I had my cap set on some natural casing hot dogs the other day; after all, I had just received a new shipment of Skyline Chili in the post, and I needed something to slather it on!
Natural casing hot dogs are my favorite, but not America’s – less than 5% of the hot dogs sold in the US coming in casings (sheep intestines, usually). People that prefer NC dogs like the “snap” one gets when biting in to the dog; an additional plus is the casing locks in flavor and juices. I enjoy both attributes of this type of wiener.
Being as the masses like the skinless dogs, that’s what you’ll find in most groceries. I had to hit four stores before scoring my dogs the other day. Store # 3 usually has Boar’s Head in the deli case, but they were out, so it was on to Sheridan Fruit Market; Sheridan whips up about 30 different kind of sausages on site their meat counter, I figured franks would be among them.
I figured wrong. But Sheridan also has a separate deli counter, featuring New Jersey’s Thumann line. They had a pack of weenies just for me. The Thumann’s natural casing beef wieners are a bit over-sized – six to a package, and retail for just north of $7, a bit spendy for a grocery dog. But you get what you pay for.
And Thumann’s packs a punch of flavor. Most of America’s hot dogs are rather bland affairs, I’ve heard people describe them as “basically rolled up bologna,” but Thumann’s follows a more traditional “old world” recipe, and the delicate flavor of the combination of herbs and spices is quite evident, and enjoyable. The “snap” is great.
Most hot dogs we purchase are pre-cooked, and thus require only reheating at home. Natural casing dogs require a “gentle” reheating, so as to not split the casing open during the cooking process. You’ll hear many different methods of doing this, whether it’s boiling water, shutting it off, and letting the dogs take a hot water bath for five minutes; slow grill; simmer; steam. For today, I did low and slow in a skillet.
I like the Skyline “chili”, and I have that word in quotes, because in a fair amount of the country, you’ll see a product like this referred to as “hot dog sauce.” The Midwest version is usually minced ground beef in a tomato-based sauce, with herbs and spices. Ohioans like some cinnamon in the mix. In the Deep South, you’ll find onion-based sauces.
I prefer the Midwestern style, as it was what I was first exposed to, at my all time favorite go-to dog place, Deluxe Coney Island in Duluth. The Duluth version doesn’t include cinnamon, but today, in Portland, Oregon, at 330 AM in my kitchen, the Skyline Chili was just what the doctor (some doctor, somewhere, certainly not mine!) ordered!