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The Dog Show Wed Dec 09 2009
"Why have a bunch of little hot dogs when you can have a big hot dog?" Why indeed is the question. From ball games to cook-outs, we all enjoy eating hot dogs together. It's become a social food for our culture, fitting into situations that include drinking cheap beer and yelling at football players on our televisions. But who wants to be the guy bringing the small package of hot dogs when you can be the guy who brings a seven pound hot dog? Enter the The Big Ass Hot Dog. This sausage is made of beef, pork and veal, with none of the chicken beaks and nasty bi-products generic hot dogs include in their hot dogs. Weighing in at seven pounds and almost a foot and a half long, it's a mighty piece of meat that's quite intimidating when first seen.
Chicagoans may know Gorilla Tango Theatre for their productions and forays in the arts, but what you might not know is that they are much more. From video production custom jewelry, Gorilla Tango refuses to stick to their current success and diversifies into other business ventures commonly. Their newest venture, the Big Ass Hot Dog, has seen the same success since it's official launch in November. Dan Abbate, one of the creators of the Big Ass Hot Dog and a partner in Gorilla Tango, thought of the idea one of their meetings. "We were just sitting around one day and just brainstorming a bunch of goofy ideas and my dad, who happened to be there that day, just made some sort of comment about hot normal hot dogs just roll off the grill." The first idea was to make a normal sized square hot dog, one that would lay flat on a grill and cook evenly. After finding out that the production of something like this would be quite difficult and expensive, Abbate and Gorilla Tango went back to the drawing board. Naturally the progression lead to the Big Ass Hot Dog, a large hot dog that can be sliced into four-inch patties and be grilled with ease.
Gorilla Tango went with the Niles company Schmeisser's to make their giant hot dog dream a reality. For about 50 years Schmeisser's has been making their own sausages and meats in their Niles location. In August when Abbate and Gorilla Tango were searching for a company to make their monster dog, Scmeisser's stood out. "All the other guys just had little hot dogs," said Abbate, "But Schmeisser's brought something 25% of the size of [the Big Ass Hot Dog]. So when we went there and saw it we knew they were on the right track."
Much of the response for the Big Ass Hot Dog has been from people wanting to send it as gifts or for social gatherings. "It's a pretty awesome social thing," said Abbate. "It kind of fits in with the weekend Cubs social thing and that culture and fits into that whole world. And that's the kind of response we're getting online as well - sports fans, people having big barbecue bashes, that sort of thing. Why have a bunch of little hot dogs when you can have a big hot dog?" And when you're handling something this big, it's better to share.
The Gourmet Experiment
Since this is a big ass gourmet hot dog, I needed someone to help me make a gourmet recipe for it. I enlisted the help of my friend Ben to make the first creation out of the Big Ass Hot Dog. As much as I love food and cooking, I lack the panache to enter a kitchen and create a concoction of my own. Ben, who worked in the food industry in Chicago for a couple years before becoming the IT guy at my job now, does. I told Ben to "go crazy" and make something up with the hunk of hot dog that I brought over. A couple minutes later, Ben had come up with "The Chop Dog," so named because it reminded Ben of a pork chop sandwich.
The Chop Dog
one slice of the Big Ass Hot Dog (cut half an inch thick)
crushed red pepper
sweet red vermouth
Parmesan cheese (sliced or shredded) or Pepper Jack cheese (sliced)
First, season the hot dog patty with celery salt, crushed red pepper, and mustard powder (a little tip of the hat to the Chicago hot dog). The spicer the mustard, the better. Put a little olive oil into a medium-sized pan and place the seasoned hot dog in heated oil. Cook in the oil for about five minutes before adding the sweet vermouth to the pan. We used Tribuno red vermouth for our experiment. After five minutes add the Parmesan or Pepper Jack cheese. If you're using the sliced Parmesan, it takes a bit of coaxing to melt. Try flipping the dog patty, cheese side down, onto the hot pan to get the desired melted effect. The Parmesan will also soak up some of the sweet vermouth, giving it an extra kick. Using shredded Parmesan is another alternative, as it cooks much faster. Once the cheese is melted your dog is done. We served our creations on sesame seed hamburger buns, however you can choose to serve this on a nice potato or rye bread as well. We didn't go too crazy on the toppings since the Chop Dog already has a robust flavor because of the cheeses we used, but Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, or Kosher dill slices are appropriate condiments for this dish.
The Cook-Out Experiment
The second cooking foray that I tried was a little different. Like I said earlier I lack the panache to create something unique. But I can follow the standards. Since the Big Ass Hot Dog is a more versatile type of hot dog, I went to the store and bought as many condiments and fixings that I could possibly imagine on a hot dog. I invited a few people over and let the fun begin.
There are so many possibilities to do with the Big Ass Hot Dog, since it is just a big hunk of meat, so we did several different variations. But first, the obvious jumping off point was to make a Chicago style hot dog. We used yellow mustard, chopped raw onions, Vienna Beef relish and sports peppers, tomato slices, kosher dill slices, and celery salt for the topping and grilled the hot dog, replacing the steamed poppy seed bun for a toasted sesame seed hamburger bun. Having a Chicago hot dog made this way was a great benefit for those who love to load things with toppings, as the Big Ass Hot Dog can grow upward whereas a normal hot dog can only growth in width. We also tried a variation on the slaw dog, a popular southern recipe for hot dogs. Different regions have different recipes for this, ranging from just slaw on a dog to a monster creation featuring cole slaw, chili, mustard, and raw onions. We tried a couple different ways of making our slaw dog and settle on using cole slaw, slices of bacon, mustard (yellow or Dijon) and chopped raw onion. Adding a sports pepper in lieu of a spicy chili gave a nice bite to the otherwise cool dog.
My personal favorite, though, was the fried egg dog. My dad made the joke that we should put a fried egg on top of the hot dog, much like a fried egg burger that you see at Kuma's Corner or other burger stands. I took this as a challenge. We went camping every summer when I was a kid and when we had leftover hot dogs we would make something called "special breakfast sausages" -- basically slices of hot dog fried in butter in a hot pan. I cooked the hot dog slice in a similar manner, with a slice of butter in the pan. Top that with a slice of cheddar or American cheese, a slice of bacon, and an over easy or sunny side egg and you have a fried egg hot dog. Not the most health conscious decision of our indoor cook-out, but when you're making dishes from a seven pound hot dog, what really is?
The Big Ass Hot Dog also comes with different ideas and recipes for cooking if you like to play it safe. During our interview Dan Abbate from Gorilla Tango suggested his own recipe the "Ol' Stankey." I'm not sure how Dan came up with this name but this thing packs quite the punch. The "Ol' Stankey" is a slice of the Big Ass Hot Dog topped bbq sauce, Dijon mustard, and Frank's Red Hot sauce - otherwise known as the intestine destroyer. The heat from this, mostly due to the hot sauce, can be intense for someone who doesn't like spicy food. If you still want the heat without the gut ripping effects, I would suggest putting some lettuce and tomato slices on top of it to counteract the hot sauce spice.
There is one stand-out benefit of the Big Ass Hot Dog -- ease of eating. A Chicago hot dog is loaded with condiments, many of which are apt to fall off during consumption. Having a flat hot dog piece on a hamburger bun makes it easier to apply topping and have them stay on. Also, if you're creating something a bit different like our fried egg dog you need something flat to contain it all.
The one drawback of it is the artificial skin. With a regular hot dog, grilling or steaming an artificial casing wouldn't be a problem. With the four-inch-wide slice of the Big Ass Hot Dog, it was. In the Chop Dog experiment, Ben and I quickly found that what contained the hot dog also restricted it from expanding when we pan fried it. We ended up slicing it off during the cooking process. When we did the cook-out experiment, I ended up slicing off the artificial skin beforehand. This isn't a huge problem as you can see but one to be aware of while cooking.
The Big Ass Hot Dog can be purchased on their official website. Iit normally runs for $39.95 plus shipping and handling, but right now they are running a $24.95 "Pre-Hanukkah Sale" until December 11th at sundown. Their website says that the Big Ass Hot Dog feeds around 50 people, but knowing that hardly anyone follows the serving suggestions, to us 30 people is a more accurate number.