Sep 012009
 

After some fiddling, some cursing, some serious head-scratching, and a couple of dozen dogs down the hatch … I think I have a valid starting point for a workable Detroit-style coney sauce. It is by no means perfect and I still have a sneaking suspicion that the memories I am working from are less-than-razor-sharp, but the result was tasty, enjoyable, and – for now, anyway – tasted like what I think I remember a coney dog should taste like.

The full recipe is after the jump if you want to indulge on your own (see note below) but if you just want the highlights and keys, here is a quick rundown:

  1. You can’t make Detroit-style coney sauce without using beef heart. Period. There is no other way to get that slightly gamey and verging-on-too-rich taste.
  2. Get your butcher to grind the meat as fine as he can, triple-grind if you can talk him into it.
  3. You can’t screw around with half-measures for the rendering of the meat, you have to use lard.
  4. Adding the roux after simmering down the stock is the trick to getting a passably-wet texture.

Where this first attempt comes up short is in the texture. Detroit-style sauce is very wet – it is more of a “sauce flavoured with meat” than it is a “meat sauce”. This sauce was wet, but not wet enough, even after the final step of pureeing some of the sauce into a kind of a “meat juice” and adding it back in to the main show. Also, while the flavour is in the ball park, I think I am missing at least one crucial ingredient. One of the hallmarks of a great Coney Dog is the need to head to the can for a Truly Atrocious Dump about 2 hours after eating. My “dog-to-dump” time was about 24 hours, which makes me thing that something is definitely amiss. On the other hand, the dumps were pretty atrocious, so it could just be that the ingredients are all there and just out of balance. There is hope.

If you grew up with Coney Dogs and you are missing them as badly as I, try this mix and let me know what you think. If you have never tried a Coney before and are feeling brave, feel free to jump on the bandwagon. But do it on a day when you can open your windows – if you aren’t used to the aroma, it can be a bit … er … repellent.


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For your own attempt at Detroit-style Coney Island Sauce, you need the following:

1/2 cup of lard
500 grams of regular ground beef
500 grams of ground beef heart
6 tablespoons of flour
1 average-sized cooking onion, chopped as fine as you can go
2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup of yellow “ball park” mustard (the bright yellow kind that little kids slather on dogs and burgers)
1/4 cup of worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoons of cumin
1 tablespoons of garlic powder
1 tablespoons of onion powder

Get yourself a large and heavy pot – be sure it is big enough to hold everything and leave you some vigorous stirring room. Over medium heat melt the lard and then then add both meats to the pot. With a big wooden spoon (or some reasonable substitute thereof) you want to forcibly stir and mash the meat as it browns – by the time the meat is all browned you should have a crumbly pasty texture. Turn the heat to low and use a ladle to get yourself a 1/4 cup of the rendered fat and lard – put this aside in a smaller pot. Leave the rest of the fat in the main pot.

To the big pot – which now contains browned beef mush and a lot of fat – add the chopped onion, the stock, the mustard, and the worcestershire. Mix this well and let it simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

While the main pot simmers, add the flour to the 1/4 cup of rendered fat in the little pot. Over medium heat stir this constantly until you get a caramel-brown roux. Add it to the main pot after the previously-specified 20 minutes of simmering, and stir well.

Once the roux is incorporated into the main mix, add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder. Cover the pot, and simmer for 2 hours on low heat.

OPTIONAL: As previously mentioned, the sauce should be wet. I put 2 cups of the sauce into the blender at this point, pureed it for 2 minutes, and poured the resulting meat juice back into the pot. This won’t change the flavour, but will give you a more authentic texture. You can omit this step if you want.

To serve, cook up a couple of good traditional hot dogs (natural casings, please, and none of this all-beef stuff), put them in really fresh buns, and top them with the coney sauce, a squirt of the ball park yellow mustard, and a bit of raw chopped onion. Dig in – just remember, it’s going to be messy. And if you have any updated “dog to dump time” statistics, please let me know.

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