Tuesday, April 1, 2014

From Ho Hum to Haute Dogs {Book Review}


I picked up our mail from vacation hold yesterday and found this cookbook from Quirk Books - Haute Dogs: Recipes for Delicious Hot Dogs, Buns, and Condiments by Russell Van Kraayenburg.* The man loves his hot dogs...and knows a lot about them. A lot. A. Lot.

For me a good cookbook doesn't just have great recipes. It has compelling stories. Van Kraayenburg delivers on both fronts. While he can't peg exactly when the hot dog came to be, he does know that smoked sausages were mentioned in texts as old as Homer's Odyssey. I found his account of the hot dog's transition from snack to meal during the Depression Era fascinating. And, then, the hot dog's journey to a global eat was also a treat to read. I remember eating hot dogs in Norway when I was visiting friends in Oslo several years back!

I am impressed with these recipes - the varieties in flavor and textures were fun! And, for us, it was all about the condiments since we were using the same base of dog and bun.

We've already bookmarked a few more recipes to try. I'm picky about my dogs, so I was tickled to see recipes for making my own hot dogs and sausages from scratch. We'll try that soon.

Here's what I made last night...at first we stuck to Van Kraayenburg's recipes exactly and I topped one dog that we split four ways. By the end of the evening, my boys were simply creating their "Dream Dogs." As Van Kraayenburg writes: hot dogs are alive with possibilities. And we explored those condiment combinations to the max!

The Plain Jane can be found in every American backyard during grilling season. It's just a dog, a bun, and a smear of spicy mustard. Van Kraayenburg uses yellow, we used brown. I served this first; the verdict: "ho hum." It's a classic. A basic classic. My boys wanted to be dazzled.



The Slaw is also known as the West Virginia Dog. It has a dog, a bun, chili (I whipped up a quick chili without beans), coleslaw (I made an herb-heavy slaw), and yellow mustard. Instead of fresh onions, though, I used some fried onions that you'll see on The Danish. This got us closer to being wowed. The boys loved the addition of the chili.


The Danish was my favorite. And not just because four of my very favorite people in the world are Danish. No, I really liked the flavors, though I am a little dubious that they eat this in Denmark. I'll check with Rikke, Ulla, Danya, and Stella! This has a dog, a bun, mustard, ketchup, pickles, and crunchy fried onions. But it was the homemade remoulade (mayo, mustard, pickle, salt, and curry powder) that elevated this dog to fantastic. Hot diggity!


The Scrambled, hailing from Columbus, Georgia, definitely upped the playful factor with a sprinkling of oyster crackers. Think dog, bun, mustard, ketchup, chili, pickles, and crackers. This won my boys' hearts. I bet they'll ask for oyster crackers every time we have hot dogs from now on.


Not only were Van Kraayenburg's recipes tasty, his cookbook spawned some further culinary exploration and experimentation. After tasting the dogs above, my boys went to town with their own creations - 'The Messy Wombat' had dog, bun, remoulade, spicy mustard, chili, pickles, and oyster crackers; 'The Messy Jack' had dog, bun, chili, ketchup, fried onions, oyster cracker, and dash of Tajin; and 'The Big Daddy' was slathered with so many things I can't remember what Jake put on it.

Thanks for the inspiration, Russell. And thank you, Quirk! We can't wait to try The Columbian Pineapple Dog, The Spicy Thai Dog, and the Maxwell Street Polish. From ho hum to haute dog, this cookbook is a winner.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the cookbook from the publishers for the purpose of reviewing it. However, all opinions are 100% my own and 100% accurate.

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