This week's hot dog is more of a technique than a regional style. That's because finding a really good hot dog in the Philadelphia area is almost impossible. Legend has it that some manufacturers even make a special extra-bland wiener for the region.
To jack up the flavor, I marinate my Pennsylvania hot dogs in beer, garlic, onions, herbs and aromatics not unlike what you would use to make a classic choucroute. Then I throw the dogs in a small pot of chili on the grill, toss the dog into a bun, cover it with chili and heaping piles of shredded cheese, diced onions, and maybe some scallions if I'm feeling fancy. Mustard is optional though I prefer yellow, especially for a cookout.
The chili isn't exactly an authentic "Coney sauce" or real Texas chili, but something in between. I make it all the time with a simple homemade chili powder and more beer (or coke if you like it sweeter). I use Deitz & Watson or Hebrew Nationals because frankly that's the best we have in the supermarkets. Most people in the Philadelphia area don't even know what a natural casing hot dog is.
But if you're willing to dig a bit, there are a few places to find them. Illg's Meats in Bucks County makes their own natural casing dogs as well as a whole array of German style sausages. In Center City Philadelphia, you can find natural casing dogs in the Reading Terminal Market at the L Halteman Family stand, also a great spot for Lebanon Bologna and all kinds of fresh and smoked Lancaster County meats.
I actually came up with the recipes below while working as a line cook. Every Friday we had hot dogs for our staff meal (they were easy). Many of the culinary school grads I worked with were "too good" for hot dogs and would just throw them in the oven, crack open a gallon can of ketchup, and throw them in soggy, crushed, half frozen buns. Pretty offensive. For me, being handed a case of hot dogs and freedom with all the ingredients of a four-star kitchen was a dream come true.
Aside from the beer-marinated dogs, I also came up with a wildly bright orange Cheese Whiz fondue made with scraps of Gruyere and truffle oil (if I could sneak some in there). Throw that on a dog with those pickled hots they serve with cheesesteaks and you've got a serious hot dog.
365 Folly Road, Chalfont PA 18914 (map) 215-343-0670
L Halteman Family
Reading Terminal Market 1136 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 (map)
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/.
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