This post was sponsored by Hebrew National.
The tulips have sprung, the buds on the trees are bursting, the Cubs are playing again, the sun is shining and the grill is on! We opened our Spring BBQ season a few weekends ago and though we use our grill throughout most of the year, we were reminded how much more satisfying it is when can eat your grilled food outside.
For the first time, we introduced our kids to the famous Chicago dog. It’s funny how becoming accustomed to and taking pride in local food styles is part of assimilating to a city or region. When I first moved to Chicago, I didn’t know anything about the Chicago dog. The toppings didn’t immediately appeal to me.
Fifteen years later, I have come to appreciate the Chicago dog and have adopted a hometown pride for the loaded franks. Since my kids were born and are being raised in the city, I feel a distinct responsibility for them to understand how to make their local traditional dog, whether they like them or not.
I’ve heard Chicago hot dogs referred to as being “dragged through the garden” because of all the veggies on top. I admit that I am drawn to the variety of veggies and tomato because they feel like “healthy” toppings. Paired with kosher Hebrew National® All-Beef Franks (no artificial colors, fillers, by-products or flavors) (no artificial colors, fillers, by-products or flavors) it really isn’t such a sinful meal!
Since becoming a mom, and with all of the current news around health and wellness, I’m very conscious about feeding my brood healthy meals. For awhile, I avoided hot dogs. Now, we are back to hot dog dinners now and then with wholesome toppings and quality all-beef franks, which are totally worth paying a little more for!
I’ve read various accounts of the history of Chicago hot dogs and their toppings. Apparently, they became popular during the great depression when hot dog vendors on Maxwell Street could sell “a full meal in a bun” for a reasonable price by loading the veggies on top of the franks. Did they really have celery salt back then?! Who knows, but it’s a good story.
So, for those who aren’t familiar with what a Chicago dog is and how to make one, I’ve created a simple infographic photo to help explain. I’ll start with the bottom up.
Poppy Seed Bun. I don’t know why the poppy seeds are important. However, the entire package is thoughtfully, visually stimulating and poppy seed buns are pretty. The kids tried to gripe about the seeds and I shut it down immediately, Chicago-style.
All-Beef Frank. Often they are steamed but since we rarely get a chance to be outside due to the Chicago climate, I grill when I can. Many will tell you that you must then refer to it as a char-dog. And, some might insist that you cut the ends of the frank in a cross before grilling.
Mustard. Here is where it gets spicy. #PunIntended Don’t ask a Chicagoan to put ketchup on her hotdog. I love ketchup on hot dogs but when I eat a Chicago dog, out of respect for tradition, I don’t add it.
Sweet Relish. This bright, green condiment adds a welcome touch of sweetness and it juxtaposes nicely to the briny flavors of the dill pickle spear and sport peppers (read on).
Tomato Wedges. Here comes another confession. I don’t really like raw tomatoes. BUT, I eat them on Chicago dogs. Why? Because it just all works together, and I want to be diehard and own my adopted city’s dog style.
Dill Pickle Spear. I usually slice a spear lengthwise so it’s a bit thinner than a quarter pickle, otherwise the flavor takes over too much. It’s fun to have a topping as long as the dog and feel the variance in texture as you bite.
Diced Onion. Fresh, chopped onion sprinkled on top. I often buy sweet onion and perhaps that is a no-no by purists but I prefer their milder flavor. It ensures that the entire Chicago dog (and your breath) isn’t hijacked by the onion flavor.
Sport Peppers. These thin little green peppers are a bit spicy. I love their small size and the vinegary brine they float in until you pop them across the top of your loaded Chicago dog.
Celery Salt. You know what ALWAYS ties a bunch of crazy ingredients together? Salt. Celery salt was the biggest surprise to me when learning about how to make a Chicago dog and I love it. The seasoned salt brings out the flavors of the other toppings.
And there you go! Who is ready to dive in?
To be honest, my 5 and 8 year old daughters were NOT ready to dive in. The younger one is a bit more experimental and I could tell that she was feeding off my enthusiasm and wanted to display her hometown pride.
But, I would be lying if I said they ate the whole thing. The adults enjoyed the Chicago dogs while the kids reverted to just ketchup. *gasp*
I’m not too worried. We still have time to train them right.
What makes a Hebrew National kosher hot dog premium? It’s all about what makes the cut (And what doesn’t). We’re choosy about what goes into our franks – we use only premium cuts of 100% kosher beef from the front half of the cow and then choose the best from that. No artificial flavors, colors, fillers or by-products. When your hot dog is kosher, that’s a hot dog you can trust! For more summer fun with Hebrew National, visit facebook.com/hebrewnational.