Hot Diggity Dog

Hot dogs are one of my old-time favorites, and they have been in the news this week. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Twins and Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods Corp. announced that Dome Dogs, a fixture in the Metrodome for much of the past decade, won’t be moving with the team to Target Field. A Hormel spokeswoman said the company decided to stop providing hot dogs at Twins games after reviewing the change in cost for sponsorships at the new stadium.

And Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement that calls for choking hazard labels on foods that kids might choke on, making a special case for a mandatory warning label on all hot dog packages. The AAP also would like to see foods such as hot dogs "redesigned" so their size, shape and texture make them less likely to lodge in a youngster’s throat. Some pediatricians are suggesting a square hot dog.

I won’t miss the Dome Dogs, which were the subject of many Hormel promotions at Twins games, including Dollar-A-Dog Night on Wednesdays and the Hormel Hot Dog Row of Fame — where those seated in that row got free hot dogs. I know on some of my trips with the Hoover Caravan — a junket put together by my old friend, Ron Amiot of Crookston — we received coupons for a free Dome Dog with our ticket package. But I usually gave mine away. About the only hot dogs I’ll eat are ones that are homemade.

And as far as labeling hot dog packages, I’m all for that. But changing the shape of a hot dog? You’ve got to be kidding.

Let’s be frank. Hot dogs have been around since the 1400s, and in America, their history goes back to the 1870s, when a German immigrant named Charles Feltman began selling them on New York’s Coney Island. If you want to change the shape, they won’t be hot dogs anymore. And it would be the end of an American tradition.

And what would we do with hot dog buns?

I’d suggest that parents keep a close eye on their kids when they are eating foods that could be hazardous to their health. I remember when my grandson, Rakeem, was little. Therese used to cut up his meat in small pieces so he wouldn’t choke on it. When kids are small, they don’t have the judgment to do the right thing all the time, so it’s up to us as parents and grandparents to watch out for them.

In honor of keeping the hot dog the way it is, here are a few recipes to ponder while you make up your own minds.

Manchego Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs
2 large heads garlic, top ½ inch cut off
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup roasted red peppers from jar, drained and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Coarse kosher salt
Pepper to taste
6 grilled hot dog buns or 2½-inch-wide pieces ciabatta cut to hot dog length and split lengthwise
6 grilled all-beef hot dogs
2 ounces Manchego or hot pepper cheese
Sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
To prepare the relish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place each head of garlic, cut side up, in center of square of foil; drizzle each with 1 teaspoon oil. Enclose garlic in foil. Place packets on oven rack; roast until garlic is tender, about 45 minutes. Open packets; cool 15 minutes.
Squeeze garlic cloves into small bowl. Mash enough to measure 1/4 cup (reserve remaining garlic for another use). Transfer to bowl. Mix in 3 teaspoons oil, red pepper and parsley. Season with coarse salt and pepper.
Arrange the hot dog buns on plates. Top each with grilled hot dog, cheese, garlic relish and drizzle of vinegar.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per hot dog:375 calories, 52 percent of calories from fat, 22 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 32 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 861 milligrams sodium, 37 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

Hot Dogs with Dal and  Red Onion Raita
½ cup green or brown lentils
2½ cups water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
Coarse kosher salt and pepper
½ medium red onion, cut into 4 wedges, then crosswise into paper-thin slices
½ cucumber, peeled, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons minced seeded red jalapeno or serrano chili
2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
6 grilled hot dog buns, naan or pita breads
6 grilled all-beef hot dogs
Lemon wedges
To prepare the dal: Rinse lentils; place in medium saucepan. Add 21/2 cups water, cumin and turmeric; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Drain, reserving cooking liquid. Mash lentils to a coarse sauce, adding reserved cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if very thick. Season with coarse salt and pepper. Set aside.
While the dal is cooking, make the raita. Combine all the raita ingredients and mix well. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Arrange buns or bread on plates. Top each with grilled hot dog, dal and raita. Serve with lemon wedges.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per hot dog: 365 calories, 44 percent of calories from fat), 18 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 37 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 836 milligrams sodium, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.

Avocado and Spicy Relish Hot Dogs
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stem removed, seeded, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup finely chopped white onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
6 grilled hot dog buns
6 grilled all-beef hot dogs
6 tablespoons Mexican cheese blend, divided (optional)
To make the relish, cut the avocado into ¼-inch dice and place in a bowl. Add the tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, onion, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix gently so you don’t break up the avocado pieces. Arrange the buns on a platter. Place the hot dogs in each bun and top each one with 1 tablespoon cheese, if using, so it melts slightly. Spoon relish on top and serve.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per hot dog: 330 calories, 55 percent of calories from fat, 20 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 26 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 786 milligrams sodium, 28 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.

Beer-Braised Hot Dogs with Sauerkraut
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper
3 cups refrigerated sauerkraut, rinsed, drained
½ cup dark beer (such as porter)
1 to 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 12-ounce bottle Belgian kriek (cherry) or raspberry lambic beer
2 tablespoons sugar
6 all-beef hot dogs
6 grilled hot dog buns
Mustard (optional)
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook until dark golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, in a separate heavy skillet, simmer the sauerkraut, beer and 1 to 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (depending on your taste) over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Season with pepper.
To prepare the hot dogs, preheat or prepare the grill.
Bring beer and sugar to simmer in medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add hot dogs; simmer until hot dogs plump and beer syrup coats lightly, about 8 minutes. Transfer dogs to grill; reserve syrup. Top each bun with grilled hot dog, caramelized onions and sauerkraut. Drizzle with reserved beer syrup. Serve with mustard if desired.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per hot dog: 262 calories, 55 percent of calories from fat), 16 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 18 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 661 milligrams sodium, 24 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.