When Upscale Hot Dogs Go Wrong 

Robert Harris
Version Date: December 4, 2012

Okay, so guests or even your inlaws have come over unexpectedly and you want to impress them just a little and you have--quite literally--a hot dog budget. You have some croissants and some black olive paste that you know creates a taste sensation. So what's not to fix? Take a look at the photo and you'll see. Yes, you can dress your dog in a tux, but here the dress looks more like a discarded oil spill sponge. The dish is delicious, but who will want to eat it and see? Remember that 50 percent of the enjoyment of a meal lies in what you see and expect, the anticipation that gets you salivating and imagining what the food tastes like. And the other 50 percent is in the taste and experience (with aroma being a common part of both). Thus, presentation is a key to a great dining experience.

So, as tasty as this sandwich is, it will be forever relegated to something a guy fixes when he's alone watching truck repair on TV. It's the price we pay to be a civilization obsessed with surfaces and appearance over substance and reality. But there is hope. And no, I don't mean there's hope because the French are teaching us to eat snails. Instead, see the section on Variations, below, for some redemptive strategies.


Cut the hot dogs in half lengthwise.
Cut the croissants in half lengthwise.
Spread the olive paste or tapenade or pickles on one half of each croissant.

Hotdog gone wrong

Heat the hot dogs. Boil them or microwave them until they plump up. A typical hot dog by itself plumps in a 1000 watt microwave in about 45 seconds. Be sure to use a splatter guard in the microwave because hot dogs spit a lot when being nuked. Note that fat-free dogs don't plump much and they shrivel and look bad when microwaved. Boiling for five minutes is a good alternative for fat-free dogs.

Place the hot dogs on the other half of each croissant. If you prefer, heat the croissant and hot dog in the oven, toaster oven, or microwave oven before you add the mustard.
Add mustard on the hot dogs in a nice zig zag or other pattern. Remember presentation!

In fact, while you're thinking about presentation, think of the things that normally go on hot dogs. Pickle relish, ketchup, horseradish, mayonnaise, even chili and onions and grated cheese. Any of these alone or in combination can be placed artistically on the hot dogs, leaving the black olive spread for the other half of the croisssasnt.

Don't have or don't like that salty black olive paste? Spouse or guests repelled by its appearance, even on a fresh croissant? Tapenade too pricey? You can still make these a hit. And you can even rehabilitate them for company if you use some out-of-the-ordinary cheese. Havarti is really good and not too expensive. Or you can go for both taste and impressiveness by slicing some asiago or fontanelle. The appearance will then be socially acceptable and your guests won't scowl and talk about you behind your back--at least not about your cooking.

The theory is that taste is a product of sight, smell, and the taste buds in the mouth. More philosophically, it is often remarked that expectation influences perception. So if you expect ugly food to taste ugly, you will perceive it so if you dare to munch on it. This is because taste is really a product of sight, smell, taste buds, and your brain processing all these stimuli in the context of what you think you're eating.

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If you liked this recipe, or even didn't, please see
Yummy Brussels Sprouts
Eggplant Robaire
Tasty Tofu Robaire

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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com