The Danish Wiener: One Artful Hot Dog

Kelly McManus / Heavy Table
Kelly McManus / Heavy Table

The Danish hot dogs: Did I eat one or six? It’s hard to recall.

The casing snapped, there was a rush of warm fat and salt, one crisp moment of pucker, a whisper of onion, a mouthful of soft bread and tangy sweetness — and then it was gone and I only wanted more.

It all began with a desire to try Ingebretsen’s house-made wieners ($6 a pound). Twenty-five percent pork, 75 percent beef, they are linked in long strands and have a well-deserved reputation for snap.

Luckily, a Danish cohort interceded before we stuck said wieners in a bun with ketchup. Not unlike smørrebrød, the Danish hot dog is a composition of simple, complementary ingredients layered to create a delicious contrast of flavor and texture.

Traditionally, she informed us, the Danish dogs include pickled cucumber, crispy onions, and remoulade, a rich, mayo-like sauce that is mildly sweet and tastes a bit like turmeric.

The day we visited, Ingebretsen’s was out of the onions, which are imported from Denmark. We made our own by slicing yellow onions ultra thin on a mandolin and then dropping them in a deep fryer for a few seconds. The result: light, crispy tendrils that melted — just the very essence of onion — on the tongue.

We also made our own pickles, recipe below, with cucumbers grown in the Dowling Community Garden; their freshness cut through the salt and fat and contributed to the overall sweetness of the dogs.

So humble, yet so extraordinary. So fleeting, yet so infinitely and perhaps unfortunately repeatable.

Sweet Pickled Cucumbers

Adapted by Amy Sutter from the original recipe in Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit

2 pickling cucumbers (English hot house will work, too)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1½ c water
¼ c white wine vinegar
¼ c rice wine vinegar
1 c sugar
2 bay leaves
4 allspice berries

1.  Slice the cucumber as thin as possible using a mandolin. Put the slices into a colander, toss them with the salt, and let stand for 30 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, combine the water, vinegars, sugar, bay leaves, and allspice in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and let cool.

3.  Rinse the salt from the cucumbers and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  Put the cucumbers in a bowl and add the pickling solution.  You can also put the pickles directly into a jar and cover with the pickling solution.  The solution should completely cover the pickles.

4. Cover and refrigerate for 3-6 hours before serving.