The Ultimate Hot Dog: Cheesy & Grilled To Perfection

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I absolutely love mid-summer parties–there’s been enough summertime that people have started to unwind, and enough left so that nobody’s in a panic about it coming to an end. Love the lazy day feel and hanging out with friends and unplugging. We always spend the third Saturday in July with a group of foodie friends, and so much of our pre-party conversation is about the menu and who brings what–we are very big fans of eating, and we tend to linger, so it’s not just one meal we plan, but two. The kickoff to the day is the much anticipated lunch menu, and there is lots of emailing and texting back and forth to figure out what we are having and who’s bringing which dish. Of course we all would be willing to do the entree and every side dish imaginable, but we whittle it down until we reach perfection.

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You may not be surprised to discover that in this group I am referred to as the Chairman. They graciously allow me to be the leader of the menu planning, and it’s a job I happen to relish–pun very much intended. For our kick-off lunch, our best recipes are resurrected, new ones are introduced, and if you are ever going to show off, this is the moment because you know you’re in a group of people who will really appreciate your effort. My friends host in their magnificent screened-in porch that allows a gentle breeze, and their beautiful collection of Jadeite plates and lovely vintage tablecloths make the entire affair feel very festive.

I discovered this dish last fall and have kept it in my hip pocket hidden away in anticipation, because a Francheesie on a super high quality bun is about as exciting as a summer food can be: it glistens with joy, fun, happiness and deliciousness. Warning: if you serve these to your guests, you may be starting a tradition that you will never be able to stop, because frankly these are good dogs.

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There’s something about summer that screams grilling, and why not? –the ease of doing it all outside and keeping the mess and heat out of the house is such a draw, and it’s easy enough to put something on the grill, add a diagonally cut zucchini and grill that as well, then whip up an easy tomato salad or summer green with a simple vinaigrette, and you have a great weeknight supper. If you’re looking for tips and techniques for grilling, there is no better place to go than the Steven Raichlen book “How to Grill,”which is where I found this amazing dish of his, which includes bacon–of course we would have bacon, because who would not want to add bacon?

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You will need a real hot dog in natural casing, and please get the best quality you can buy. I tend to buy mine in a butcher shop, although you can find several nice options at the grocery store. To be able to stuff adequately, you want a larger dog, sometimes called a dinner frank. (Dinner frank: that term is so 1970s, and I just love it!) Want a secret? Try this recipe the night before, so the process goes smoothly on the Fourth.

“Hot” Dogs

8 thick hot dogs or knockwursts

2 or 3  jalapeno peppers, sliced thinly crosswise; you made need to cut them in half to fit

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4 to 5 ounces Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Munster, or Gruyere cheese, cut into shallow strips to fit in dogs

Bacon strips (thin cut, like Oscar Meyer )

8 brioche buns, or high quality white hot dog buns

2 T butter, melted

Mustard, ketchup, relish, and/or diced onions

Slit and stuff each dog.  To fit the cheese and jalapeno, cut a divot lengthwise in each hot dog, as pictured. Stuff with peppers and cheese then wrap with bacon; tie each in three places with butcher’s string to hold in the filling.

TIP: you can do this a day ahead and store in refrigerator in plastic or tupperware

Place the hot dogs on the grill, using indirect heat–as if you are actually baking them, but using the grill; cook about 20 minutes. Transfer to a platter then snip off and discard strings.

TIP: for this dish, I use indirect heat; my gas grill is on high, then just before I put the dogs on, I turn off the half of the grill that I’m using, leaving the other side on high.

TIP: if absolutely necessary, these hot dogs can be baked in the oven at 350, but watch them carefully

Brush the inside of the buns with the melted butter and grill them for 1 minute. Serve the “hot” dogs with toppings of choice.

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