While the Chicago-style hot dog may be the largest hot dog in the country, Tribune reporters and recipe writers have been especially deeply embarrassed about the dish for much of the 20th century.
“Americans in general and housewives in particular have failed in their duty to the hot dog,” begins a July 6, 1961 article by Thomas Wolfsmith. He then goes on to quote a German chef, Otto Schuetz, as explaining that Americans “bury” hot dogs “without elegance” in buns, unlike Europeans who serve them as a delicacy.
Schuetz recommended serving a dish that combined asparagus, apples, mushrooms, sliced hot dogs, and French dressing. Wolfsmith concluded, “It gives the hot dog a place in haute cuisine, instead of just languishing under mustard, sauce, chopped onion and a bun.”
In the mid-20th century, French food was regularly considered fancier and downright better than what most restaurants in Chicago served. This explains a March 30, 1960 article titled “A Magnificent Hot Dog? This One, Prepared French Style, Is” by Mary Meade. She wrote that chef John Bandera of the Sheraton-Blackstone hotel created a frankfurter bourguignonne “in honor of a 100-year-old Chicago firm whose founder, David Berg, helped bring the hot dog to America.” Evoking the name of a French beef stew braised in red wine, the recipe featured eight frankfurters bathed in a sauce made with butter, shallots, garlic, brown gravy and 3 cups of red wine.
Tribune writer Mary Meade has also created her own hot dog recipes over the years, although she almost always read as if she was gritting her teeth. An article on June 25, 1943 by Mary Meade begins: “Mustard and piccalilli-covered red hots are great fare for picnics and ball games, but have you considered the possibilities of frankfurters in your daily meals?” Then she gives a recipe for frankfurters with fried rice and tomatoes.
More than 20 years later, Meade didn’t care much for the hot dog. In an article dated June 9, 1966, she begins with this: “A red snapper is a delicate and delicious fish. It says “gourmet” on you when you think about preparing it. That’s not what a wiener says!” Then you can find a recipe called Barbecued Southern Pups, where she recommended covering the sausages in a chili sauce, wrapping them in cornmeal dough, and then baking them.
Not to bully Meade, but she spent an inordinate amount of time thinking of ways not to use hot dog buns. On June 3, 1958, Meade suggested making “frankfurters in tomato rolls.” “The franks are wrapped in yeast dough – there are spices of onion juice, cheese, parsley and tomato juice. Doesn’t it sound delicious?” On May 30, 1960, she gave a recipe for Ring-a-Rosy Hot Dogs, made by “shaping hot dogs like hamburgers” so they could fit on round buns. To be fair, the April 2, 1971 recipe for a skillet with sausage and sauerkraut sounds like something I would enjoy.
(While she certainly had a fair share of questionable hot dog recipes, there is an explanation for her erratic take on hot dogs. It turned out that Mary Meade was not a real name. Instead, the pseudonym was used by a succession of female writers, common newspaper practice at the time.)
But it’s still hard to imagine enjoying Meade’s June 25, 1943, Supper Salad Bowl, which combined hot dogs with French dressing, green pepper, cottage cheese, shredded raw turnip, raw carrot, mayonnaise, lettuce, and coleslaw.
I’m also not sure you could pay me to try a “frankfurter skillet supper” (as of May 15, 1964), which combines a pound of hot dogs with green onions, chopped green pepper, lima beans, tomato sauce, and a whole cup of sour cream. I’d probably also pass on the “francs in sour cream sauce,” which can be found in a July 19, 1957 post by Doris Schacht.
Male prescription writers didn’t fare much better. In a recipe column that genuinely says “Only for men!” hot, not to be confused with another titled “Wife’s Night Out,” Morrison Wood called for the creation of Creole frankfurters. The designation is charitable a lot; I assume he got that name because of the hint of cayenne pepper and tabasco.
Even readers got in on the questionable hot dog action. On July 2, 1958, a reader sent a recipe for Hot Dog Surprises, which combined a pound of “frankfurters, finely chopped” with shredded sharp cheese, shredded hard-boiled eggs, chili sauce, pickle, mustard, and garlic salt. This mixture was spread on a foil-lined baking sheet and covered with halved buns.
Thankfully, in the 1980s, writers and readers finally seemed to understand that Chicago’s best hot dog dish was staring them right in the face all the time.
Try the recipes yourself:
by Mary Meade, March 30, 1960
2 tablespoons butter
3 teaspoons chopped shallots, onions or chives
½ teaspoon chopped garlic
3 cups claret or Bordeaux wine
24 boiled pearl onions
½ pound whole mushrooms (fresh)
2 cups brown gravy
24 small potato balls, browned in deep fat
1. Cut frankfurter in thirds and fry in butter for about 5 minutes. Remove meat and add shallots and garlic to the fat. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes.
2. Add wine and bring to a simmer to reduce the liquid to 1 cup, which should take about 8 minutes. Add onions, mushrooms and gravy.
3. Coverage and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Add boiled potatoes and sausages and serve with fluffy wild rice.
Makes four servings.
by Mary Meade, June 25, 1943
½ pound sausages
½ cup french dressing
¼ cup chopped green pepper
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup grated raw turnip
1 cup grated raw carrot
Mayonnaise and lettuce
1. Simmer sausages in water for 5 minutes and let cool.
2. Segment sausages and top with French dressing. Leave in the fridge for half an hour.
3. Combine green pepper and cottage cheese.
4. Combine grated turnip and carrot; moisten with mayonnaise.
5. Arrange lettuce in salad bowl. Arrange the sausages, cottage cheese, grated carrot and turnip and coleslaw in separate salad bowls. Serve with mayonnaise.
Makes 4-6 servings.
by Mary Meade, June 9, 1966
¼ cup butter
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup chili sauce
¾ cup flour
¼ cup cornmeal
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup Fat
1. Create first cornmeal pie. Sift flour, cornstarch and salt together. Cut in lard and add just enough water to moisten, about 3-4 tablespoons.
2. Spin on a lightly floured surface and roll out to about ⅛ inch thick. Cut into five 5-inch squares.
3. melt butter for sauce and add the dry mustard, onion, lemon juice, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and chili sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Cut sausages lengthwise, almost to the ends, but not all the way through. Place two sausages diagonally on each cornmeal square. Spoon a tablespoon of barbecue sauce into each. Fold the corners of the dough over the sausages, moisten the corners and press them together.
5. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 12 minutes at 425 degrees.
Makes 5 servings.
Other Articles mentioned:
“German chef and hot dogs go together” by Thomas Wolfsmith, July 6, 1961.
“New Ways to Fix Franks: You Will Consume Much” by Mary Meade, June 3, 1958.
“Ring-a-Rosy Hot Dogs” by Mary Meade, May 30, 1960.
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“Menus for a week from Mary Meade’s Kitchen” by Mary Meade, April 2, 1971.
“Processed Meats Are Easy on the Budget: There Are Many Tasty Ways to Use Them Too” by Mary Meade, May 15, 1964.
“Thrifty Frankfurters can be dressed up for company” by Doris Schacht, July 19, 1957.
“Only for men! Creole Frankfurters at least one way to get guests to sit and yell, ‘Hot Dog!’” by Morrison Wood, Oct. 4, 1947.
“$5 Favorite for Your Picnic” by Bob McBridge, July 2, 1958.
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