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The Fourth of July cookout is the ideal time to dress up the all-American hotdog with extras like sport peppers, beer-steeped sauerkraut, coleslaw and macaroni and cheese. Chris Franz / The Forum

Six unexpected ways to dress up hot dogs at your July Fourth cookout

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The Fourth of July is the ideal time for puttin' on the dog.

This most American of holidays isn't the time to skimp on the most American of foods. It's estimated that on Independence Day alone, Americans will gobble down more than 150 million hot dogs, according to the Philadelphia-based frank and sausage company, Dietz & Watson.

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Instead of the same old ketchup and pickle relish, you'll want to create fireworks with the hot dogs you grill this year. Here are ideas on how to serve a dazzling display of red hots, garnished with everything from beer-stewed sauerkraut to macaroni and cheese.

1. Relish-the-Flavor Dog: Try topping dogs with crunchy corn relish instead of the standard sweet pickle stuff. To make, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat. Add 4 cups corn, 1 cup diced red bell pepper and ½ cup diced red onion and sauté 5 minutes till crisp-tender. Stir in ½ cup tomatillo relish, one-third cup fresh chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Let cool; refrigerate till ready to use.

2. Red, Hot and Blue Dog. Tangy blue cheese dressing, real bacon bits and chopped red onion combine for a smoky, salty, umami-packed bite.

3. Chicago Dog. Not a new invention, but still a tasty one. Make your own with dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, a zig-zag of yellow mustard, sweet relish, finely chopped white onion, a sport pepper or peperoncino and, finally, celery salt. To make it authentic, build it on a poppy seed bun and leave the ketchup in the fridge.

4. That's the Slaw Dog. Coleslaw is the perfect foil for hot dogs: It packs a one-two punch of creamy dressing and finely chopped, crunchy slaw. Ladle baked beans next to the coleslaw, and you have a whole meal in each bite.

5. Cheesy Mac Dog. The creamy richness of the consummate comfort food pairs perfectly with the already-decadent hot dog.

6. Beer-and-Kraut Dog. Beer-steeped sauerkraut is all you need to crown this puppy. To make, heat 1 pound sauerkraut, 6 ounces beer, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon chili powder over medium heat until boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes to let flavors blend.

Other great flavor combos to try:

* Itali-Dog. Warmed marinara, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil infuse an all-American standard with a bit of Italy.

* Chipper-Cheese Dog. Crushed barbecue potato chips and shredded Monterey Jack cheese give the dog, which is at once gooey and crispy, something sweet and spicy.

* Cool-as-a-Cuke Dog. Chopped cucumber mixed with sour cream and dill weed adds an unexpectedly light, fresh note to the sometimes heavy-handed dog.

* The Meat-Addict's Dog. Top off a plain hot dog with a heaping spoonful of shredded barbecue pork, a slice of American or cheddar cheese and dill pickle slices.

* Egg-lectic Dog. For something entirely new, stack the hot dog with Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, a sweet sliced tomato, one fried egg and tender baby spinach leaves.

* Onion-Chipotle Dog. The lingering, smoky heat of chipotle gives this caramelized hot dog topping its kick. To make, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add 6 large, thinly sliced onions and cook, tossing frequently, 20 to 25 minutes, or untill onions are golden. Stir in 1 chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook 5 minutes.

Recipe ideas are from Tasteofhome.com, Martha Stewart Living and Delish.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525

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