Wiener. Frank. Red Hot. Coney. On our nation's Independence Day, the hot dog should be recognized as an American staple no matter what you call it.
Some may be tucked inside a roll that's as long as your arm. Others may be wrapped in soft, flaky blankets as small as a thumbnail. They can be grilled or fried or boiled or baked or, if you need a quick wiener fix, even microwaved.
The hot dog is always a delectable meat treat. (Note: If you nuke a dog, make sure to poke holes in it with a fork, or you are in for a wiener explosion you will never get out of your head.)
Hot dogs really are the American success story. From Coney Island in the 1870s to St. Louis in 1880 to Chicago at the World's Fair in 1893, hot dogs—then called frankfurters or wieners depending on if the immigrant selling them came to America from Germany or Austria—became a scrumptious symbol of commerce and ingenuity. Putting a sausage inside a roll so patrons wouldn't burn their fingers. What will they think of next?
Really, the hot dog is the ultimate food delivery service. Deliciously seasoned meat, shaped in a tube just wide enough that, when engulfed by the proper bun, fits just inside the average American's mouth. Kids love them, too!
If you are feeling adventurous, the hot dog's natural construction allows for ample condiments and toppings, too. Most buns leave just enough room on top of the dog for, really, whatever you like to add. Some people like relish, sauerkraut or onions. Other folks add chili and cheese. Some like a pickle to add a briny crunch or a long hot to add just a touch of heat.
I've seen wieners with everything from bacon to beans to fried eggs to guacamole to macaroni and cheese.
Some folks like to cover their wieners in batter and deep-fry them, inject them with cheese or, heck, dip them in chocolate and eat them for dessert.
Still, most people probably prefer a plain frank with a schmear of mustard or a drizzle of ketchup. I'm a ketchup man myself, fighting the battle against mustard eaters for years before I finally decided to try it for myself. You know what? They are both delicious. They are always, always, delicious.
When someone asks you what you put on your wiener, there is no wrong answer, as long as it's mouth-wateringly yummy.
The hot dog is the perfect bite, repeated over and over, one inch at a time.
There's the old adage that a hot dog is nothing but leftover parts of the animal, but in an era of nose-to-tail cooking, where offal has become a five-star delicacy, one might suggest the hot dog is the godfather of modern American cooking.
Traditionally made with beef, pork or a combination of both, hot dogs come in all kinds of varieties. You can get a dog made from turkey, chicken or soy. You name it, someone can probably grind it, tube it and serve it on a roll with a side of chips.
There is no wrong way to enjoy a hot dog on the Fourth of July, celebrating our nation's independence while we inject ourselves with copious amounts of mysterious tubed meats.
It would be un-American for us not to.
A caveat: This ode to franks would be remiss to not mention the classic American hamburger. How many of us will go to barbeques this week and answer the question "what will you have?" with the quintessential reply, "give me one of each."
One of each. A burger and a dog, sharing a plate. The Statue of Liberty just smiled.
One last idea for you to try this holiday. If you want a hot dog and you want a burger, why not have them both on the same sandwich? Don't forget to add cheese and bacon, too!
I first saw the Bacon Burger Dog on The Cosby Show back in the '80s. It may be the greatest grilled sandwich idea in the world. Take a hot dog and wrap it in American cheese. Cover the dog and cheese with a quarter pound of seasoned ground beef. Wrap two slices of bacon around the ground beef, trying not to overlap too much of the bacon.
Throw that sucker on a smoking hot grill, making sure to turn it on all sides so the bacon crisps properly and the meat cooks all the way through. The cheese will liquefy, so make sure to cover the ends of your dog with the ground beef as best you can.
When the meat cooks, it will obviously shrink, leaving the ends of your dog exposed and creating an open window for your gooey cheese to escape. Be careful on your last few turns.
Since the Bacon Burger Dog will not fit in a traditional hot dog bun, make sure to have club rolls or a nice hoagie roll (submarine or hero roll for those of you in other parts of the country) at the ready. Cover your sandwich with just the right amount of ketchup or mustard—or bothand maybe throw on a little coleslaw for crunch and creaminess. Then dig the heck in.
Hell yeah, America. Enjoy the dogs. Enjoy the day.