lay the wiener in a comfortable position. Run some mustard down one side of the wiener. Put some chili down the other side. Carefully ladle on the relish if you are using it. The onions go on last, right on top. Take your finger and kinda press everything in place. Some folk like to sprinkle on some shredded cheese and toast the whole thing in the oven a couple of minutes. This is real nice if you want to go to the trouble. Wrap in suitable wrap if you are dining outside. Serve on a warm plate if you're eating at the table.
In Texas it is traditional to serve canned pork and beans with the hot dogs. This works real good. I have seen people serve cold pork and beans. If you have been in an airplane crash and stranded in the mountains for three days with nothing else to eat, cold pork and beans are okay. Otherwise, warm them up. Use a separate pot.
I like some corn chips with my hot dogs -- Fritos or Doritos. I'm not much of a potato chip man. And french fries go with hamburgers, not hot dogs. I'm sorry, but that is just the way it is.
Ice tea is the drink to serve with hot dogs. I will excuse you if you are too lazy to make tea and drink RC Cola or Big Red. There is no wine that goes with hot dogs.
There we have it. National Hot Dog month has been run up the flagpole and saluted. Pass the porky beans please.
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