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Hot dogs, baseball a welcome sign of spring

Spring training is in full swing and McKechnie Field is active once again with players, fans and concessions. There is nothing better or more traditional than sitting in the stadium, hearing the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the organ music and taking that first glorious bite of a hot dog.

People never seem to tire of this classic American food. A hot dog topped with the right condiments can make a good game even better.

Last week I was driving south on Ninth Street when I found myself backed up in traffic and at a dead stop next to McKechnie. As I waited, it gave me time to check out the concessions set up by the gate. All of a sudden, my hot dog craving kicked in and I imagined myself with a dog in one hand and an ice cold drink in the other. For me, when it comes to a baseball game, health foods are out and junk foods are in. Who can resist peanuts, popcorn, soft pretzels, Cracker Jacks and cotton candy? It’s yet another occasion when I indulge in foods I enjoy and throw care to the wind (there seems to be a lot of those).

Several ballparks around the country boast their own “specialty” hot dog for their fans to enjoy. In Minneapolis, the Metrodome sells the “Dome Dog,” a tasty quarter-pound hot dog with crunchy potato chips on the top or the side. The Minnesota Twins sell “The Twin Dog,” two hot dogs for the price of one served in a double-cut bun. The Philadelphia Phillies offer a “Phanatic Kid’s Dog” (named after their team mascot). The Brewer fans at Miller Park in Milwaukee enjoy their Wisconsin brats with a generous topping of the Brewer’s Secret Sauce or topped with lots of sauerkraut. Turner Field in Atlanta offers 21 different varieties of hot dogs, including a Bison Dog.

Along with specialty hot dogs there also are signature hot dogs associated with major league ballparks such as Fenway Franks (boiled and grilled) at Fenway Park in Boston, Dodger Dogs (steamed or grilled foot-long) served at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Chicago Dogs (which are my very favorite hot dog) sold at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The Chicago Dog is a steamed beef hot dog served on a poppy seed bun and then topped with yellow mustard, bright green relish, fresh chopped onions, two tomato wedges, a pickle spear, two pickled sport peppers (whole medium-hot peppers) and a dash of celery salt.

When ordering a Chicago Dog, the toppings are sometimes referred to as “the works” or “dragged through the garden.” There is no ketchup on a Chicago Dog. Remember, when adding toppings to a hot dog, dress the dog, not the bun.

Hot dogs may be grilled, steamed, boiled, barbecued, pan fried, deep fried, broiled or microwaved.

Some cooks even prefer to boil their hot dogs in beer. But, no matter what the method, it takes only a few minutes to cook.

My Uncle Jim loved to snack on cold, raw hot dogs straight from the package.

I guess it would be like eating cold bologna, but I like my dogs hot off the grill.

There are multitudes of hot dogs from which to choose at the grocery store. Ball Park and Oscar Meyer offer 13 different types of hot dogs (I counted them). Additional popular brands are Nathan’s, Hebrew National, Sabretts and Gwaltneys.

Diann Greene, whose column appears weekly in Accent, can be e-mailed at downhomecook@gmail.com.

CHICAGO DOG

q Hot dog bun (I found it hard to find poppy seed buns)

q Your choice of hot dog — steamed, grilled or boiled

q Yellow mustard

q Sweet pickle relish

q Onions, chopped

q 2 tomato wedges

q 1 pickle spear

q 2 sport peppers

q Celery salt

n Start out by placing your hot dog on the bun, and then add the toppings in the following order

n Yellow mustard – squirt the mustard in zig-zag pattern across the length of the hot dog

n Sweet pickle relish – a generous amount on top

n Fresh chopped onions – on top of the relish (the amount depends on personal taste)

n Two tomato wedges – place the wedges along one side between the bun and the hot dog

n Pickle spear – place the pickle along the other side between the bun and the hot dog

n Two sport peppers – placed on top of the onions (this is personal taste and optional)

n Celery salt – a dash sprinkled over the whole hot dog

PIGS-IN-A-BLANKET

q 4 hot dogs

q 2 slices American Cheese, cut into 8 strips

q 1 small can (package of four) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

n Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

n Slit the hot dogs to within 1/2-inch of the ends

n Insert 2 strips of cheese into each slit.

n Separate dough into triangles. Roll the dough around each hot dog.

n Place the hot dogs on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake them for 11 to 13 minutes.

n Serve with your favorite condiments.

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