If you hail from Chicago, or have spent any length of time in this fair city, you know all about the phenomenon that is the "Red Hot." You can skip the next few paragraphs, if you'd like.My husband and I went to college in Chicago (we were dating back then; we got married the summer before our senior year), which is roughly a thousand miles away from our mutual hometown in New York. I have been to a lot of cities all over the world, and Chicago will forever remain one of the nearest and dearest to my heart. I lived a lot and learned a lot out there in Chicago.
One thing about Chicago that completely mystified us in the early days of our residency there was this culinary icon called the "Red Hot." In spite of the fact that we heard and saw these two words everywhere we looked (much like the words "Old Style" and "Vienna Beef"), we were there at least a couple of weeks and still hadn't managed to puzzle it out. There was a place we'd driven past our first night in the city, called Irving's for Red Hot Lovers ~ and since the place had actual windows you could see through (as opposed to window-obscuring signs advertising "previewing booths"), we assumed the emphasis was on the "Red Hot" and not the "Lovers." Irving's had a service counter, so we deduced that the Red Hot was, whatever else it may be, edible.At last, I don't remember exactly how, after weeks and maybe months of speculating, we came face-to-face with the mythic Red Hot. Maybe it was at a Cubs or White Sox game, or maybe it was at Irving's or any of the other hundreds of places you can go in the Windy City to get a proper Red Hot. Regardless, I remember that I was a little surprised to find that the legend that had been so obscure to us was, essentially, a hot dog with the works.
Now granted, the "works," in the context of the Chicago Red Hot, means diced onion, sliced pickle, sweet relish, hot peppers, yellow mustard, celery salt, and chopped tomato heaped atop a beef hot dog nestled inside a poppyseed bun. In the parlance, this is referred to as a hot dog that has been "dragged through the garden." Go to Chicago and order just a "hot dog," and you'll likely get a naked frank in a bun and your choice of ketchup or mustard to cover its shame. Order a Red Hot, though, and you've got yourself a meal.Now, a hot dog so lavishly decked out requires not just a hot dog bun but a "Bun-yan." (Get it? as in giant-lumberjack-sized bun? Okay, maybe that's a stretch.) A roll so big and dense and substantial that it can stand up to not just a quarter-pound hot dog but fixins, too. When I decided to make hot dog rolls for the first time, this being the year of BYOB and all, I immediately thought back to Chicago and those amazing Red Hots. I searched online for a recipe and found one, on the King Arthur Flour Web site.
These are terrific buns whether you fill them with Red Hots or plain-old hot dogs or even just butter them and eat them that way, as we did with the leftovers. They make terrific mini sub rolls too.
Recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour
- 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup (8 ounces) water
- An egg wash made from 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Poppy seeds
Manual/Mixer Method: Combine flour, oil, sugar, yeast, salt, and water, by hand or in a stand mixer, beating until the dough comes together in a ball. Knead by hand or mixer (using the dough hook) until it’s smooth and satiny, then put it in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough over to coat it with oil, or brush the surface lightly with oil, and cover the bowl. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it’s doubled, about 1 hour.
Assembly: Gently de-gas the dough by pressing your fist down into it (no punching, please), shape it into a 12-inch log, cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a 20 x 8-inch strip. Cut the dough (a pizza wheel works well here) into ten 4-inch squares. (Cut in half lengthwise, then into fifths vertically.) Shape each square by folding it over, pressing the edges to seal them, then rolling to form a bun about 6 inches long. Flatten the buns till they’re about 2 inches wide, and transfer them to lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving 3 inches between them. Note: If you prefer to tear the buns apart from one another after they’re baked, place them so they’re only about 3/4-inch apart. Cover the buns with a piece of oiled plastic wrap, and allow them to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until they’re puffy.
Brush the buns with the egg wash, and sprinkle the tops with poppy seeds. Bake the buns in a preheated 350°F oven for 16 to 18 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove them from the oven, cool them on a rack, and store tightly wrapped, or freeze.
Yield: 10 large buns
Printable version (of original recipe)