Sunday, September 9, 2012


HOT DOG! America’s  Favorite Food

          Why do people from other countries consider hamburgers, apple pie, and Coca Cola quintessential American foods, but fail to recognize our uniquely American novelty, the hot dog, in the same category? Most Americans agree that hot dogs should belong on our list of cultural foods. Yet, they are dwarfed by their cousin, the hamburger, and unrecognized internationally as a culinary symbol of the United States. It is true that sausage in a bun is not an American invention. It is, in fact, one of the oldest forms of processed food, having been mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in 850 CE.  ("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.")
          The term, “dog” remains a mystery. No one is sure exactly where it originated. Some speculate that it was in response to an unfounded rumor that sausage manufacturers used dog meat until as late as 1845. Others say the term was coined by a cartoon in 1900 that likened the shape of the sausage to the dachshund. Hot Dogs are also called Frankfurters (named after Frankfurt, Germany), Weiners (misspelling of Wieners - short for Wienerwürst, the sausage of Vienna - ‘Wien’), and Red Hots. Red Hots were the invention of a German peddler, Antonoine Feuchtwanger, who sold sausages in the streets of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1880. He supplied white gloves with each purchase so that his customers would not burn their hands while eating the sausage. The customers walked off with the gloves and his profits. His wife suggested he put the sausages into a split bun, baked by his brother-in-law. He called them “Red Hots”, giving birth to our hot dog.
Then there was Charles Feltman, a German butcher, who supposedly opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand in Brooklyn, New York, in 1867, with a succulent pork sausage tucked into a roll. His dog, however, had no association with the “Coney Island” hot dog that refers to the natural casing around the beef hot dog, topped with an all-meat bean-less chili and diced white onions with two stripes of yellow mustard that was developed in Michigan. And, it is still under dispute whether it originated in Detroit, Jackson, or Flint, Michigan, with each claiming it as their own.
In Cincinnati, the "cheese Coney" is a variation of the Coney Island hot dog topped with the city's unique style of chili, onions, and shredded cheese which nearly hide the wiener, which is smaller in size than the typical Detroit-style Coney dog. Its popularity makes Cincinnati nearly synonymous with cheese Coneys. Outside of Cincinnati, the topping is referred to "Cincinnati style chili," whereas within the city it is simply known as "chili" from the many neighborhood franchises started by Greek immigrants.
Although the hot dog is eaten by all (real) Americans, variations are both regional and ethnic. That’s more than anyone can claim about the hamburger. These meaty treats have grown into a food featured at our country’s most revered events and traditions. Every stadium and amusement park sells hot dogs. You can buy a hot dog at every other street corn in New York City, but to purchase a hamburger, one must go into a restaurant.
Nathans earns the award as being most synonymous with America’s hot dogs. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, decided to present something truly American to King George VI of England and Queen Elizabeth (Mother of Queen Elizabeth II). Platters of Nathan's hot dogs were passed at a picnic at their estate in Hyde Park, New York, on June 11, 1939. The picnic menu was featured on the front page of the New York Times, claiming that only in America would visiting royalty be served a hot dog.
At what point the lowly hot dog experienced the metamorphosis from ballpark to ballroom cannot be determined. It might have been destined that something so incredibly receptive to almost any embellishment would eventually know no limits to gourmandizing them. Some say you can differentiate the economic class of hot dog consumers. The Proletariat (lower class) who eat ball park dogs slather on yellow mustard only, whereas the Bourgeoise (middle and upper classes) might begin with a dollop of Grey Poupon® and then add toppings that can range anywhere from bacon, blue cheese with guacamole, pâté de foie gras, or brie with sliced fresh pears.
Hot dog toppings, like those on pizza, are a matter of regional pride. Order a Chicago-style hot dog and you’ll get an all beef frank loaded with mustard, onions, peppers, relish, dill pickles, salt, and fresh tomatoes. Or maybe you prefer Italian hot dogs from New Jersey featuring a topping of peppers, potato, and onions. Then, there’s the truly American Brooklyn hot dog that is unembellished save for a heaping cover of old fashioned sauerkraut. Add your own mustard, but nothing else. Mid-westerners prefer theirs plain with mustard and ketchup. Both sweet and dill relish are acceptable to all, but never a sweet pickle. Atlanta folks smother theirs with coleslaw and sweet Vidalia onions. The all-beef Kosher dog has more ‘zip’ and crunch without any artificial flavoring or color, appealing to a more sophisticated palate, whereas the bland ballpark dog is favored by children.  Everywhere, the hot dog must be accompanied by a dill pickle, preferably Kosher - new, half sour or sour.
There are hundreds of companies that claim to manufacture the best hot dog ranging from skinny dogs to big dinner franks to knockwürst to cocktail size. But, what about Bratwürst?  Is it a hot dog? The folks of German ancestry in Wisconsin consider it the Only hot dog. Made with pork and veal, it is simmered in a Pilsner beer infused with onions and then grilled over charcoal. It is traditionally served with ice cold Wisconsin beer and German Potato Salad. Miller Park Stadium in Milwaukee sells more bratwurst than hot dogs.
Ball Park hot dogs that once were a bargain can cost from $5.00 - $6.00 at Tampa Bay and Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadiums, which is a real hardship for most families. On the other end of the spectrum, the Cincinnati Reds offer food special days with a hot dogs and drinks priced at $1.00 - no limit - when they want to fill their stadium with an opponent that might otherwise not draw a crowd. You can also bring your own water and soda, prohibited at other stadiums. Smart business!

1small sweet onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 package (15 ounces) Oscar Mayer® Selects Chicago Recipe Beef Franks
8 bakery-style hot dog buns, partially split

1.      Combine all ingredients except franks and buns. Refrigerate 1 hour.
2.      Heat grill to medium. Grill franks 7 to 9 minutes, turning until the outsides are seared.
3.      Fill buns with franks and onion mixture.

Yield: Approximately 2 cups
Koegal, Dearborn, and Kowalski are Detroit’s local hot dogs. The best dogs for this recipe are long and skinny, made with a combination of pork and beef because they are not too spicy.
We Detroiters accompanied our hot dogs with Vernor’s® Ginger Ale, the oldest surviving soda in the United States, created over 130 years ago by a 19-year old boy, James Vernor.

1 pound ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 six ounce can tomato paste
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon ground cumin (heaping)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1.      Brown the ground beef in a skillet, adding onions half way through. Add minced garlic when meat is almost done.
2.      Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Simmer over very low heat 15 minutes or longer.
3.      Set hot dogs into buns and cover lavishly with the chili. Some Detroiters spread the dog with extra yellow mustard and raw onions before adding the chili on top.

A great hors d’oeuvre
The original recipe was developed by someone in Detroit during the 1950s. I have changed and added to it many times.

12 ounce package Cocktail Franks - Boar’s Head® quality
1 cup red currant jelly
½ cup Welch’s® grape jelly
½ cup French’s® yellow mustard
¼ cup Heinz® chili sauce
1.      Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low. Cover and allow the flavors to meld and incorporate into the franks. Serve in a chafing dish over heat with toothpicks.

Yield:   Approximately 4 servings
The amount of ingredients will change with beans that are seasoned, as well with individual palates. Taste as you go along.

15 ounce can baked beans of choice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon brown mustard (Gulden’s® Spicy Brown)
2-3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 small red onion, chopped
Optional: 3 strips cooked crisp bacon, chopped

1.      Combine ingredients, reserving the bacon. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover. Simmer at least 15 minutes, stirring often.
2.      Stir in bacon to serve over grilled, boiled, broiled or baked hot dogs, knockwurst, or cocktail franks.

For Bratwürst

2 pounds new or red potatoes, unpeeled
½ pound thick-cut bacon
1 large purple onion, chopped
⅓ cup white vinegar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon coarse grain brown mustard
1 teaspoon or more Kosher salt
¼ cup minced chives or green scallions

1.      Cover the potatoes with water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high. Cover and boil gently until a knife can easily be inserted but the potatoes are still very firm. Drain immediately and cool to room temperature.
2.      Slice into rounds approximately ¼ inch in diameter. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl.
3.      In a skillet, cook the bacon crisp. Drain on paper toweling and crumble. Toss with the  sliced potatoes. Pour off and discard all but ⅓ cup of the bacon fat.
4.      Add the onion to the fat. Cook until soft but not colored over low heat.
5.      Stir in the vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt and cook over medium heat until thickened  and bubbly. Toss with the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper. Keep warm. Sprinkle with chives directly before serving.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rosh Hashanah Menu and recipes

Remember the song, Tradition, from the classic musical, Fiddler on the Roof?  The traditions of the Jewish people began over 5,000 years ago and continue with each generation. Rosh Hashanah, that translates literally as the “head” or “first” of the year, will usher in the year 5,773 on September 16th at sundown when world Jewry will set their tables with their finest cloths and china and dip apple slices into honey and say a prayer asking God for a sweet year with the same wish as their ancestors that their good deeds in the ensuing year should be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate. Honey in Biblical times represented good living and wealth. The Bible refers to Israel as the land of "milk and honey”. 
Chicken fat was once a part not only of every Jewish kitchen but also most European ones. It was used in Northern Europe where oil was scarce and butter expensive. It is still used by Singaporeans and Malaysians to cook delicious Hainanese Chicken Rice.  Animal fat (‘schmaltz’=Yiddish, ‘smalz’=High German). Until the middle of the 20th century, it was a basic cooking staple and spread for bread. Cholesterol concern has caused it to all but disappear even though it is no more of a culprit than butter or other saturated solid fats. However, every gourmet cook knows that pâtés (Chopped Liver) and Potato Pancakes (latkes) suffer when liquid oil replaces the true fat of the ages. Chicken fat remains a pure product, not processed like Canola or soy oils. Rendering chicken fat might even be classified as a gourmet production (See below), or it can be acquired by saving the fat that forms on top of the soup when refrigerated, or by slowly roasting a seasoned chicken without addition of any liquid in the pan. Refrigerate the juices overnight. The fat will rise to the top.
            A typical Rosh Hashanah dinner might begin with chicken liver pâté, followed by a light salad before an entrée of roast chicken. Carrots sweetened with honey remain a favorite of the night. A delicious alternative to potatoes or rice is Kasha (kasza), the Slavic name for buckwheat groats. When cooked with onions and chicken stock or water, and mixed with bowtie pasta, they lend a beautiful flavor balance to a vegetable enhanced with honey. This was traditional comfort food for Russian Jews, who brought it to America. It is a good source of fiber and naturally gluten-free. (In the absence of gluten-free bowties, substitute gluten-free thin penne.)

Remove the skin and fat from a 4-5 pound chicken.  Cut the fat and skin into rather small pieces and place in a saucepan with a sliced onion and a clove of garlic, if you wish. Add a bit of Kosher salt and black or white pepper. Cover and cook over very low heat approximately 45 minutes, turning the fat occasionally.  As the fat melts, strain it into a bowl or jar, and continue cooking until all the fat has been extracted. If the fat pieces become puffy, pierce them with a sharp knife to fully extract the juices. Freeze in one cup amounts to use for pâtés, matzo balls, and poultry dishes.

Yield:  6-8 Servings
Make a day in advance for the flavors to settle.

1 pound fresh chicken livers, fat and connective tissue removed
4 tablespoons chicken fat or butter
1 large onion, chopped
Optional: 1 clove garlic, minced
½ pound white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper or more to taste
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
4 hard boiled extra large eggs
Thinly sliced sweet onion
Chopped parsley to decorate

1.      Wash the livers, removing any fat, veins and connective tissue.
2.      Warm the fat in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms and brandy. Cook over medium heat, turning the livers often to cook evenly. Cook until livers are done throughout but still soft. Do not overcook or they will become bitter.
3.      Add salt, pepper, nutmeg.
4.      Pour off excess liquid and cool to room temperature.
5.      Combine with the hard boiled eggs and chop with a hand chopper for country style chopped liver. Or put into a food processor and purée for elegant pâté.
6.      Remove to a bowl or crock. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
7.      Set an open leaf of iceberg lettuce on individual plates. Scoop out rounds of the liver to place in the center of each.  Cover with a thin slice of onion and decorate with parsley. Pass sliced Challah bread for all to enjoy.

Yield: 6 servings one-half hen each

3 Cornish hens
Salt and pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 sprigs rosemary, cut into 6 pieces
1 onion, chopped fine
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat
½ cup chicken broth

1.                  Preheat oven to 400°F.
2.                  Slit the hens along the backbone. Slice through the breast from neck to tail. Slice along one side of the backbone. Slice along the other side and remove the bone to discard. Cut off the tails. Wash under cold water and remove any extra fat. Dry on paper toweling.
3.                  Slide a small, sharp knife under the tiny breast bones and, without cutting into the meat, remove them.
4.                  Sprinkle the hens well with salt and pepper.  Squeeze lemon juice over both sides. Mince the garlic and rub it well into the hens on both sides.
5.                  Cover the bottom of a shallow baking pan with the onion and celery. Add the wine to the pan. Place a half a hen over, skin side up. Tuck a sprig of rosemary under each half. Brush with chicken fat.
6.                  Roast, uncovered, ten minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roast another 25-30 minutes, or until the juices run clear or a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the thigh registers 180°F.
7.                  Strain the gravy from the baking pan into a saucepan. Stir in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and pour over the hens to serve.
Yield: 6 servings

1 small purple onion, chopped fine by hand, not minced in food processor
1 rib celery, chopped fine by hand
Optional: 1 clove garlic, minced
Optional: A handful of chopped mushrooms of your choice
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil (Dare I say chicken fat again?)
1 cup Wolff’s® kasha
2 or more cups boiling chicken stock or water seasoned with salt and pepper
½ teaspoon ground thyme or 1 teaspoon minced leaves
Optional: 6 ounces bowtie pasta or thin penne
Salt and pepper to taste

1.      In a deep skillet, sauté the onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms in oil over medium heat until soft but not colored.
2.      Add the kasha and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes until the grains are toasted and separate from each other. Add the seasoned boiling stock or water. Stir, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 30 minutes or longer, checking to add more liquid if needed. The Kasha is done when it has become soft. It is important to keep it moist.
3.      For the Pasta: Bring a pot of water to a full boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When the pasta is done, drain off the water. Combine the kasha and pasta and toss well. Taste to add salt and pepper.

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt to sprinkle
4 tablespoons unfiltered honey (¼ cup)
1 teaspoon RealLemon® juice
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
8 ounces Mott’s® Apple Juice (small bottle)

1.                  Boil the carrots in water to cover until half done and still very firm. Drain.
2.                  Stir the lemon juice into the honey in a glass measuring cup. Stir in the sugar and apple juice until well combined.
3.                  Pour over the carrots and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the mixture has reduced to a glaze. Stir often, being careful not to break or mash the carrots. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.