I want to go on record as having decided to make hot dogs weeks before some idiot named Wiener thought he could lie about how Twitter worked. He should have “The Internet is Forever” tattooed backwards across his chest like Leonard Shelby in Memento; a permanent reminder that The New York Post will find any opportunity to run a headline like today’s “Wiener Will Stick It Out!”.
With that out of the way, on to my previously planned introduction: Most children like hot dogs; they frequently become one of the basic food groups (along with pizza, chicken fingers, PB&J, and mac ‘n’ cheese). He Who Will Not Be Ignored was no different, but his like of hot dogs has developed into a connoisseurship of meat in tube form. We made a major detour on a trip to DC in order to sample the deep-fried “ripper” dogs at Rutt’s Hut in New Jersey. I have taken him to Walter’s, the still-standing hot dog hangout of my high school days, and we have recently ventured to Worcester and Shrewsbury to sample the dogs at George’s Coney Island Lunch and The Edge, respectively. This summer’s travels will involve detours to visit all ten hot dog havens in the Connecticut Hot Dog Tour:
Closer to home we can rely on Spike’s Junkyard Dogs for a decent fix, but we are fortunate to have two excellent brands of local dogs available in supermarkets: Pearl Kountry Klub (used at Spike’s), and Kayem Fenway Franks, a recent change at the ballpark which has received He Who’s seal of approval.
This month’s Charcutepaloza challenge is to either make Italian pork sausage or poultry sausage. I made Italian sausage in February, and will be making duck and cranberry sausage tomorrow, but I wanted to make another sausage and get He Who involved in the process. What better project than homemade beef hot dogs, which are nothing more than emulsified sausages?
The Sacred Book of Ruhlman & Polcyn has a recipe for Chicago style all-beef hot dogs, so it was time to round up the ingredients: lean beef cut into one-inch cubes, beef suet diced to the same size, kosher salt, pink salt, corn syrup, dextrose, minced garlic, dry mustard, sweet paprika, ground coriander, and white pepper.
After chilling the meat and fat in the freezer for about twenty minutes, I ground them through the large die into a chilled mixing bowl. He Who alternated feeding fat and beef while I pushed. (Once he gets a bit taller, we’ll switch jobs.)
The first grind was returned to a tray in the freezer for another twenty minutes (it’s vital to keep everything as cold as possible to prevent the emulsion from breaking). The meat and fat – along with crushed ice – was then re-ground through the small die, where it began to take on the characteristic pink hot dog color.
He Who added the the spices and salts:
Here’s where things got difficult. I have a four-quart mixer, which has been adequate for the previous sausage making attempts, mostly due to the low speeds required to thoroughly mix the ingredients. The hot dog mixture need to be completely emulsified to produce the smooth texture you would expect. Once I started mixing, the stuff took on the consistency of thick cake batter, and when I cranked up the speed to high – as required by the recipe – I was in danger of splattering hot dog filling all over the Belm Utility Research Kitchen. I was able to avert disaster only by cupping my hands over the top of the bowl, but I was concerned that the heat of my hands would warm up the emulsion and cause it to break. I reduced the mixing time from five to three minutes, figuring a slightly grainier texture was better than no hot dogs at all.
From this point on it was business as usual. I wrapped a tablespoon of filling in plastic and poached it to check the taste and possibly adjust the seasoning (not necessary). He Who turned the crank on the stuffer, and She Who Must Be Obeyed guided the filling into the casings. We would up with nine six-inch hot dogs.
After an overnight rest in the fridge and two hours of cold smoking over oak chips, the dogs took on the expected color. I used a sterilized pin to pop the air pockets that formed (probably due to the grainier texture).
The final step was a poach in 160 °F water until the internal temperature reached 140 °F, about half an hour.
After a chill in ice water, I sealed three dogs each in vacuum bags and stored them in the fridge until needed. For the first taste test, I steamed the dogs and served them New England style: with chopped onions and chili (more like a sweet, chili-flavored, loose meat sauce than an actual chili), on a top-split roll toasted in butter.
You could hear the snap as we bit onto the dogs, but none of us were prepared for the gush of juice that accompanied that first bite. The seasoning was spot-on, a good balance of garlic, mustard, and paprika. The chili sweetness and the onion bite complimented, rather than overpowered, the dog. He Who passed final judgement: “This is a great dog, but the next time…”
I knew what “the next time” meant, and produced variation 2 – the bacon cheese dog – a few days later…
…which led logically to variation 3, the chili cheese dog (Variations 2 & 3 were served on denser buns – the classic bun dissolved after absorbing the juice.)
These dogs are definitely worth the effort. He Who learned a lesson about how his favorite food is made, and I learned that if I intend to make hot dogs again I’m gonna need a bigger mixer. The purchase of which, like the sausage stuffer, She Who has already authorized. I love it when a plan comes together.