Friday, July 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza July: The Chicago Hot Dog


 I can still vividly remember days at my grandparents' pool. Picking raspberries off the bushes that surrounded it, splashing around with my cousins, trying to see who could come up with the most inventive leap off the diving board. I can also remember lunch. I remember the crinkle of wax paper bags, soaked with grease, out of which would emerge the Chicago Hot Dog.

My grandma and grandpa with my cousins as babies.

You see my grandparents, Norm and Bernice, they lived in a northwest suburb of Chicago. It's where I was born and lived until the ripe, old, age of four, before New England became my home. Even after we moved, we'd spent summers and holidays back in Illinois, surrounded by my aunts, uncles, and cousins. We'd all (both the Kleins and the Virzis) would end up eventually at Ma and Pa Klein's backyard pool in Arlington Heights. Just down the street from the house they lived in for decades was a place called Luke's. That's where the grease soaked bags would come from. They were filled to the brim with fries and a Chicago Dog.

The homemade hot dog

If you know hot dogs, you know what a Chicago Dog is. It's often referred to as being "dragged through the garden". What you see above, it's not a true Chicago hot dog because I grilled it (my preference). More often, they're steamed or boiled, topped with neon green relish, mustard, fresh tomatoes, sport peppers, chopped onions, a pickle, dash of celery salt, all on a poppy seed bun. It's how I remember the hot dog. Even now, when we go back to the Chicagoland area to visit family, a stop must be made at a hot dog joint (most often Portillo's) for a Chicago dog.

I survived stuffing the hot dogs.

So when hot dogs were among are choices for this month's Charcutepalooza challenge, I knew I had to pay homage to the hot dog of my youth. The hot dog is an emulsified sausage basically. It means that the fat and the meat combine in perfect harmony to fill a casing. In other words, unlike sausage, you're not going to see bits of fat or meat when you break the casing.

They behaved well on the grill

The version of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman that I possess apparently is an earlier version. The recipe for hot dogs is based on using all beef short rib meat. I'm down with that. I love short ribs. Actual, quality hot dogs should be made of all-beef anyway. No mystery meat here, just beef and seasonings. I will say making an emulsified sausage is work. Grind through the meat not once, but twice, and then combine in a food processor to bring it all together at the end. Then you smoke these babies over, in my case, hickory chips. It's messy, it requires a lot of clean-up, but since it's been a few days since I did this, I'm looking back on it fondly. I even elected to make a batch of refrigerator pickles to go on this special dog.

Heck yeah! Emulsification!

 I don't know why I was shocked when I loaded up that hot dog and took a bite. It tasted not only like a hot dog, but the best hot dog I have ever eaten. Maybe it was the heart and soul that went into making it, but it was fabulous.

My grandparents, younger, at their daughter's wedding.

It brought me back to my grandparents' pool, the all-beef Vienna hot dogs, and summers as they once were. Grandma Klein has since passed on, I miss her every single day. I talk to her all of the time. Not long after Grandma passed away, my Grandpa started showing the signs of Alzheimer's. He has glimmers of recognition of all of us here and there. If you sit with him long enough, he'll show you a picture of Grandma, talking about her with a love not even death could conquer. He's healthy and he's happy. I love him. Food, even the most simple, can be the ultimate thread that weaves itself through our memories.


The Chicago Hot Dog

I have to give a nod to Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Me. They raised the cows that gave me the beautiful short ribs. I'm not going to kid you. This process takes time and a lot of patience. It's worth it, I believe. I'd probably tackle it once a year in a large batch.

1 all-beef hot dog (extra points if it's homemade)
1 poppy-seed hot dog bun (I couldn't find those around here, but they're fabulous)
freshly-diced tomatoes
pickle relish
sport peppers
mustard
dash of celery salt
1 dill pickle spear Pin It

27 comments:

Janis said...

Great Post Sweetie Pie!

Kelly said...

Awww what a sweet post (and your pictures) about your grandparents!  The food looks delicious as well! :)

Brian Silvey said...

Very, very nice post. I love the way food can be a vehicle for memories.

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

Such a loving tribute Kimmy. To  your grandparents and to the Chicago dog...both deserving of it. And your hotdog looks amazing.

Celia said...

You so did your grandparents proud! That's a dog any Chicagoan would be proud to chow down on...Lovely sausages, and lovely post as always :)

Anne Maxfield said...

What a great tribute an a wonderful story! Made me wish I had a stronger connection to hot dogs...
My Charcutepalooza liverwurst pales in comparison.

Kate@Diethood.com said...

Now we're talking... YUMMO!!! Can't believe you made it all from scratch...Bravo! :)

Julia said...

That is one good looking dog! And what a lovely story. It's what makes stuff like this all worthwhile.

Ldmarsha said...

What a lovely post - thank you for sharing your memories. Your hot dogs look fabulous, and I loved the photos of your grandparents.

Cecilia said...

Great post, and your hot dogs look delicious!

mardi@eatlivetravelwrite.com said...

Kimmy, what a lovely tribute.  A lovely morning read for me and even though it's breakfast time, I could go for one of your hot dogs!

Bec Doyle said...

Your post is so lovely. The recipe is a delicious accompaniment to a lovely and well told story. I really enjoyed it :)

Sally Kemball-Cook said...

Your hot dog looks absolutely delicious and I can't believe you made it from scratch. Good for you! I loved the tribute to your Grandparents. Great story.

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Thanks, it made me so happy to write it!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

It was funny, I realized in writing this that I don't have a lot of the older pics of my grandparents. Must go and get from my mother and scan in. :-)

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

It's amazing how a simple thing like a hot dog can trigger so many memories.

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Thanks Barb, it's the only thing I could think of once I started writing it.

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Every time I'm in Chicago, hot dogs are a must, along with a deep dish pie, they just don't make either like that anywhere else!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Not at all Anne! Your liverwurst was just as much of a labor of love. I love to read all the accounts of how each challenge goes down for each person!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

I wanted to do the buns too (apparently King Arthur has an amazing poppy seed bun recipe) but I ran out of time, must try later!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

I always think so. I feel as if there's some kind of little story behind every dish that makes it interesting.

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Thank you! It was a pleasure to write.

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

They were so yummy. So much work, but so yummy!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Thanks Mardi! Some pieces of writing just come so easily. Getting to go through some of the old pictures of them was so much fun as well. It was a perfect way to write this for me. I'm looking back upon the stuffing a little more fondly at this point. Couldn't do on a regular basis, but a couple of times a year... sure.

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I love it when something really speaks to me. The hot dogs were a mess, but I'm so glad I tackled them!

Amanda said...

That is so sweet "A love not even death could conquer" The hot dogs look like they came out really well. I still need to make them but the garden and the mortadella got in my way :)

Kelly said...

Beautiful hot dogs and wonderful post!  Love the idea of food being a thread through our memories -- well-said.