Glittering fireworks, salty breezes, the scent of hot dogs and misshapen burger patties sizzling on a grill nearby — that’s the Independence Day of my childhood. I can’t imagine spending the holiday away from my family, closest friends and, of course, the beach, where we’d splash in the waves and tan on the causeway before taking in the evening’s explosive finale over the water.
This summer, I’m in New York though, where heading to the beach isn’t so convenient, and spending time with my family and many of my friends would require a couple hours in a cramped plane and a $400 last-minute ticket. (Which I’d gladly do, if I had the funds.)
I know I’m not alone, though — if you’re interning out of your hometown or taking summer classes, your Fourth plans may deviate from the norm, but that doesn’t mean you (A) have to be bored, (B) have to be homesick, and, most importantly, (C) don’t have to settle for another ordinary meal.
Call up whoever you know, fire up the oven (or grill, if you have access to one; I’ll be jealous!) and throw your own party — no matter how last-minute it may be. These Firecracker Hot Dogs take minutes to make, and they provide a savory jolt of flavor that’ll please any audience, creating an instant good time. (For side ideas, scroll below the recipe.)
Plus, what’s a more festive dish to serve as you watch the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest? Just try not to go all Joey Chestnut — this meal is worth savoring.
Utensils required: cutting board, knife, baking sheet, pan, long spoon/spoonula (for stirring), paper towel
- 8 hot dog buns
- 8 hot dogs
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (plus another tablespoon or two for toasting buns)
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 red onion
- 3 tbsp. sweet chili sauce (short on cash? Just ask for a few packets the next time you’re at McDonald’s)
- 1 1/2 jalapenos
- chili powder (optional)
- guacamole (optional)
Time commitment: 20 minutes
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it’s heating, wash the peppers and onions and thinly slice them.
Tip: Can’t handle too much heat? Remove the seeds from the jalapenos for a less spicy dish. Just make sure that you very thoroughly wash your hands after handling those pungent peppers. I made the mistake of wiping my eyes afterward, and let me tell you, that sting is far worse than the jalapenos’ bite.
2. Now, take out the hot dogs, carefully making a few slices along the top of each link and an “X” on either side. Though they’re firecracker hot dogs, you won’t them to be exploding with flavor — not exploding in your oven — hence the cuts. Plus, the ‘X’ on either end creates a more festive look when cooked.
3. Place the hot dogs on a baking sheet, and let them cook for about 7-9 minutes. In the meantime, pour a tablespoon of olive oil (or canola or vegetable — whatever’s available) onto the frying pan and add the onions and peppers.
4. Once the onions are translucent and peppers are slightly charred, pour in about three tablespoons of sweet chili sauce. Stir it all together, and remove it from heat.
5. Now it’s time to toast the buns: Take a paper towel, lightly dab it with olive oil, and use it to brush the insides of the buns. Sprinkle on some chili powder and place it on a baking sheet.
6. When the hot dogs are done cooking, switch the oven to broil and place the bun-lined baking sheet in for about a minute, or until they’re lightly toasted.
7. Layer on the toppings, adding guacamole if you want to minimize the spicy flavor.