June 2017: Every region of the country has its favorite hot dogs. Each version can be a nostalgic comfort food for the denizens of the area.
When I lived in New York City, standing on a busy corner wolfing down a couple of Sabrett “dirty water dogs” from a cart with mustard and kraut was a rite of passage. Nathan’s Famous is overrated in my opinion. I think Gray’s Papaya on 72nd and Amsterdam are the best in NYC and live up to their tagline “Better than Filet Mignon”, though I’d get a vehement argument from those who prefer rival Papaya King.
But I am from Maine. And bright neon red hot dogs are as emblematic of our state as lobster, blueberries, and Italian Sandwiches, but that’s another story.
Known to some as Red Snappers because of the signature “snap” when one bites into the natural casing, they are not a novelty. The scrumptious beef and pork dogs are a mainstay of any legit Pine Tree State cookout, party, Saturday church bean supper, diner, or gas station.
Let’s invent a new word. They are a “Mainestay.”
Nothing was better than returning to New York from a visit home with a vacuum sealed pack of Jordan’s Red Frankfurters. Once friends got past their shock from the gaudy color they would invariably ask me to bring more of the exotic delicacies next time.
And of course they can only be served in traditional top-split rolls, a style unique to New England. Unlike the side-split rolls common everywhere else, the top-split stand up on a plate for easier topping and can better lay on their sides for buttered toasting. They are the only proper vessel for a Maine lobster roll.
There is no consensus as to the best preparation of a red hot dog. Steamed alongside the rolls in a gas station hot dog steamer; fried alongside the rolls in a cast iron pan; grilled alongside the rolls on a Webber barbecue; they are all mouthwatering delights.
I prefer mine grilled outside over charcoal to achieve a semi-charred finish with the skin just beginning to crack. And just a squiggle of bright yellow mustard will do. My Aunt Sally likes hers completely burnt black and half exploded. Either way, a side of Humpty Dumpty Potato Chips is essential.
Gray’s Papaya dogs may be “Better than Filet Mignon.” Maine Red Snapper dogs are, to coin a phrase, “Superior to Foie Gras!”