Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chicago dogs: vegan and Bed Stuy-style

I love Chicago style hot dogs.
Chicago styles hot dogs are not your average tubular meat sandwich. Rather, it is like a salad on a bun. It is the perfect mix of salty, sweet, savory, sour, and hot, plus great textures, in an convenient, mouth perfect container. Everything, from the poppy seed bun to the sweet relish plays a part in this symphony of street food perfection.
When I was 18 years old, wearing too much black, living at home, watching all movies that I missed out on (strict immigrant upbringing) from the library in my parent's basement, and attending community college (yup, I was a winner), I worked at Portillos in the west suburbs of Chicago. It's like a magical place where suburban folks go to pay for premium Chicago hot dogs, brats, Italian beef, salads for the ladies, and you could (gasp) drink booze and smoke cigarettes (maybe not anymore). The chili, cake, and milkshakes weren't bad either.
There are nine essential ingredients in the archetypal Chicago style hot dog: 100% beef dog (Vienna beef), poppy seed bun, pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato wedges, onions, sweet relish, mustard, and celery salt. This webpage will teach you how to DIY when you've got the right ingredients, but sadly I did not. I had to Brooklyn wing it. Plus, the Blokey doesn't eat meat, so I Smart-Dog-ed it.

Finally, I could not find any hot dog buns in my nabe (granted, I didn't try that hard). This is either because everyone else wanted hotdogs on Memorial Day weekend, or because this city does not take hot dog (of the meat or fake meet variety) seriously enough. (It takes mustard seriously, though). I also cursed in the condiments aisle for the lack of sport peppers. Again, this may be a Bedford village thing. I substituted the shortcomings by slicing up pepperoncini, and baking some buns.

Working with what I got in Bed-Stuy

1/2 whole wheat hot dog buns (adapted from this recipe)

1 cup of 1/2 milk, 1/2 water, warmed on the stove (to 110)
1 Tbs of sugar
1 tbs of butter
2 teaspoons of yeast1 egg
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup of whole wheat
1 teaspoon of salt.

Mix together the milk/water, sugar, and butter, until the butter melts. Add the yeast, stir, and let sit about 10 minutes until it gets bubbly/frothy
Mix the flours with the salt, add the egg and water/butter/milk/yeast mixture. Stir and then knead by hand about 5 minutes (add more flour if needed). Let rise in a warm place about 1 hour (or until doubled). Punch down and let rise again.
After the second rise, heat oven to 425 degree F. Divide dough into 8 pieces, roll it out, cover and let sit about 15 minutes. Transfer to lightly floured cookie sheet, and bake 8-10 minutes (I went for the 10)
Uh, these look like, um... Twinkies?

They turned out a bit denser than I would have liked, so I split them open and dug out a lot of the bread instead. This ended up creating space to fit all the Chicago dog ingredients.

The verdict: the bun was a bit stiff, and the peppers were not quite right, but everything worked out pretty well. Even home town boy Blokey was pleased. (I give Smart Dogs my quasi-midwestern seal of approval).


Anne said...

Wow, these *look* just like Chicago dogs (I never would've noticed the peppers if you hadn't pointed it out!) How do they taste compared to meat hot dogs? The buns look great too! Nice job :)

I love Portillo's chocolate cake, and we order things like italian beef and mostacioli from them all the time for work lunches, but I don't think I've ever actually had a hot dog there! I typically only break down and buy them at Cubs games and/or after going out around Wrigley Field. And I admit, not being a native Chicagoan, I eat mine with - gasp - just ketchup. Or even worse, with chili. What can I say? I worked at a chili dog restaurant when I was an 18 year old winner living at home :)

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

I think Ohio gals can eat chili dogs. I'm not a Chicago native either, but I think I can fake being one because my months at Portillos.
The Smart Dogs are actually decent. But it doesn't stand a lone well (like with just mustard and sauerkraut) but works really well the other toppings.
I can't wait to make this again (when it cools down).

Anne said...

It'd probably defeat the purpose if I had a Smart Dog smothered with chili and cheese, wouldn't it?

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

That would be funny, contradictory, but not unheard of. Like my old professor who ate cookies with diet coke. He said it was yummy and I believed him.

Anne said...

Well anything is healthy if you eat it with Diet Coke :) I only eat turkey dogs anymore for the most part (unless there's a special sausage occasion - such as tonight's German May Fest!) and those are pretty healthy, so I may just stick with those.