Let’s Talk Food: The secret to Coney dogs is in the sauce

No sooner had the Daily News been delivered last Wednesday that I got an email from John Wilhelm, who hails from southern Indiana. Sheila Mesulam’s entertaining and informative article about hot dogs inspired him to complain about the lack of Coney dogs in Naples.

He wrote: “It seems that in Naples no one knows has to make and serve Coney hot dogs. Even the place called Coney Island on North 41 does not know what we know as Coneys in southern Indiana. I made them a batch of Coney sauce and took it to them. After all, if you call your place Coney Island, you should at least use the correct sauce on them.”

Mr. Wilhelm included a recipe for what may be the ultimate Coney sauce and if you’re inspired to turn out your own Coney dogs, the recipe is below.

The Coney Island dogs were invented way back in 1914 when George Todoroff of Jackson, Mich., opened a restaurant, Todoroff’s Original Coney Island. The first recipe for the sauce served on the enhanced dogs contained beef heart, while the hot dog itself was not boiled or steamed.

Over the years, there have been innumerable variations of the Coney dog. In 1917, the Detroit and Flint Coney dogs made their appearance. While closely related to the Jackson, Mich., variety, these dogs are characterized by a drier chili sauce.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, was not about to be left out of the Coney wars. Greek immigrants, eager to display their ingenuity, produced the “cheesy Coney,” replete with their famous chili, onions and shredded cheese.

On your next visit to Coney Island, the one so popular with New Yorkers, do not attempt to order a Coney dog. The island is rife with hot dog stands, offering the wonder wienies in a variety of ways but, alas, no authentic Coney Dogs. However, there are areas of central and western New York state where the term “Coney Island dog” is used to describe a spicy variety of the traditional pork hot dog.

Not satisfied to enjoy traditional methods of serving hot dogs, a pair of vaudevillians, Neil and Carl Fletcher of Dallas, Texas, concocted the corn dog. They set up a stand at the Texas State Fair and were mobbed by young and old alike. It had taken the pair several months to create a batter that was successful in sticking to the wiener while frying. This was in 1942, and the corn dog is now a traditional treat served at carnivals, circuses, children’s parties and theme parks.

Hot dogs, plain and simple, are delicious in their own right; especially since there are so many varieties. But when embellished with mustard, ketchup, onions, sauerkraut, salsa, cheese and pickle relish they turn into an ambrosial treat that is relatively inexpensive and satisfying to young and old.

John Wilhelm’s Coney Island Sauce

3 pounds ground beef

2 19-ounce cans tomato puree

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon mustard

1 tablespoon salt or to taste

1 tablespoon pepper or to taste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon oregano (dried)

1 medium onion, chopped

Combine all ingredients and cook until boiling is reached; reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.

Place the best hot dog you can find on a warm hot dog roll, (after roasting, boiling or barbequing the dog), add a generous helping of the Coney sauce, open an ice-cold beer and ENJOY! You now have experienced a Coney Island. Hot Dog.

Note: In my experience preparing pasta sauces and other tomato-based sauces, I find a shorter cooking time produces a very tasty sauce. In preparing this sauce I would cook it for about an hour or an hour and a half. Take your choice.

Corn Dogs

Vegetable oil (for deep frying)

½ cup unsifted all purpose flour (for dredging)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

1/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

½ cup milk

1 egg, well beaten

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

10 ready-to-eat frankfurters (1 pound)

Place oil in a deep-fat fryer and heat to 375 degrees. Place ½ cup dredging flour in a pie pan and set aside. Mix the cornmeal, 1/3 cup flour and salt in a 2-cup measuring cup. Add the milk, egg and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Mix well and set aside.

Thread frankfurters onto wooden skewers. Roll in dredging flour to coat, shaking off excess. Dip the frankfurters (hot dogs), one at a time, in cornmeal batter, then fry in oil until golden brown; about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 10.

Ask Doris

Q: I took a cooking course when I lived in Ohio. One of the best dishes we made was a garlic bread which was easy to make and really delicious. In moving, I lost the recipe and hope you have one.

— Earnestine Farnsworth, Naples

A: This is an easy recipe that sounds ideal to serve at barbecues.

Garlic Quick Bread

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

½ cup butter

1-1/4 cups milk

1 egg

3 large cloves garlic, more or less depending on taste

About 2 hours before serving: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease well a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, with a fork, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissor-fashion, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until moistened.

Turn dough onto well-floured surface; knead until smooth and not sticky, about 5 minutes. Shape dough into a loaf; place in pan. With a sharp knife, make 6 diagonal slashes, ¼-inch deep, across the top of bread. Bake for an hour and 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan immediately onto wire rack; cool for 30 minutes. Slice and slather with butter or garlic butter. Makes one loaf.

Doris Reynolds is the author of “When Peacocks Were Roasted and Mullet Was Fried” and “Let’s Talk Food.” They are available for sale in the lobby of the Naples Daily News. Also available is a 4-part DVD, “A Walk Down Memory Lane with Doris Reynolds.” Contact Doris Reynolds at foodlvr25@aol.com.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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