In last month’s issue of Gourmet, Michael Ruhlman — who recently guest-blogged at Megnut’s place and whose writing I respect — penned an ode to hot dogs.
He claims the best hot dogs in the world are Vienna Beefs, and having had a Chicago-style dog last year at O’Hare on my way to Rochester, I can’t say I’d put up a firm argument.
Hot dogs, he explained, are part of the meat genus we call “emulsified forcemeat”. I’d never heard of that term before, and in addition to conjuring images of a Nordic death metal four piece (or a gay S&M fetish flick), this reductive term sounds a little less than appetizing. But as every professional athlete inevitably says in the course of a cliche-ridden press conference (and as Pope John famously pronounced when asked about Mel Gibson’s Jew-baiting movie), “it is what it is.”
I ran across an article (via Ruhlman via NYTimes and I made a short post here previously about it but I’m too lazy and thick with enchiladas to bother linking to) about how the organic franks from premier beef producers were making a splash on the hot dog scene. Instead of the pessimistic nitrates used to artificially preserve the meat, they used celery juice. See, nitrates also give the dog its nice, pinkish hue, and nitrate-free dogs have a really nasty brown tinge to it, like cardboard. Celery juice to the rescue!
I stopped by Trader Joes shortly after reading the article and picked up what I consider to be the best hot dogs in the world – Niman Ranch Fearless Uncured Beef Franks.
They come four to a package, and each one weighs in at a hefty quarter pound. I checked the ingredients list, and lo and behold celery juice was listed. If you haven’t had these hot dogs and consider yourself a hot dog fan, pick up a package next time you’re at Trader Joes (I’m not sure where else to buy them). They are actually leaner than many 1/4 franks I’ve seen – with 19 grams of fat – I’ve seen other dogs such as the Sinai Kosher’s at Costco run 30 grams. For post-cooked weight, that’s actually less fat than a raw 80% ground beef burger.
Here is a full metal jacket Chicago dog I’ve recently had, starring a Niman Ranch uncured.