EDITOR’S NOTE: The delightful Dana Zia, our Pioneer “Mother Bear Astrologer” is knowm to many as “The Go Lightly Gourmet”. I asked Dana that if she ever felt so inclined that I’m sure Pioneer readers would love a recipe from her once and awhile … ask, and ye shall receive. Yeah! Here is some great information about an iconic dish – the hot dog – just in time for the “top dog’s day.” Enjoy!
By Dana Zia, The Go Lightly Gourmet
My father loved hot dogs. I mean love love loved hot dogs. They were easy to cook and took very little to jazz up, a little ketchup, a bun and he was good to go. You see, my father was a wonderful father but he was not a cook or a much of a kitchen guy in any way. So hot dogs suited him to a “T”.
Fortunately for all you father’s out there on father’s day, the great American hot dog is alive and well. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC), Americans are expected to have consumed over 7 BILLION dogs from Memorial Day to Labor Day! Looks like hot dogs are not just a favorite of fathers but are clearly one of the most loved comfort foods of Americans.
The hot dog didn’t come from America of course; it is an immigrant like most of us. It is the oldest known form of processed food with its mother being the sausage and its father being a wienerwurst. How old is it? Well, the sausage was first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey dated 1180 BC, “As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted….” So our humble hot dog goes way back!
Many countries claim to be the original courier of the hot dog to the United States but the clearest winner in the competition are the Germans where the “wienerwurst” is over 500 years old. The name wienerwurst got shorten to “wiener” and from there it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the term “hot dog” was birthed.
We all eat them, in some form or another whether it is vegan or Oscar Mayers, and we all would rather not know what they are made of. But I can’t help myself, I’m going to tell you what’s in a standard meat hot dog. (Spoiler alert here!)
They are primarily made of “meat trimmings” which are made up of skin, fat and muscle meat. Most “value” hot dogs are made of pork, beef and chicken scraps. No eyeballs or other scary parts are in the ingredients unless it is labeled “with variety meats” or “meat by-products” then there might be more than a few eyeballs in there. Those hot dogs are only required to have 15% muscle meat in them so buyers beware. Also all hot dogs are allowed to have 3.5% of “non-meat” ingredients, which are generally fillers like soy and corn meal.
There are actually quite a few hot dog producers that are creating fairly healthy hot dogs these days. The trick with hot dogs is to read the label just like everything else. The longer the label and the more words you can’t pronounce are in there, the faster you should put it back. For the most part, prepare to spend a bit more money to buy fewer ingredients in the label.
I recommended purchasing hot dogs that have no added nitrates or “uncured” as they will have much less of the cancer causing chemicals in them. They are fully cooked and safe to eat but just aren’t full of preservatives so can actually spoil and so therefore need to be refrigerated. (shock!) These uncured dogs aren’t nitrate free, as they do have naturally occurring nitrates like celery salt or powder in them but they do not have a lab list of chemicals.
Applegate Farms creates a healthy hot dog made from happy meats that are uncured and pretty tasty. There are actually quite a few healthy varieties available at Manzanita Fresh Foods, Safeway and Fred Meyer’s. I also suggest buying hot dogs that are in natural casings, which are animal intestines, for that distinctive “snap” when you bite into it. The hot dogs in the natural casings are most likely made of better ingredients and more artisan. Hot dogs and sausages are still a processed food and no matter how consciously they are made should be an occasionally treat.
One of the hot new trends going on right now is taking a humble dog and dressing it up with interesting toppings to teach an old dog new tricks. The key here is imagination, whatever seems good on a hot dog probably is. (Elvis might of liked peanut butter on his.) I’ve made a list here of some creative new tricks to try on your old dog. (I think even my father would of liked a few of these recipes!) They can be made on a bun or without for gluten free. Happy Father’s day to all you dog-gone good dads!
Thousand island dressing
Diced red onions
Diced bell pepper
Bahn Mi Dog
Sriracha garlic mayonnaise – Just mix 1/2 cup mayo with a squirt or two of sriracha and 1 pressed clove of garlic
Diced Green onions
Drizzle of rice vinegar
Grated Mozzarella cheese
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Fresh basil, chiffonade (chopped fine)
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Supreme Pizza Dog
Diced green peppers
Diced green onion
Diced fresh mushrooms
Sprinkle of hot peppers (optional)
Grated cheddar cheese
Crumbled corn chips
Chicago Style dog (aka – dragged through the garden)
Sweet pickle relish
Fresh chopped onions
A dill pickle spear
Two tomato slices
Dash of celery salt
If you’d like more of Dana’s recipes, see her food blog at http://danazia.wordpress.com/