Fire up the grill for a Super dog

February 03, 2007|By Elaine Glusac | Elaine Glusac,Tribune Media Services

For Super Bowl Sunday tomorrow, what could be more appropriate than a hot dog? But not just any hot dog. The American hot dog - that staple of children's menus and scourge of health fanatics - has undergone a metamorphosis that should please both fans and foes. The hot dog has gone gourmet to include high-quality ingredients and fussy toppings.

"Taking the familiar and making it outstanding has happened in sandwiches, ice cream, burgers and pizza. Hot dogs were next on the comfort-food list," says Mark Sobczak - who, as hot dog chef for Vienna Beef, maker of red hots in Chicago, spends his days dreaming up super dogs for restaurants that serve the all-beef Vienna.

"Hot dogs aren't just the old standard any more," says Becky Mercuri, author of The Great American Hot Dog, to be published by Gibbs Smith this spring. "More creative combinations are defining the term hot dog in a way that's more akin to sausages when you think about turkey dogs and chicken dogs. It's very exciting."

According to Mercuri, the haute dog has come a long way from its inception, an American offshoot of sausages imported by immigrants and termed "hot dog" in 1895 as a derogatory way to describe the fare served at late-night lunch wagons. Since then the name has defined a particular kind of sausagelike sandwich in which the meat is highly processed to smoothly fill a casing.

Determinedly American, the hot dog quickly became a regional favorite, topped with red chili in New Mexico, pepper relish in New Orleans and smothered with pizza toppings in a pizza crust in New Jersey. In 2005, Americans ate 1.5 billion hot dogs purchased from supermarkets alone, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

Hot Doug's in Chicago dishes wild game wieners, and the mini-chain Frankitude in Miami recently introduced the salmon dog. Top chefs gone to the dogs include David Burke at David Burke at Bloomingdale's in New York, who preps a Kobe beef frank topped with mustard oil and angry (or spicy) onion relish, and Janos Wilder of the J Bar in Tucson, who tops the J Dawg with crema poblano, pickled cactus, whole-grain mustard and black beans.

More refined yet, chef Jacky Robert of Petite Robert in Boston grinds his own beef to make the Parisian hot dog served on a baguette with melted munster cheese.

As restaurants have proved, the hot dog is a versatile food, which should be the starting point for the creativity of home cooks aiming to grill franks for a classic Super Bowl feed.

"Veal is very versatile, and I like to think of hot dogs as the veal of the industry," says Vienna Beef's Sobczak. "You can manipulate it and use it in many different ways."

Elaine Glusac writes for Tribune Media Services.

Chicago Fire Dog

Makes 1

Try this spicy Polish sausage, char-grilled and topped with grilled bell peppers and onions, a spicy chipotle mayo and pepper jack cheese.

1 Vienna Beef spicy Polish sausage

1/4 cup sliced green bell pepper

1/4 cup sliced red bell pepper

1/2 cup sliced white onion

1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil

1 ciabatta roll

1 tablespoon commercially made chipotle mayo

2 slices pepper jack cheese

Split sausage lengthwise down the

middle. Char-grill on both sides. Saute green and red peppers and onion in 1 tablespoon oil until soft, adding more oil if needed to prevent sticking. Toast roll. Slice roll in half and spread chipotle mayo over both sides of roll. Place hot dog, skin side down, on bottom half of roll, top with jack cheese and sauteed bell pepper and onion. Cover with top half of the roll.

Per serving: 839 calories, 32 grams protein, 65 grams fat, 24 grams saturated fat, 30 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 68 milligrams cholesterol, 1,585 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.

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