07/23/14

Top 3 Ultimate Gourmet Hot Dog Recipes

I love hot dogs on the grill primarily because they taste great, but also because they are one of those foods that are almost idiot-proof. Heat…place in bun…top with something. Dinner is served. Your meal plan doesn’t get any easier than that! Still, even if your Labor Day grilling involves dozens of hungry guests, there’s always something you can do to take an uber-basic food to the next level.

With the venerable hot dog…there are many, many things you can do.

The Dog

Putting great toppings on a mediocre hot dog is a gimmick, but putting great toppings on a great hot dog is gourmet!

So, first of all, let’s get something straight. When I say “hot dog”, I’m talking about a 100% all-beef frankfurter. Chicken, turkey, pork, bison, or (god forbid) tofu…is not a hot dog. Polish sausages are great, a good bratwurst rocks, but they ain’t hot dogs either.

There…now we know where we stand.

What to look for:

I like my ‘dogs with a natural casing. “So when you bite into it, it snaps,” says Barry Nemerow, co-owner of The Weiner’s Circle in Chicago. “You get a real burst of flavor with all the seasonings and everything in there.” Again, 100% all-beef.

I did an informal survey of 1000 friends on Facebook, and asked them for their favorite brand of dog, method of cooking, and type of bun.

The overwhelming winner in the frankfurter contest was Hebrew National All Beef Hot Dogs, followed by Nathan’s, and Costco’s 1/4lb beef dog. Nolan Ryan’s was a local favorite (Texas) as well. I tested these first three myself, and I have to agree with the popular view…Hebrew National won my vote as well. Not too salty, a nice “snap”, and the perfect (for me) meat-to-bun ratio.

The Bun

Stadium/hoagie rolls came in a dead-even tie with “cheap white hot dog buns” for first place (I prefer the latter), with some interesting options like sweet Hawaiian rolls, and pretzel buns having a few faithful followers.

Whichever you choose…

1. Use fresh buns, preferably within 24 hours of baking. Nothing ruins a hot dog quicker than a dry, stale, crumbly bun. Never freeze leftover buns for future use, either. Fresh is best!

2. Butter and lightly grill the buns just before assembling your hot dogs. Like Mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches (or anything fried in butter)…it just makes ‘em better.

3. Always, always, always put the heated dog in the bun and then wrap it in foil to steam the bread a bit. This is one of the major secrets to a great hot dog or any hot sandwich.

Given the option of grilling, boiling, microwaving, or pan frying, the overwhelming favorite was…

The Grill

Again, the preferred method of cooking was the grill, and again, I agree. For flavor and texture, cooking over flame, with a little smoke (from wood or natural drippings) is hard to beat.

I like “pre-cook” the dogs in some liquid (see note, below) so I can grill them and still get the inside heated through without burning the casing.

Grill your dogs directly on a charcoal grill or a gas grill over medium-high heat, rolling them ½ turn every couple of minutes to ensure nice, even grill marks. Plan on 10 to 12 minutes so that the hot dog browns slowly. If you like to cook by internal temp., you’re looking for 175 to 180 degrees.

For extra crisp-to-meaty dogs, a great method I recently learned is to spiral-slice your dogs before grilling, to increase the area directly exposed to the heat. This works great, and all you need is a wooden skewer and a sharp knife! Google “spiral hot dog” for more details!

Note: Props to my friend and food blogger Anthony Wilkinson for this piece of brilliance: “If I have to boil them, forget water…simmer in beer, onions, garlic, and butter.” Um…yes, please!

The “Stuff”

Okay, the beauty of the hot dog is there are about a million ways to top them, from the old stand-bys to exotic gourmet “fusion” recipes, to the truly horrifying. The problem with the hot dog is… there are about a million ways to top them…

But you know something…it’s a hot dog, not a filet mignon…it’s relatively inexpensive and, by golly, there are seven more in the package! Feel free to experiment, try new things, think outside the box…in the words of Thomas Edison, “I did not fail a thousand times, I found a thousand ways NOT to make a perfect hot dog” (Okay, that was about a light bulb or something, but you get the point.)

That said, here three of the new “gourmet” hot dog recipes I tried specifically for this article, and liked best.

I’ll end with one that’s probably my new favorite dog, and the only one that really needs a recipe.

#3 – Seattle-Style Hot Dog

This dog is awesome. AWESOME! If you don’t like the interplay between cool, creamy, smooth cream cheese, spicy sauce, and a sizzling, salty, beef dog…something in your mouth has died. In my nearby Seattle (a cream cheese crazy town) this one reigns supreme. Cream cheese, grilled onions, and Sriracha sauce, or sometimes grilled jalapenos for the hot-heads). So good!

#2 – The Bahn Mi Dog

I love Southeast Asian food, and here’s a great way to add a Vietnamese twist! Spicy mayo (mayo, garlic-chili sauce, and fish sauce, mixed to taste), thin sliced cucumbers, shredded carrot, and a few fresh mint and basil leaves.

#1 – The System Dog

The System Dog is a staple of Rhode Island food culture, where it is sold as the “New York System” in restaurants. This was, hands down, the best new hot dog I tested. A beef dog, served in a steamed bun, and topped with celery salt, yellow mustard, chopped onions, and a seasoned meat sauce.

If you’re a local, you order it “all the way.”

I have been assured, by those in the know, that this is a “real deal” system meat sauce recipe:

Ingredients
  • ½ lbs. of 80/20 hamburger
  • 2 Tbs. of lard
  • 2 oz. of water
  • ¼ large onion, finely minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. of cumin
  • 
½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp. celery salt
  • 
1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. allspice
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • 
Dash of Tabasco
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the lard in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until softened. Add the spices (except the salt and Tabasco). Add hamburger, chopping and stirring until crumbly and cooked through.
  2. Add the water and simmer until the water almost completely evaporates. Remove from heat and let rest several minutes. Now, you should have a smooth meat sauce with very little liquid.
  3. Add salt and Tabasco to taste. (Remember – you’ll be adding celery salt to the finished dog, too.)

If those aren’t enough to keep you busy, here are a few more that caught my eye…

Happy Grillin’!

-Chef Perry

The Caprese Dog – topped with fresh thinly sliced mozzarella, chopped basil leaves, and cherry tomato slices. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top.

Peach Salsa Dog – Mix finely diced peaches, chopped jalapeños, and cilantro. Let rest 3-4 hours or overnight. Top dog and serve.

Cubano Dog – Top dogs with shaved ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and spicy mustard for a tasty take on a Cuban sandwich.

The Mexican Dog – Avocado slices, diced red onions, crumbled cotija cheese, a squirt of hot sauce, and some fresh chopped cilantro top this dog.

05/5/14

Choosing a New Grill: How Much Grill Do You Need?

Summer’s coming….and that means grill season! Father’s Day cookouts, graduation parties, 4th of July shindigs…the good weather/good food list goes on and on!

If you’re looking for your first grill, a new grill for a new space, or it’s just time to replace ol’ faithful… make sure you’re investing in a grill that will make your time outdoors a bit more memorable.

In a good way.

Finding the right grill for your particular lifestyle can be a challenge and there are many options to choose from. With so many choices out there it can be tough to narrow down your search and, before you know it, you’re staring blankly at your 200th website, in a full-blown Google-coma.

Never fear…if you keep a few simple things in mind, both the process of shopping for and buying your next grill should be much easier.

If I could only have one grill, year-around, I would go with propane. You can use wood pellets, chips, or chunks to get that smoke flavor, and, for the typical backyard griller, the conveniences all fall on the side of gas.

Most grills fall into one of three price ranges: 

Entry-level Grills:

These grills are your basic work-horse. One or two burners, a grate, and a lid. Cost is reasonable, starting at around a hundred, and moving up into the three-hundred-dollar range. In this class you’re not likely to find a lot of bells and whistles like rotisseries, or off-set burners. If you’re an occasional griller, single or with a small family, this is probably a good place to start.

Inexpensive doesn’t mean you want to buy junk. I’m a big believer in the “wiggle test”. Place you hand at one corner of the grill and give it a gentle shake. If there’s a lot of shimmyin’ and shakin’ going on… it’s probably not very well built, and you might want to keep looking.

Mid-level Grills:

These are a bit more expensive, but offer more features than the entry-level gas grill. Prices from three hundred fifty to around a thousand dollars. In this range you’re starting to look at long-term grills, built to withstand heavier use, and including multi-control burners and some of those “convenience features” we just talked about.

This type of grill will typically handle anything that the griller of a medium to large family is going to throw at it.

Deluxe Grills:

The cream of the crop! Starting at around fifteen-hundred, and going up, and up, and up.

These high-end grills often feature big BTU ratings (BTU stands for British thermal unit, which indicates the amount of gas that a grill is able to burn, which corresponds to how much heat it can put out), enough cooking space to feed the whole team, and enough high-tech hardware to launch the space-shuttle. If you like to throw parties, and do some high-volume grilling…and you’ve got the swag, well…life is short!

One guy’s opinion…I’ve owned a LOT of grills over the years, and when it comes to gas grills it’s always best in the long run to choose an established manufacturer in order to get a quality product. This is one of those cases where you really do get what you pay for.

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
SimplySmartDinnerPlans

02/21/14

The Secret to Winter Grilling – The Rotisserie

Rotisserie Grilling Tips
“Spit-roasting is one of the world’s most ancient and universal forms of grilling, and there’s nothing like it for producing exceptionally moist meat with a crackling crisp crust.” – Steven Raichlen

Okay, it’s cold out there, and grilling might be the last thing on your mind, but never fear…you CAN have your delicious, flame-kissed goodies, and still keep feeling in all of your fingers and toes…

The secret is that unsung hero of the backyard bbq…the rotisserie!

You can literally run out to the grill, fire it up, run back in and prep your food, then run back out, load it up, close the lid and go back inside until your timer goes off! The rotisserie just chugs away out there, evenly cooking and self-basting your dinner while you chug your cocoa (or hot toddy) and warm your toes in front of the fire!

I like chicken just about any way it can be prepared, but for the juiciest, most flavorful bird, I’ll hang my hat on rotisserie grilling, even more so now with the grill accessories that are available. This even-heating, self-basting method ensures a perfectly cooked bird, with crispy skin all around. Using a grill (with a rotisserie burner) is especially convenient when cooking for parties or holiday get-togethers, as it frees up the oven and stove-top, and you don’t even have to remember to flip or baste your entrée!

Start with a good dry rub, end with proper treatment of the finished fowl, and you’ll have a winner chicken dinner that folks are going to remember!

Plus, rotisserie cooking is thought to be the oldest cooking technique known to man… so that’s pretty cool, too.

Here are 5 things to remember when grilling a chicken rotisserie style:

Dry rub 8-24 hours in advance

Rotisserie Grilled ChickenA dry rub is a combination of salt, spices, herbs, and sometimes sugars, that’s used to flavor meat in advance of cooking. Unlike a marinade or brine, a dry rub forms a crust on the outside of the meat when cooked.

The salt draws out the juices in the meat, making it more moist and tender, while the sugars caramelize and form a seal that traps in flavor and juices.

You can add just about anything you want to a rub (and you should experiment with some of your own favorite flavors) but here’s my go-to dry rub for chicken: 2 Tbsp. sea salt + 1 Tbsp. each: dark brown sugar, coarse black pepper, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, onion powder, and Italian seasonings. Combine all in an airtight container and mix until completely blended.

Once you’ve sprinkled, then rubbed the spices into (and under) the skin, and trussed it, wrap the whole bird in plastic wrap and refrigerate until 1-2 hours before you plan to start cooking it. Be sure to sprinkle some of your seasonings into the body cavity of the chicken or turkey, as well.

Truss the bird

3Trussing (tying up) a whole bird before cooking is always a good idea as it helps keep it moist and promotes even cooking (and a prettier presentation), but for rotisserie grilling it’s absolutely essential. A non-trussed bird will loosen up on the bar, legs and wings floppin’ ever which-a-way, and start burning at the extremities long before the rest of the chicken is cooked through to the bone.

Trussing isn’t particularly difficult, but it does take some practice to perfect. Google “How to truss a chicken” for any number of excellent videos and step-by-step guides to trussing.

Watch the heat

4I like to preheat my grill (burners on full, lid down) before putting the pre-loaded spit (the rod that holds the meat) in place. Watch the bird closely, checking every few minutes at first, and adjust your flame as needed to avoid hot spots or burning the skin.
Cook to the right temp

Figure about 25 minutes per pound to cook a chicken on a rotisserie, but what you’re really looking for in an internal temp in the thickest part of the thigh of 175 °F. A lot of variables can affect the number of minutes it takes a bird to cook to the bone, including starting temp of the meat, the heat of your grill, and the weather while cooking, but 175 °F is done regardless of outside influences.

Give it a rest

Once your chicken is removed from the heat, it’s vital that it be allowed to “rest” for 15-20 minutes, tented loosely in foil.

Resting allows the meat to relax and reabsorb its own juices back into the muscle fibers as they cool. The reason for tenting in foil is to keep the surface temperature from dropping much faster than the internal temp, which can lead to drying.

Once the chicken has rested go ahead and snip away the trussing (I use a pair of kitchen shears for this), cut the bird up as you see fit, and serve.

Oh, and be sure to save those lovely roasted bones and extra bits for making stock or flavoring soups or gravies. It’s gold!

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

08/30/13

Grilling a Gourmet Hot Dog

System Dog

I love hot dogs on the grill primarily because they taste great, but also because they are one of those foods that are almost idiot-proof. Heat…place in bun…top with something. Dinner is served.

Still, even if your Labor Day grilling involves dozens of hungry guests, there’s always something you can do to take an uber-basic food to the next level.

With the venerable hot dog…there are many, many things you can do.

Click here to read the rest of this post and see my favorite gourmet hot dog recipes on my Sears Grilling is Happiness page!

07/1/13

4th of July BBQ Tips

We have a great guest post today from our friend’s at JES Restaurant Equipment! Check out the infographic, below, on some very common mistakes that grillers make, and the corresponding tips to help make your 4th of July cooking the best it can be!

grilling

Now that the weather’s warmed up, millions of people are firing up the grill and cooking up delicious meals. But how many of you are making these common grilling mistakes?

  • Pressing your burgers flat with the spatula (smooshes the juices right out)
  • Cooking too fast (or too slow – don’t forget the sear!)
  • Burning your sauce (put sugary sauces on when you’re almost done cooking)
  • Cutting into meats without letting them rest (resting the meat for about 5 minutes seals in the juices – thicker cuts need even longer)

We focused on tips for a gas grill (like the popular Holland Grills), but these tips will work equally well on charcoal grills.

Easy tips for grilling like a pro! (Infographic)! (Infographic)

 Add This Graphic To Your Website for Free

Source by JES Restaurant Equipment

06/12/13

Father’s Day: Grilled NY Strip with Horseradish Crema

New York Strip

Father’s day is coming up and, let’s face it…you know what Dad wants…we know what Dad wants…

Dad want’s steak.

NY Strip Steak with Horseradish Crema on Baguette Toast Points

Oak Grilled NY Strip Steak

1 8oz. New York Strip Steak, 2 inch thick
Salt
Pepper

Heat oak coals to approximately 450 degrees grill temp, For tips on high-heat searing, see this post.

Rub steak (both sides) with salt and pepper and allow to rest at room temp for 1 hour. When coals are ready, place the steak directly over heat for 5 minutes.

Flip the steak over for another 5 minutes of direct heat.

Remove the steak from direct heat and place it in indirect heat for 4 minutes.

Flip the steak over for another 4 minutes of indirect heat.

IMPORTANT: Allow steaks to rest off heat, covered loosely in foil for at least 5 minutes before serving or slicing.

ny strip

Once rested, slice 1/4 inch thick on a bias, against the grain. Place 1-2 slices on toast points, top with a dollop of Horseradish Crema, and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Horseradish Crema

1/2 C Crema (Mexican sour cream)
2 Tbs prepared horseradish (Beaver brand)
1/2 t black pepper

Combine all ingredients and chill.

Baguette Toast Points

These toast points are a versatile base for all kinds of hors d’oeuvres. You can make the toast points in advance (see make-ahead tip, below) but don’t assemble the hors d’oeuvres until about 30 minutes before serving, or else the bread will get soggy. Yields 16 toast points.

8 slices French baguette, cut on bias (1/2 inch thick)
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Adjust an oven rack to 6 inches from the broiler and turn the broiler on to high.

Set the bread on a baking sheet, brush one side with the melted butter, and season with salt and pepper. Toast the bread until it’s golden brown and crisp on top, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Flip and cook the other side until golden, about 1 minute. While the bread is still hot, slice diagonally. Let cool slightly.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or tapas, serves 2 as an entree.



logo
08/21/12

All-American Open-Faced Hamburgers & Baked Sweet Potato Chips

Here’s a sneak peek at next week!

Dinner 7

All-American Open-Faced Hamburgers & Baked Sweet Potato Chips

All-American Open-Faced Hamburgers

In the late 18th century, to attract German sailors, food stands along the New York harbor offered “steak cooked in the Hamburg style”. Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas, is believed to have sold what Americans would traditionally consider “hamburgers” at his café in the late 1880s, then brought them to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

The rest, as they say, is history!

Yield: 2 servings          Active Time: 25 min.   Total Time: 55 min.

Continue reading

08/16/12

Happy Bratwurst Day!

Today is Bratwurst Day!

A bratwurst is a sausage usually composed of seasoned veal, pork or beef. The name is German, derived from Old High German Brätwurst, from brät-, which is finely chopped meat and Wurst, or sausage.

Here’s a recipe I came up with (and I’m pretty proud of) that incorporates some of my favorite island flavors with a classic tube-steak. The spiral slicing really takes this recipe to the next level!

Some chopped fresh pineapple and red pepper flake would be an awesome sweet/hot topping for this. Next time!

Continue reading

07/24/12

Garam Masala Pork Chops with Mint Yogurt and Spiced Couscous

hautemealz.com friend and food blogger, Michelle, over at FoodPassionista  saw the photo of this dish on our Facebook page, and kindly asked us for the recipe.

As it was easily my favorite dish from last week (cooked in a campground, no less), I thought, “Why not?”

So, Michelle…and all you other awesome people…enjoy!

– Perry

PS – A few slices of salted and peppered zuke and yellow squash, flash-grilled alongside the pork chops, would be a tasty addition to this meal!

PPS – Just a reminder, you could be getting delicious, nutritious recipes, just like this one, for every night of the week…at less than the cost of a happy meal each month! Sign up here! – P

Garam-Marsala-Pork-Chop-Recipe

Dinner 6

Garam Masala Pork Chops with Mint Yogurt; Spiced Couscous

Garam Masala Pork Chops with Mint Yogurt (6a)

It’s worth seeking out garam masala if you can. This blend of spices is available at many large grocery stores, as well as Asian specialty stores. If you can’t find it, you can use curry powder instead.

Yield: 4 servings                 
Active Time: 10 min.  
Total Time: 8 hr. 10 min. (incl. marinating)


  • 4 6-oz. lean pork loin chops
  • 4 tbsp. garam masala spices*
  • 1/2 cup Greek style yogurt
  • 10 fresh mint leaves

Trim pork chops of excess fat. Rub garam masala into chops (both sides).

Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, to allow flavors to penetrate.

Chop the mint and stir into the yogurt and refrigerate for the same period as the pork chops.

Preheat broiler. Spray broiler rack with nonstick cooking spray. Broil chops for about 5 minutes each side. Alternately, grill chops over direct heat until well marked on both sides, move to indirect heat, cover loosely in foil, and cook until internal temp reaches 145F. Remove from heat and allow to rest 3 minutes.

Serve with mint yogurt.

 Note: *Garam Masala is available in specialty stores and many larger grocery stores. You can use curry powder instead if you wish, or you could even make your own garam masala with this recipe.

 Spiced Couscous (6b)

Yield: 4 servings                  
Active Time: 10 min.  
Total Time: 15 min.


  • 1 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 4 tsp. raisins
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper (opt)
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2/3 cup couscous
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds

Nutritional facts for this meal

In a medium saucepan bring the broth, raisins, olive oil, cumin, cayenne and salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous, bring back to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Juice the lemon and stir into the couscous with the sesame seeds.

Serve.

06/24/12

Tips for grilling great veggie burgers and mock brisket recipe

Heyya Peeps,

Yesterday, a Facebook friend asked, “Do you have any suggestions on how to cook a veggie burger patty and keep it moist off the grill?”

FYI – A veggie burger is a hamburger-style patty that does not contain meat. The patty of a veggie burger may be made, for example, from vegetables, textured vegetable protein (soy meat), legumes, nuts, dairy products, mushrooms, wheat, or eggs. In places such as India where vegetarianism is widespread, McDonald’s and KFC serve veggie burgers. In Sweden, they call it the “McGarden”.

Continue reading