October and the World Series. These two belong together as do Stadium Hot Dogs and Chili. Take me out to the ball park (or not). The World Series that left an impression on me was the 1969 Series – Baltimore Orioles pitted against the New Your Mets. (For the record, the Mets won).
Am I a baseball fan? No. The only sport I find more boring to watch than baseball is golf. However, in October of 1969 two things happened in my life that left an impact. The Board of Education voted to allow girls to wear pants to school for the first time, but only from October to March. It was cold, wet and windy. Someone decided girls would be more comfortable in pants. Actually, we were permitted slacks, with zippers on the left and not blue jeans like the boys wore. The same year I was allowed to wear slacks, I began to notice boys in a different way. They suddenly became curious, strange creatures. Interesting, and worthy of greater study. It amazed me how boys could become so like-minded, fixated on sports, and in particular the World Series. It wasn’t just the boys, male teachers were equally obsessed. It were as though the outcome of each game would somehow impact the lives of the male spices directly. Between classes, the girls hurried through the halls to their next class while the boys gathered around whomever had a transistor radio to get the latest series update. If there were a male teacher in the classroom, he had a radio on his desk, and all the boys gathered around to listen, while we liberated pant-wearing females were left to fend for ourselves.
These days I’m married to one of those “strange” creatures. I am grateful that Hubby isn’t a sports fan for the sake of sports. NASCAR racing and professional football (especially the Green Bay Packers) are a huge deal in our house. When planning meals (or family activities for that matter) I need to be aware of the football schedule. Racing is something he likes to watch live, but is willing to record if we have other plans. As for the rest of the sporting world, he could take it or leave it. Hubby would much rather spend time outdoors with his family than sprawled out of the sofa scarfing down potatoes chips while watching a baseball game. He and Kiddo do like to take in a Triple-A game every now and then, but neither of them actually follow baseball. It’s just a nice way to spend time together, bonding over “guy” things. Every now and again, my fellows might watch a game of the World Series. When they do, I like to serve up “stadium” inspired foods.
For this dish, I’ve married my Stadium Dogs with what has to be hands down the secret to awesome Chili-Cheese Dogs – the cheese. Oh sure, you could grate just about any type of cheese and sprinkle it over the top of a chili-ladled hot dog. But what really makes these dogs “smoking” good is just that – smoke. Pick a nice block of cheese that has been smoked. Smoked Gouda is our favorite, but a good quality smoked cheddar is also delicious. Believe me, the cheese matters. The best dogs come from quality of ingredients, and method of preparation. While you could grill up your dogs outside, come October and the weather may have turned against you. That is the beauty of “stadium” style hot dogs – they are cooked in a skillet. The skin has that nice blister of grilled dogs. Another important key to awesome goodness. Okay, so maybe cheese is just one of the keys to success. Blistered dogs count. As does the chili. You gotta use your favorite chili – that goes without saying. It’s got to be a chili you would be willing to eat all on its own. Be in from a good deli; from a can or leftover chili from a big pot – whatever works for you. If I don’t have leftovers; then I always reach for the can of Dennison’s Hot Chili. It’s a personal thing – my favorite brand of “canned” chili.
Next, gotta use good dogs – after all a dog is only as good as the dog. We like Nathan’s or Hebrew National All Beef. Costco makes a decent foot-long dog. Whatever your favorite dog happens to be, that’s the dog for you.
While some people might consider chopped onion “optional”, in our house sweet chopped onions are a must – especially when the dog is smothered in chili. Who can resist chili with a big handful of raw, chopped onions?
Finally, good quality buns – unless you like your chili-cheese dog on a grilled bun nice, fresh, soft buns are always the best. Sourdough buns are also great, especially if your dog is a big, fat puppy. (And to think, I was in San Francisco not that long ago – coulda, shouda, woulda picked up some sourdough bread – best bread in the west as far as I’m concerned comes from San Francisco).
Now I know this sounds a little crazy, but I like mayonnaise on my chili-cheese dog. The mayo just gives everything a nice, creamy texture. I know, dogs are supposed to have mustard, ketchup – a little relish – some chopped onions – the usual stuff. And when having a dog without the chili, I wouldn’t even begin to consider mayonnaise on the bun. But throw chili into the mix, and it’s mayo all the way.
World Series Stadium Chili-Cheese Dogs
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
1 Cup Freshly Grated Smoked Cheese (Gouda or Cheddar)
3 Cups Favorite Chili
1 Package Quality All Beef Hot Dogs
1 Tablespoon Bacon Drippings (or butter)
1 Package Quality Hot Dog Buns
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
Peel and chop onions, set aside until ready to use.
Grate smoked cheese, set aside until ready to use.
In a sauce pan over medium heat, warm chili. Keep warm until ready to use, stirring as needed.
Heat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough water to barely cover the bottom of the skillet. Add bacon drippings or butter to the water. Be careful when adding grease as the pan will sputter.
Immediately place the hot dogs into the steaming pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until almost all of the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes or so.
Uncover, and continue to cook the dogs on medium heat until the skins have begun to blister, rolling and turning the dogs as necessary for even crispness.
While the dogs blister, cut foil to wrap each hot dog bun. Split the buns, spread about a tablespoon of mayonnaise inside each bun and then place each bun into foil, set aside.
When dogs are nicely blistered, place one dog into each bun, wrap with foil and set aside. Let dogs warm buns for a few minutes. Unwrap dogs, slather with chili, sprinkle with cheese and top with raw onions.
Enjoy a little bite of heaven while your taste buds do a “happy” dance!