I remember being quite nervous as my now husband, then boyfriend, and I got ready to head up to the Chicago area from Champaign so he could meet my parents for the very first time. That’s never an easy situation. Would everyone get along? How many long awkward pauses would there be? Would baby pictures make an appearance? Home videos of me singing the Super Bowl Shuffle in all my three-year-old glory?
I actually had no doubt in my mind that the meeting would go swimmingly. He was a fine upstanding young man on the straight and narrow path to success. My parents were about easy going as they come. Even so, I felt the need to warn my adoring boyfriend of one small detail before we embarked down the road to meeting the parents.
Thing was, I wasn’t sure how to bring it up. It was so….stupid. I knew he had to be ready for it, but I wasn’t quite sure how to tell him about it without sounding like a total nutcase. We’d only been dating a couple months at that point – not long enough to completely come to terms with the other’s particular brand of crazy. This could have been a total game changer.
I decided to just put it out there. He could either go with it and laugh about it, or stop returning my calls. Either way…
I just turned to him and blurt it out. “Eric, I need to tell you something before we go!”
I watched his expression change. His eyes dropped sideways, his finger drumming nervously on the side of his thigh. I can only imagine what he thought was about to come out of my mouth next. Her parents are closet cat hoarders. Her dad cuts off the fingers of St. Louis Cardinals fans. They live in a van down by the river.
“Eric,” I said slowly, calm and cool, “when we get to my house someone in my family may ask you…” I stopped, unsure of how to continue.
“Ask me…” he prompted.
It came up fast, words clawing at my throat, tumbling out my mouth. There was no turning back now. Out with it, out with it!
“Someone in my family may ask you if you put ketchup on your hot dogs!”
He looked at me for a second, confused and surprised by just how silly I sounded. He lasted about 2.7 seconds before busting into a fit of laughter.
When he finally stopped laughing long enough to tell me, no, he doesn’t put ketchup on a hot dog, I knew we were a match made in heaven. I had gotten that out of the way, I was ready to bring my boyfriend home to meet my family and he was going to charm the ever-loving pants off them. Sans ketchup.
Ketchup on a hot dog is a touchy subject in Chicago. It’s just not done. The 10 and under set gets a free pass but everyone else gets the side-eye if ketchup gets anywhere near that dog and it’s bun. With Eric not being from around those parts, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing he wasn’t about be banished for eternity for his hot dogs sins.
I, however, may be banished for mine after sharing this hot dog concoction I whipped up (Sorry, family). Now, there’s no ketchup, but there’s also no piccalilli relish, no sport peppers or pickle spears. No sprinkling of celery salt, no tomatoes or tangy raw onions. There is a poppy seed bun, because, well, come on. That’s a given. 😉 But other than that, I took everything I know about a hot dog like a good Chicago(area)in should and tossed it right out the window.
Forgive me, for I have sinned.
This sweet, savory, tangy dog is smothered in shredded white cheddar and dijon mustard and then topped with a delectable topping of leeks and apples braised in cider and bourbon. The combination is out of this world delicious. It’s meaty, it’s juicy, it’s cheesy and it’s got a nice kick from the dijon. The leek and apple mixture includes caraway seeds (totally under used and under appreciated little seed, by the way. I happen to love it) so it gives the entire thing a definite sauerkraut feel, but without that whole acquired taste thing. I just loved the combination of flavors here and I think you will too. Totally classed up tailgate food. All the components can easily be made ahead and reheated. I promise no one will miss the ketchup (pssshh…sinners.) 😉
Now, in case you were wondering if someone in my family did actually ask my husband if he put ketchup on his hot dog within the time frame of their very first meeting the answer is….YES! After a few hours of lovely conversation, my very dear mother did in fact ask Eric that very question, just like I told him they would.
See. Told ya so. 🙂
CHEDDAR DOGS WITH CIDER-BRAISED LEEKS AND APPLES (Recipe Source: Bon Appetit, July 2009 via Epicurious)
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
- 2 cups (generous) thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- 1 apple, peeled, cored, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- Pinch of ground allspice
- Coarse kosher salt
- 1-1/4 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 6 grilled hot dog buns (Hey! I made my own! Recipe coming at ya in the next post!)
- Dijon mustard (Side note: I’ve become quite the fan of Boetje’s since moving to the QC and that’s what I used here. Made right here in Rock Island for more than 100 years! A true local favorite.)
- 6 grilled all-beef hot dogs
- 2 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (1/2 cup packed)
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and apple and stir to coat. Cover and cook until the mixture is tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add caraway seed and allspice; then season with coarse salt and pepper. Add cider and bourbon and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until most of liquid is cooked away, about 16 minutes.
Spread buns with mustard, then top with grilled hot dogs. Sprinkle with cheese and top generously with leek and apple mixture. Makes 6 dogs