There really are no words to adequately express the love of a good hot dog.
In my early days, the best hot dogs were those at Coney Island in Gary, Indiana, around 13th and Broadway, if I remember correctly, maybe a little south. My dad would take me and my brother there to chow down on chili cheese dogs accompanied by a bowl of chili, oyster crackers, and a Coke. A simple recipe, the chili on the dog was the same chili in the bowl. Kind of soupy, kind of thick, small chunks of ground beef, and heavy on cumin, those dogs were a tasty treat that left smiles on everyone’s faces.
My brother and I also haunted a hot dog stand at the Village Mall in Glen Park, Indiana. around 38th and Grant Avenue. The flag stores there were Montgomery Ward’s, Ben Franklin, and a Hallmark gift store of some sort. We still talk about those hot dogs. Perfectly steamed poppy seed buns, crunchy natural casing dogs, sweet relish, raw onion, and mustard – mouth watering. The miracle of the hot dog stand was that it was housed in a very small travel trailer with just enough room for the cooking equipment and three cooks. Well, it’s generous to say there was “enough room.” In fact, there was no room at all. Crammed in together even during the hottest, most humid months of the summer, those folks cranked out hundreds of hot dogs a day. I hope they’re retired and happy.
Growing up, we lived 25 miles from downtown Chicago, and never once do I remember having a hot dog with dill pickles and tomatoes. Apparently, that is called a “Chicago-style” dog, but not in my world. Chili, onions, and cheese . . . yum!
So, while I was in Indiana visiting the kids, my husband went grocery shopping. As is his habit, Richard picked up a variety of items I will spend months figuring out how to get rid of. But included in the booty was a large package of all beef franks. Not Nathan’s or Vienna, but nonetheless, beautiful hot dogs. Aha! It was a calling for chili cheese dogs.
Here’s how it works:
In a dutch oven over medium heat, brown ground beef. Drain and return to the pot.
Add onions, diced jalapeno pepper. Sir and saute for 4-6 minutes, until onion is barely transparent.
Add all the spices, salt and pepper. Stir and continue to cook, until you begin to smell the fragrance of the spices: chili powder, cumin, paprika, granulated onion and garlic, powdered mustard, oregano. (Uh, no chocolate chips – how did they get in the picture??)
Spices added and fragrant. Add tomatoes, beer, apple cider vinegar, and one cup of water. Stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Continue to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You want to reduce the liquid so there is barely any left. Add 1/2 cup of water during the simmer, if the mixture becomes too dry.
And voila! Double the recipe, and cook the chili in a crock pot for a group. I’d hold back on the water, though, until you can tell how much liquid is rendered. You don’t want the chili too watery.
There’s no rocket science involved in cooking a hot dog. Some boil, some grill on gas or charcoal, some grill in a pan on the stove. That’s the method I used – I grilled them on the stove. Wrap the buns in foil, and pop them into a 250 degree oven for 15 minutes or so to make them soft and steamy. Have plenty of chopped raw onion, grated cheddar cheese, and yellow mustard on hand, and be prepared for a simple pleasure.
- For the chili:
- 1½ pounds lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper (I used coarse grind.)
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 Tablespoon granulated onion, not onion salt
- 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic, not garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika, sweet, smoked, Hungarian, any style you wish
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 6 ounces beer
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
- 8 hot dogs
- 8 hot dog buns
- 1 cup onion
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- Yellow Mustard
- In a dutch oven over medium heat, brown the ground beef. Drain, and return to pot.
- Add the diced onion, and saute until barely translucent.
- Add the chopped jalapeno pepper. Stir into the beef and onion. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add chili powder, black pepper, cumin, granulated onion, granulated garlic, oregano, and salt. Stir and heat until the spices become fragrant - about 2-3 minutes.
- Pour in the beer, vinegar, tomatoes, and 1 cup of water. Stir, and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.
- Continue to simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, adding more liquid if necessary. The goal here is to reduce the mixture so there is barely any liquid left.
- Cook hot dogs and warm buns about 15 minutes before serving. Put a hot dog in a bun. Top with chili, onion, cheese, and mustard.