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:
- 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.
- Get your butcher to grind the meat as fine as he can, triple-grind if you can talk him into it.
- You can’t screw around with half-measures for the rendering of the meat, you have to use lard.
- 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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