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Archive | July 3rd, 2009

Hot Diggity Dogs — It’s Time for the Fourth!

Hot Diggity Dogs — It’s Time for the Fourth!

hotdog

Chicago-style Hot Dog at Big'z

“A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz.”
Humphrey Bogart

Americans love hot dogs.

So much do we love them that the average person in this great country eats 60 a year, according to whatscookingamerica.net.

That’s a lot of tube steak and buns on the part of those making up for the rest who only eat them on the Fourth of July or at the annual neighborhood cookout.

We love ’em plain with a streak of yellow mustard. We love ’em wrapped in corn batter and fried. We love ’em in breakfast tacos with scrambled egg (just look at the number of taquerias in town offering “winnie” tacos). We love ’em stuffed with foie gras (OK, well, only the folks who patronize Hot Doug’s in Chicago probably love them, but we love the concept).

There are even vegan hot dogs out there, and somebody even loves those, too.

We at SavorSA wanted to find out what there was to love in a hot dog, an all-beef hot dog, to be precise. All-beef Hebrew Nationals are what I usually feast on when I’m at Costco. For $1.50 in the public food court, you can get a jumbo dog and a soda in what seems like the best bargain in town.

So, we conducted several side-by-side tastings of all-beef hot dogs purchased at a neighborhood H-E-B. The names were largely familiar: Nathan’s, Ball Park, Oscar Meyer and Hebrew National, as well as two H-E-B brands, including one made with Angus beef and another called Texas Heritage (original flavor). We also threw in a ringer, another Texas all-beef dog; this one was from Pederson’s Natural Farms and featured no preservatives or nitrates.

hotdogs21All were grilled, and we topped them with whatever we chose, from stone-ground mustard to dill relish. Tasted plain or with mayonnaise, one thing became quickly clear: There really wasn’t a great deal of difference between the major brands.

So, you would have to be really picky to notice much difference between the Nathan’s and the Hebrew National. The Ball Park Franks we tried had garlic in them, which added extra flavor, but, in terms of beef, it tasted pretty much like the rest.

In the end, the H-E-B Angus dogs had a slight edge because its beefiness was pumped up.

Only one dog was different, and that was the Pederson’s, which one taster spit out, angrily decrying the lack of hot dog flavor that most of us have come to expect from preservatives and nitrates. Why eat a hot dog, if it’s not going to taste all unnaturally natural?

It brings up an age-old question: If you’re looking to avoid preservatives, why even consider a hot dog? By the same token, if you’re vegan, why eat something that is shaped like and reminds you of meat? Doesn’t that somehow defeat the purpose?

If you’re too smart to cook out in this heat, you might want to get a hot dog from one of the growing number of eateries in the city.

A traditional corn dog can be found amid the burgers at Bobby J’s on Bandera Road in Helotes, while MoMak’s on Jones Maltsberger has its MoMak Daddy Dog, a grilled 9-ounce Angus dog. Another taste of hot dog heaven is at Chunky’s, 4602 Callaghan.

Something strange has happened in San Antonio in the last few years. The city has become an outpost of the Windy City with a growing number of outlets offering Chicago-style dogs.

If you’re not familiar with this regional delicacy, it consists of an all-beef frankfurter, preferably made by Vienna Beef, served on a poppy seed bun. It is then crowned with all manner of toppings, including mustard, onion, brightly colored sweet pickle relish, sport peppers, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear and celery salt.

One major reason for its growth in popularity was the opening of Jerry’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs at 149 E. Commerce St.

Owner Jerry Cahue is an artist with his ingredients, and he knows how to make a sandwich truly special. People who had never had a Chicago dog before suddenly wanted more, and they were willing to stand in line outside the shop he runs with his wife.

In the next few years, more Chicago dogs appeared, and the results were good, if not quite as inspired. Still, not all of us can get downtown when we’d like, so we’ll gladly accept the versions at R&B’s Taste of Chicago on Austin Highway or any of the Freddy’s Frozen Custard stands.

Even Big’z Burger Joint on Loop 1604 has added this treat with all the trimmings. And, yes, Vienna Beef are used.

Relatively new on the dining scene is King’s Court Frankfurter Express at 111 Kings Court, which does a dog most any way you’d like. I haven’t been yet, but, then again, I haven’t had my 60 this year, so there’s still time.

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Ask a Foodie: Scary Meat

Ask a Foodie: Scary Meat

scarymeatQ: Why do we have to be more careful about cooking temperatures in ground meat than in steaks and roasts?

A: Contaminants, such as the especially dangerous E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria, can multiply on the surfaces of larger, intact pieces of meat. When the meat, such as beef, is ground, those bacteria are dispersed into the mixture, where they can spread. The difference is that with a steak, you sear it on both sides of the grill, or in a pan, and theoretically, the bacteria are more likely to be killed. With ground meat, if it’s not cooked thoroughly, the bacteria that have been distributed into the interior of the product won’t be destroyed just by surface cooking.

Why should we concern ourselves about these issues? If you look at the news, you will notice more and more meat recalls by large companies. The meat is recalled, usually, because E. coli, or other contaminants, have spread and been identified as a cause of illnesses.

On June 24, a Greeley, Colo.-based meat company, JBS-Swift Beef Co., voluntarily recalled about 380,000 pounds of beef products, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.

That number was expanded over the weekend to reach about 421,000 pounds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some of the meat, according to a spokesman for JBS-Swift, might have been contaminated when processed by other companies after the meat was distributed, according to Reuters.

In some cases, people die from a virulent strain of food contamination, though in the outbreak mentioned above there have been no deaths reported. But the very young, very old and people with compromised immune systems, should be extra careful that they eat well-cooked meat — especially if it is ground.

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