Thu Aug 30, 2018
Until last month, it had been nearly 20 years since I took a solo vacation. Ever since meeting my (now) wife, I've never really thought about, or wanted to, travel alone again, but a large and growing differential in vacation days I had versus what she had left me pondering how to make use of them on my own. I considered staying home to take care of a long backlog of projects (like editing photos from past vacations and also redesigning this blog), but I'm not one to find allure in sitting around the house when there's an entire world out there for exploring. I finally settled on getting away and Colombia ended being the right mixture of distance, value, and sites my wife could live with me seeing on my own. I ha forgotten some of the perils of traveling alone though, the main one among them being dining by myself. I did get out to some nice restaurants and outstanding meals, but I was definitely most in my comfort zone with quick street food bites, and among the many I ate, one that sat the fondest with me was an overloaded hot dog I enjoyed in small corner joint in Medellin that was overflowing with locals all chomping down on the same messy, junky, delicious creation that is the perro caliente Colombiano.
When walking up to this particular hot dog shop, the first thing that struck me were the sheer variety of sauce choices. I saw the standard ketchup and mustard, but there was also a green avocado sauce, mayo, barbecue sauce, pineapple sauce, and salsa rosado. After deciding to recreate these hot dogs at home for my friends, I made a choice to focus on just a couple sauces instead of the full suite, but it's safe to say that you can sauce these dogs as you see fit.
The first sauce I made was the salsa rosado, which is a mixture of mayo and ketchup that's ubiquitous throughout a lot of Latin America. You really only need those two kitchen staples, but a little lemon juice thrown into the mix can add a nice brightness if you happen to have it on hand (I didn't here).
The second sauce I made was the pineapple salsa, which I chose due to a combination of its uniqueness and recipe development challenge. I'm not sure how the sauce is made in Colombia, but I started with actual pineapple that I pureed with water in a blender to make pineapple juice.
I then strained the juice into a medium pan to remove any pulp. Next I brought the juice to a boil, added in a little brown sugar, and let it simmer until it started to reduce slightly. I then made slurry of lime juice and cornstarch and added it into the mix, and almost instantly the sauce began to bubbly immensely thicken. It took another ten minutes or so though until the sauce had thickened into something that could be squeezed out of a bottle and retain some form. Once it was at that point, I transferred the sauce to a squeeze bottle and placed it in the fridge to cool completely.
Beyond the salsas, the hot dogs I experienced in Colombia had three distinct toppings—melted cheese, coleslaw, and potato sticks. The coleslaw wasn't particularly flavorful, it really mostly added a cool crunch and mellow mayo flavor. So to make something similar, I used my base coleslaw recipe that starts with slicing cabbage very thinly and mixing it with grated carrot along with sugar and salt, which work together to draw moisture out of the vegetables. After five minutes of resting, the cabbage mixture is washed and dried before dressing.
For the dressing, I kept the flavor very light with a mostly mayo base. I did add a slight boost in tang from rice vinegar and a little mustard for a background complexity. Other than that, it was just only salt, sugar, and pepper for the seasoning, and this dressing ended up giving the slaw the right mild flavor I was looking for without tasting bland.
The potato sticks topping was both probably the best part, and also easiest to prepare. I just picked up of a tub of these crunchy, fried potatoes and then crushed a large handful of them by placing them in a resealable bag and whacking it with a rolling pin a few times to get broken, but not obliterated, little pieces of crisp potatoes.
The cheese part of the equationI wasn't too sure of. I knew it was a soft and moist queso blanco when I saw the staff at the shop drop bricks of cheese into what looked like a pool of water, and then pull out melted globs of the stuff to spread along the rolls. My problem really occurred when I got to my local grocery and was presented with a wall of queso blancos—which one would be right choice? Then I saw one called Quesito Colombiano and figured that must be the one for me!
I melted the cheese in a small pan on the grill as I cooked the hot dogs. Very similar to what I saw in Colombia, this cheese melted into a pool of water with soft and stringy cheese nestled inside. Because of this separation, there was actually less cheese than I was expecting once it melted. I was certainly happy I had picked up a couple extra rounds of cheese because I ended up needing them to give each hot dog its proper cheesy layer.
The hot dogs themselves weren't really anything special. They tasted like a lightly season blend of pork and beef, so I found a two meat blend frank in the grocery store and picked them up. These natural casing franks from Hofmann were actually way better quality than what I had in Colombia, and compared to the water heated dogs I had there, the grill also gave the links a better flavor, in my opinion.
To assemble the hot dogs once everything was done, I started with a sesame seed bun (they were actually labeled as "sub rolls" and not hot dog buns) and spread a layer of cheese along the bottom. I then nestled a hot dog into the soft cheese and topped with a layer of coleslaw followed by potato sticks. I then squirted on the sauces, not being neat or tidy about it at all—one hallmark of these hot dogs seemed to be how messy they were.
And messy they were, with just the first bite I had some coleslaw and sauces adorning my hands, which was true to my experience in Colombia. The flavor was pretty spot on too, from the salty and soft cheese, squishy sesame seed bun, lightly seasoned dog, crunchy coleslaw, salty potato sticks, and variety of sauces. I ended up coming home from my trip with not enough gifts for everyone, then realized after serving these hot dogs that this is really the best gift I could give anyone anyway—sharing a food experience with my friends I so loved that can hopefully ignite an appreciation for Colombia and desire to travel there too.
Perros Calientes Colombianos
- Prep Time:
- 40 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 5 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 45 Minutes
- 8 servings
- For the Pineapple Sauce
- 2 cups roughly chopped fresh pineapple
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- For the Salsa Rosado
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon (optional)
- For the Coleslaw
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/2 head green cabbage, core removed and finely shredded
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- For the Hot Dogs
- 1lb queso blanco
- 8 hot dogs, preferably a pork and beef blend
- 8 hot dog buns or small sub rolls, preferably with sesame seeds
- 2/3 cup potato sticks, lightly crushed
- To make the pineapple sauce: Place pineapple and water in the jar of a blender and blend until smooth. Strain pureed pineapple through a fine mesh strainer into a medium pan. Place pan over medium-high heat, add in brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice and cornstarch. Whisk cornstarch mixture into pineapple juice and let simmer until sauce thickens to a medium syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes more. Remove pan from heat and let sit until cool enough to handle. Transfer pineapple sauce to a squeeze bottle or container and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the salsa rosado: Whisk together mayonnaise, ketchup, and lemon juice (if using), in a small bowl. Transfer sauce to a squeeze bottle or container and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the coleslaw: Whisk together mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon sugar, vinegar, mustard, and black pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Place cabbage and carrot in a large bowl, sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup sugar and salt; toss to combine. Let stand five minutes, then transfer to a large colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Transfer cabbage to a salad spinner and spin dry. Alternatively, transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and blot mixture dry with more towels. Return to large bowl. Pour dressing over cabbage and toss to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and/or sugar.
- To make the hot dogs: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cheese in a small pan and place on grill. Let sit until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally. While cheese is melting, place hot dogs on grill and cook, turning occasionally, until heated through and well browned, about 4 minutes.
- Using tongs, remove about 1/8 of the melted cheese and spread along the bottom of one bun. Nestle hot dog on top of cheese and top with coleslaw, potato sticks, and the two sauces. Repeat assembly for all hot dogs. Serve immediately.