WASHINGTON — If we’re being frank, the plain old hot dog can get a little boring — especially by the third or fourth cookout of the season.
This summer, ditch the boring bun and common condiments and get creative with your foot-long.
Russell van Kraayenburg, author of “Haute Dogs,” has spent years traveling, eating and experimenting with different ways to dress up the dog. He’s offering his best tips on how you can spice up the picnic staple. So fire up the grill, turn on your imagination and eat with great relish. (Yes, pun intended.)
Beyond the bun
Van Kraayenburg, who has been “quite obsessed [with hot dogs] from a very young age,” says often times he’ll bypass the eight-pack bag of buns and serve his frankfurter in something more interesting.
Naan, the oven-baked flatbread often found in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines, makes a great wrap for a hot dog (take it one step further and top the dog off with some curried lentils or saag paneer). Put a French spin on the all-American food and sub out the bun for a baguette.
Or, go completely naked.
“You don’t even have to use a bun,” Van Kraayenburg said. “Just throw a hot dog on a stick and deep-fry it.”
Serve the deep-fried dog alongside some spicy peanut dipping sauce for a Thai-influenced dish, or wrap the hot dog in sticky rice for a sushi-esque treat.
Go global by tapping into toppings
Van Kraayenburg sees the hot dog as a blank canvas.
“It really is the perfect vessel to just throw whatever toppings you want on it,” he said.
And when it comes to toppings, the options are endless. He says some of the best are ones you likely already have on your picnic spread, such as baked beans, pulled barbecue, potato salad and coleslaw.
“I think those foods lend themselves amazingly to be hot dog toppings,” he said. “And of course, you can look to any of your favorite cuisines for inspiration for toppings.”
Prefer to go Italian? Try throwing some sun-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and pesto on your hot dog and serve it in an Italian-style bread bun. Add a Korean twist with a topping of kimchi.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to something more familiar. Van Kraayenburg admits the Chicago dog, loaded with relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices and celery salt, is his favorite. But he encourages you to experiment with your own taste preferences.
“Try to have some fun with it, and try to see if you can outdo your neighbor with your hot dogs this year. The possibilities are endless,” Van Kraayenburg said.