"You can't really go too wrong with natural casing franks and New England buns."
For me, and I would guess for many readers as well, the best part of traveling anywhere is checking out the local foods both at restaurants and grocery stores, and possibly bringing back a lifetime supply of them. Especially since writing this Hot Dog of the Week column, I don't go anywhere without scouring the local butcher shops, markets, and diners for unique hot dog brands and variations.
Recently in Vermont I grabbed some Mackenzie's franks and a couple bags of New England buns to freeze and take home. It would be almost criminal not to—in Pennsylvania these products are non-existent. Mackenzie's are actually made by Kayem who also make the dogs for Fenway Park as well as bright red Maine-style snappers.
Mackenzie's are natural casing, beef and pork, eight-to-a-pound franks. Though great on their own—I boiled mine for a few minutes and finished them in a stainless steel pan with some butter—but I couldn't resist committing some regional blasphemy and putting my own twist on the dogs, in the form of homemade chili and some pepper cabbage, an old school Philadelphia hot dog topping that I'm inexplicably obsessed with.
No cream cheese or bananas or anything on these dogs—but I'm sure pairing butter-toasted New England buns with Pennsylvania Dutch pepper hash will put somebody into a rage—and I threw some mayonnaise on a few of them too. Delicious.
People ask me all the time these days where I am on the traditional vs. trendy haute dog argument. My answer is yes to everything. I want to try them all.
Although the best "haute dog" purveyors are the ones that have done their homework and understand the background of sausage-making and hot dog history—much the same way the best high-end chefs are classically trained in French technique, no matter what cuisine they currently practice.
And while it's interesting to try all sorts of crazy hot dogs once or twice, sometimes I just want one that I know is going to be great every time. That's when I go back to the old-school place that's been around for 60 years, or maybe one of the few new-school spots that are really coming through on the promise of elevating hot dogs to a higher level.
My goal when experimenting at home is to start with incredible ingredients, take a few things from different regional variations and hopefully create something delicious. And you can't really go too wrong with natural casing franks and New England buns. The chili has some allspice, which gives it a little bit of a "Greek sauce" kick. Not browning the beef first goes against everything I ever learned in professional kitchens, but it's one of the secrets to a real hot dog sauce-style chili.
The pepper cabbage recipe is closer to something you would find in a jar at an Amish stand—more of a "pickled" cabbage than the pepper hash you might find at Philly hot dog joints, which tends to have carrots, more sugar, and more finely chopped cabbage.
Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.
More Hot Doggery
- Nicky and Pete's in Philadelphia »
- Dogmatic Gourmet Sausage System in NYC »
- South Philly Dog »
- Danny's Drive-In in Stratford, Connecticut »
- Fat Franks in Bellows Falls, Vermont »
- El Completo, Chile's Take on the Hot Dog »
- Red Snappers in Maine »
- Zweigle's in Rochester, New York »
- Cincinnati Cheese Coney in Ohio »