Judy Alter is the author of the Kelly O’Connell Mystery series and the Blue Plate Café Mystery series. Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.
In Judy Alter’s latest Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Danger Comes Home, one of the major characters opens a high cuisine hot dog restaurant. Writing that part of the novel gave Judy a grand opportunity to explore the world of hot dogs, and she even held a hot dog bar in her home for friends. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website and her Judy’s Stew and Potluck with Judy blogs. -- AP
Remember the old days when a hot dog meant a plain beef frank in a soft white bread bun with mustard and maybe pickle relish? If you were really lucky, you got to grill the hot dog over a campfire on the end of a coat hanger—tasted so much better. And you could follow it with toasted marshmallows. Well, the times are changing, my friends. Hot dogs aren’t what they once were, and the internet is full of hot dog recipes that range from interesting to bizarre.
First, you must decide what kind of hot dog you want—beef was standard for years (probably with some pork in it) but today you can get chicken, turkey, seafood, even tofu or duck (there is honestly a suggestion on the Web someplace about a duck hot dog l’Orange). Personally, I don’t know where you’d find tofu, seafood or duck dogs—just haven’t seen them—but Google will tell all. I have always liked either Nathan’s or Hebrew National, but (and I’m not endorsing a product here) I like to get the new Oscar Mayer Select for my grandchildren—turkey or chicken, all breast meat, no preservatives. And so far, no complaints.
Then, what kind of bun will you use? You’re not limited to “cotton candy” white. The easiest alternative is a healthy whole wheat bun but you can use croissant, tortilla, poppy seed roll.... You’re only limited by your imagination.
And then what are you going to do with it? Newest craze is to spiral cut the dog. Stick a metal skewer through the dog lengthwise and then, slowly turning, cut through to the skewer. Remove skewer, and the hot dog becomes one long sausage curl, giving you much more crisp surface when you grill. And burning faster, so watch it.
The website Mystery Lovers Kitchen has some interesting recipes for hot dogs, including the Danger Dog which is a hot dog slit open to insert a piece of cheese, then wrapped in bacon and deep fried. Find it here.
I always liked the hot dog appetizer at Tolbert’s Restaurant in Grapevine, Texas (founded by legendary chili king Frank Tolbert.) Called Donkey Tails (for what reason I don’t know,) these hot dogs are slit and stuffed with cheddar, wrapped in flour tortillas and lightly deep fried. Served with sides of salsa, mustard, and chili.
Want a plain hot dog with a variety of relishes? There again, let your imagination carry you as far as it can—way beyond the Coney Island dog or the Chicago dog or the chili dog. Try marinated vegetables (such as olives or artichoke hearts), sun-dried tomatoes, hummus, bacon, even fruits—there is a Hawaiian hot dog with pineapple chunks. Don’t forget the German dog, with sauerkraut, mustard and optional Swiss cheese.
Cool entertaining idea: a hot dog bar. Use all the common toppings plus whatever comes into your head. I even saw a recipe recently for hot dogs with cheddar and sautéed apples. Still thinking that one over. Provide really good hot dogs and buns and probably some good German lager.
I expect hot dogs to show up in stew any day now, but here’s a recipe that I’ve used for years for something called Polka Dot Salad. I’ve doctored it enough to make it my own, and it’s known as German potato salad in my household:
Polka Dot Salad
6 hot dogs, either boiled or grilled and cut in chunks
Four strips of bacon, fried until crisp, drained and set aside
3 Tablespoons bacon grease
4 scallions, diced
2 large stalks celery, diced
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
2 cans (approximately 3-4 cups) potatoes, sliced
fresh chopped parsley or snipped chives (optional)
(Note: similar recipes add sugar, in varying amounts; my family prefers it without.)
Sauté the scallions and celery in bacon grease. Add flour, and stir to make roux (add more flour if needed.) Gradually add water and cider vinegar. Stir in mustard (you can add more to taste if you prefer.) Stir in potatoes. Add the hot dogs. Crumble bacon over top. Add parsley or chives for color. Serve hot.
Danger Comes Home
Kelly O’Connell’s husband, Mike Shandy, insists she has a talent for trouble, but how can she sit idly by while her world is shattering. Daughter Maggie is hiding a runaway classmate; protégé Joe Mendez seems to be hanging out again with his former gang friends and ignoring his lovely wife Theresa; drug dealers have moved into her beloved Fairmount neighborhood. And amidst all this, reclusive former diva Lorna McDavid expects Kelly to do her grocery shopping. In spite of Mike’s warnings, Kelly is determined to save the runaway girl and her abused mother and find out what’s troubling Joe, even when those things lead back to the drug dealers. Before all the tangles in the neighborhood are untangled, Kelly finds herself wondering who to trust, facing drug dealers, and seeing more of death than she wants. But she also tests upscale hot dog recipes and finds a soft side to the imperious recluse, Lorna McDavid. It’s a wild ride, but she manages, always, to protect her daughters and keep Mike from worrying about her—at least not too much.