Southern hot dog toppings
Is there a more uniquely American experience than grilling hot dogs in the backyard during the summer months? Aside from Uncle Sam driving a red, white and blue speedboat down a river of money, probably not. The ease of preparation can’t be beaten: Throw wieners on the grill, cook until the desired level of char is achieved, sandwich between a bun and top with preferred condiments.
Hot dogs are particularly well-suited to Fourth of July parties — they appeal to just about everyone, are easily customizable, and they are best eaten outdoors, with an easy-drinking beer in hand.
Of course, we like to pull out more than just ketchup and mustard at our cookouts. A rainbow of toppings can dress up any ol' hot dog and most are quick and easy to make. If you, too are a little bored with store-bought squeeze bottles and want to jazz up your dogs a bit, try these fun toppings to take your hot dog game to the next level.
Homemade Ketchup and Mustard
It’s difficult to argue against putting mustard on a hot dog. Ketchup might engender more of a divided response; however, making both condiments from scratch will all but certainly make you the talk of the patio. While there are quite a few ingredients in homemade ketchup, the spices and aromatics add a beguiling depth of flavor that has more in common with a steak sauce than store-bought ketchup. Feel free to play around with the amount of vinegar, sugar and salt, depending on your flavor preferences. Our mustard recipe is a perfect facsimile for yellow ballpark mustard. Using a small amount of Wondra flour will thicken without making the mustard lumpy or gummy, as all-purpose flour or cornstarch might. Simply combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer, whisking constantly. Once the mixture thickens, you’re ready to add it to hot dogs, burgers, sausages or grilled meats.
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Grilled Pineapple Salsa
If you only make one recipe from this article, make this one. A true workhorse condiment, this salsa made from grilled pineapple can work on anything from burgers and hot dogs to pork tacos and grilled fish. Using the grill to char fresh pineapple mellows some of its natural acidity while amplifying its sweeter qualities. A hefty dose of lime juice and some sharp red onion prevents the salsa from becoming too cloying. Once the salsa is assembled, it should stay fresh for two days.
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If you want to riff on a standard coleslaw, try grilling the cabbage before slicing to add a charred, smoky flavor. To do so, cut the cabbage into quarters — leaving the core attached to keep the wedges intact — and grill until browned on the surface. To make sure the dressing absorbs into the warm cabbage, we’re using a bright citrus vinaigrette instead of a more traditional mayonnaise. The red wine vinegar and the floral qualities of the orange beautifully contrast to a savory hot dog. In case you miss the mayo, you can always add it as a finishing condiment; it would still bring richness, but run less risk of becoming watery like coleslaw dressing might.
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Pickled Peach Salsa
Fewer fruits scream summertime more than peaches, especially if you live near Georgia and South Carolina. Peaches and pork are a natural combination, so making a fresh salsa out of the South’s favorite fruit is a slam dunk. For much-needed acidity and contrast, some of the peaches are first pickled, then added to fresh peaches, onion and herbs. I would advise tossing all the ingredients together as close to your serving time as possible to ensure the flavor of the pickled peaches does not overtake the fresh ones. Serve any leftovers with grilled pork tenderloin or pork chops.
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Mexican Street Corn
Head south of the border for this topping inspired by elotes, or Mexican street corn. Grill a few whole ears off right before tossing the hot dogs on the grill, then slice off the charred kernels. Mix in queso fresco, mayo, lime juice and chile powder, and you're all ready to serve. Feel free to alter the proportions of cheese and mayonnaise to suit your preferences, and don't forget to add a final sprinkle of chile powder and fresh cilantro to the assembled dog.
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All photos: Ramona King