Why Hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes. I’m your host with the toast, Jon O’Guin, and today’s post is over a week late, technically, and perfectly on time, by another metric. Which is good, because, as the title indicates, this dish is two things in one. So let’s talk about Grilled Cheese Hot-Dogs, a name I have mis-written as “Hot God” both times I’ve written it so far today.
Sorry for the censor bar, but I figured starting off a post about hot dogs with a bronzed Herculean dick was a bit far even for me.
Let’s ignore our thirsty theism, and carry on for the duality of the dish. For those who only come for the Olympic beefcakes and American meat-tubes, and not my witty repartee, you can jump straight to the recipe HERE.
Oh Boy, Hot Dog, And Gee Whiz
Normally, this is where I’d spend a lot of time focusing on the etymology of hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches, and don’t get me wrong, we’ll do a little re-cap, but we won’t get too into it, because the history on this dish is frustratingly sparse. I THOUGHT I had found where it came from, with a 5-year old USA Today article highlighting wild options at Minor League baseball stadiums serving as the infection point for this dish’s upper-respiratory infection style virality (it’s never very imposing, but it just keeps GOING) but broadening my search told me the idea had been out in the wild for longer than that, with no leads as to what prompted the initial ideas, or even what those ideas WERE. Doubling the downer mood is that my research ended up showing me at least two tragic “child dies from choking on hot dog” stories in pursuit of this goal, meaning I had to go from laughing at apple crisps served in helmets to severe mood whiplash. And since misery loves company, I dragged all of you along with me. And now I feel GUILTY as well, so it didn’t even work all that well. So, let’s move on from such sorrows, and deal with the topic at hand: What, exactly, is a hot dog?
Hot dogs are one of America’s core foods, and therefore, as with so many things, are not actually an American invention. Hot Dogs were invented in Germany, the Sausage making menaces of Europe. At some juncture, a particular kind of wurstchen (“little sausage”, meaning something that could easily be held in the hand) became known as the Dachshund wurst, after the Dachshund, or Wiener Dog. (Which is an AMAZING linguistic knot: See, Wiener Dogs are named after…well, wieners, which are dachshund sausages of a particular meat mixture from Vienna, or Wien in German. So Hot dogs are named after Daschunds, because they look like them, and then Dachshunds are renamed after hot dogs…because they look like them. )
Feeding Dachshunds weiners then, is some kind of linguistic cannibalism.
There’s a story that the term was invented by a sports cartoonist, but it’s been long-since disproven. The fact is that shortly after the sausages were named after dogs, people started calling them ‘dogs’ for brevity. And as a joke or insult: see, Germany didn’t have that strong of a taboo against dog meat in the 1800’s, so there were recorded instances of hot dogs in Germany being made with…actual dog. This WAS seen as cheap, so people would make dark jokes. “Give me a Dachshund sausage, Henrik. Or Doberman if you couldn’t afford the good stuff!” Ba dum tish. You can just see the enterprising German vendor making the same kind of joke to his college student clients: “It is a Dachshund sausage, of course. The Labrador sausages need bigger buns!”
So, if that’s where hot dogs come from, what about Grilled Cheese sandwiches? Well, in the broad sense, there’s no reasonable history for the idea of a grilled cheese sandwich because basically every culture that made cheese and bread pretty quickly said “Now what if we melted the one on the other?” And once they discovered that melted bread wasn’t very appetizing, they tried melting the cheese, and things went much better.
“Oh yeah, I like “hard bread, gooey cheese” much better than “hard cheese in soggy bread”
The more modern understanding of a Grilled cheese sandwich is really a product of industrialization. In the early 1900’s, an automated bread slicer made sliced sandwich bread more readily available, and American cheese, the gooey not-legally-cheese product so many Americans have enjoyed and Europeans have been offended by (which is not a new phenomenon, by the way. From its invention, American cheese was derided as “rat-trap cheese” by Englishmen.) , was invented by the Kraft company around this time.
With an easy melting cheese and a readily available sliced bread, the only thing you technically needed after that was heat, though metal and butter certainly helped, they weren’t strictly necessary. Simply toast bread with cheese on top or inside, and boom. In fact, some of the first grilled cheese recipes of the 1900’s we find actually call them Toasted Cheese sandwiches. It’s not until electric grills/griddles take off that they start being called “Grilled” Cheeses. Thomas Edison in fact made a home electric sandwich grill that included a direct reference to the grilled cheese.
Strangely, as far as I know, he DIDN’T steal this particular idea from anyone else.
It became very popular in the military, since it was an efficient way to get dairy and starches into troops with few resources needed. Later, in order to add Vitamin C, they added Tomato Soup, and that’s where that combination comes from.
So, let’s see if it’s as easy to take two great tastes, and make them taste great together as Reese’s claimed for so long.
Double and Triple Trouble
The answer is simultaneously pretty much “Yes”, and “no”, because, as I said, this is a dish of dualities. And I didn’t even GET INTO the reason I said that beforehand, as I’ve just realized! I’m sorry, I’m basically drunk on Easter Ham right now, so it’s hard to keep track of my thoughts. To quickly double back: the reason this is a great time for this dish is that April is actually “Grilled Cheese Month”, according to someone with some vague authority on the matter. Probably the government made it up to move surplus cheese. (A silly-sounding but not impossible conspiracy theory: America recently had a drop in dairy consumption, which was NOT met by an equal drop in production. As such, the nation is currently running a large cheese surplus, as Cheese is the only feasible way to store dairy long-term.) The reason it’s a BAD time for this post is that technically ‘National Grilled Cheese DAY’ is April 12th. So I missed the day, but at least I hit the month. Boom. Time duality taken care of. Now to the difficulty duality:
This is a pretty easy recipe.
It is NOT a pretty easy recipe to make WHILE ALSO MAKING TWO OTHER RECIPES.
While this is, of course, basic logic, it still eluded me at the time. Or, rather, I made a bad choice: Last week, due to a miscommunication, I actually planned every dinner for the ensuing week, and followed through on the plan. Monday was Red Lentil Soup and Grilled Cheese Hot Dogs. And it seemed a perfect plan: the soup had about 10 minutes of work, then a half-hour of simmering time, while the hot dogs take about 20 minutes. So I could start the soup, make the hot-dogs while it simmered, and serve it all at the same time. The plan was fool-proof, so I immediately shattered it by saying “Hey, I bet I can make a complicated batch of home-made lemonade while the soup is simmering too!”
It delayed dinner by 30 minutes, and wasn’t even very GOOD lemonade!
(it would have been fine, but the recipe clearly calls for too much water. At double strength, I bet it would have been delicious.)
The process was SO bad that my pictures of the hot-dog process are only of the literal FIRST STEP of the recipe, and of the completed result, because I didn’t have a spare hand to hold the camera and take pictures. As such, for my lunch this afternoon, I’m making a single serving again, to get more pictures. So if the lighting is suddenly different, or the crusts don’t seem to match up, that’s why.
Buns, Wieners, and Grease, a Messy meal
Now, having hopefully cooked a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot dog before, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear the recipe is simple. Both of those are basically 2-step recipes, so how much harder can it be to combine them? The answer is “two steps harder”: this whole thing takes about 6 steps.
The first step is to prep your buns. IN order to maximize crispitude (which is a word, no matter how vigorously or vociferously Merriam and Webster oppose me) you want the normally light and airy texture of the hot dog bun converted into something denser. So you flatten them out with a rolling pin.
Then, you just grease the outside of the buns with some flavored butter: take some softened butter, and mix in onion and garlic powder. Pretty standard seasoning in hot-dogs, and ones sometimes applied to the coating on grilled cheeses, so it’s a nice flavor combo.
Once you’ve done those things, the only other weird step is the hot-dog cooking method: to make this a thinner profile sandwich, and thus a little more grilled cheese-esque, you split the hot dog in half, and fry it in a heated pan. This process makes it cook faster, gets some browning in it, and lets you fold the whole thing shut in the end.
For some reason, I was REALLY bad at cutting hot dogs in half, so I ended up starting the cuts, and then physically tearing the rest.
Once the dog’s got its spots (making it a Dalmatian sausage now, I guess), it’s time for the last “real” step: Pull the hot dog out of the pan, and drop your buttered buns on there. Sprinkle with some shredded cheese ,add the hotdog back, add some more cheese, and then, if you want, some sliced green onions. The recipe only calls for cheddar cheese, but in my experience, mixing in some shredded Monterey Jack makes for a creamier final product, but you do you.
Seriously, looking at it at this step, it seems easy enough to be insulted by calling it a “recipe”.
Cover the pan, let cook for really only 3-4 minutes, and come back to hopefully find the cheese melted, and the bun crisped and darkened. Fold it shut, pull it out, and you’ve got yourself a grilled-cheese hot-dog.
Now THAT looks more respectable.
Though, so far, I can’t NOT get that dark of an outer coating.
Now, this isn’t going to really blow any minds in the flavor department; this tastes like a hot dog with melted cheese. Which means it’s good, of course, but it’s not like, mind-blowing. It’s inventive, and honestly a very easy and quick way to add some variety. Maybe with some added components, you could make it really wow-worthy. Mix some mustard into the cheese, or a slice or two of green apple or something. It’s quick, comforting, and a blank canvas you can build off of, which, if not a home-run, is at least a ground-rule double.
What? I played baseball for several years, damnit. I know SOME sports metaphors. (I did double check with Nate after writing this that my metaphor was RIGHT, and it WAS, so I’m not 100% CONFIDENT in my sports metaphors, but I do KNOW them.)
I’d like to thank the authors of the Delish Cookbook for the basic recipe I used in today’s dish, as well as a couple other recipes, including last week’s Cloud Eggs. Not for giving us the cookbook for free or anything, but just for writing the cookbook. It’s got a bunch of pretty pictures and some violently inventive recipes. I’m tempted to review it, but we already reviewed one cookbook this month, so I’ll probably wait a bit, make something else from it soon and do it then.
If you want to help me afford MORE cookbooks, so I can make wilder things, don’t forget to support the site on Patreon, where for as little as $1 a month, you can help the site grow! Patrons get access to extra pictures, audio recordings, videos, and more. If you’re busy saving money for Cinco de Mayo, we understand, and hope you’ll support us through social media instead: sharing our Facebook posts, re-tweeting our content, and…liking our Instagram posts, is that how it works? I still don’t get instagram yet. Anyway, doing all of that lets more people see the messes I get myself into.
THURSDAY: WE TALK GRILLED CHEESE, SO THAT YOU CAN CELEBRATE IN WAYS THAT DON’T REMIND YOU OF PETS NOW THAT I’VE PUT THAT IN YOUR HEAD.
MONDAY: JON MESSES WITH POLENTA, THE SIDE THAT SOME CAN’T ABIDE. (I JUST WANTED A RHYME THERE.)
Now, let's read the
Grilled Cheese Hot Dog
Serves 1 (can be scaled up)
1 hot dog bun
1 tablespoon softened butter or margarine
A pinch of onion powder
A pinch of garlic powder
1 hot dog.
3 or more tablespoons shredded cheese, to taste
1 tsp sliced green onions (optional)
1. Preheat a small skillet with a lid over medium heat. Using a rolling pin, flatten the hot dog bun. Then, using a sharp knife, cut the hot-dog in half, length-wise. Don’t cut fully through the hot-dog, but instead butterfly it, with the bottom casing holding the two halves together.
2. Place the butterflied dog in the heated pan, and let sit for 2 minutes to brown and/or char slightly. Meanwhile, mix the softened butter with the onion and garlic powder, and spread on the outside of the flattened buns. Flip the hot dog, and cook another 2 minutes.
3. Once cooked, remove the dog from the skillet, place the bun in butter-side down, and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese onto the bread. Place the hot dog on top of the cheese, and top with the remaining tablespoon of cheese. Sprinkle with green onions, if using, cover the pan, and let cook until cheese has melted, 2-4 minutes. Remove from the pan, fold closed, and serve.