Sunday, October 02, 2011

Snacking State-by-State: Michigan III - Oh Goodbye, My Coney Island Doggie

Few food items are more American than the hot dog, and there are so many regional variants - the Chicago Dog with its banana peppers and pickle spear, the Carolina Dog covered in sweet cole slaw, the LA Dog (also the Mexican Dog) wrapped in bacon, even the Baltimore Dog, wrapped in fried bologna (you have eaten this too, right?) - easily found at Zack's Dogs.  And of course, there's the Michigan Dog, very popular in upstate New York and Québec but not in Michigan, where there is a similar hot dog named, of course, the Coney Island Dog.

Official Name: State of Michigan
State Nicknames:The Wolverine State; The Great Lakes State

Admission to the US: January 26, 1837 (#26)
Lansing (5th largest)
Other Important Cities: Detroit (largest); Grand Rapids (2nd largest); Ann Arbor (6th largest)
Midwest; Great Lakes; East North Central (US Census)
RAFT Nations: Wild Rice
Bordered by:
Lake Michigan (west and southwest); Indiana & Ohio (south); Lakes Erie & Huron (east); Ontario (Canada) (north and east); Lake Superior (north); Wisconsin (northwest)

Official State Foods and Edible Things: brook trout (fish); whitetail deer (game mammal)
Some Famous & Typical Foods: immigrant cuisines, especially German, Irish, Welsh and Middle Eastern/Arabic; Coney Island dog; pasty (in the Upper Peninsula); morel mushrooms

The Coney Island Dog - or simply, the Coney Dog - originated in 1914 in Jackson, Michigan, created by George Todoroff for his restaurant (according to Wikipedia anyway).  Almost 100 years later the phenomenon has spread all over southern Michigan, with many places claiming to make the best.  It's a very simple recipe at that, though you need some ingredients.

The recipe: Coney Island Dog (Detroit Style)

To make an authentic Coney Island Dog, you probably have to buy most of the ingredients in Michigan.  Here in Baltimore, we have to settle for reasonable substitutes.

* natural casing all-beef hot dog ($5.50 or so for a package of seven.  Many Michiganders insist this be a Koegel's Vienna, which we do not have anywhere in a 100 mile radius of Charm City.  I should know; I checked Koegel's website.  And I don't have the money to order perishable hot dogs through the mail, so my only other option was to find something else.  As several websites suggested, I ended up using the always-popular Hebrew National Beef Franks.  Please note: despite their popularity at the actual Coney Island, many people from Michigan insist you must never use Nathan's Famous hot dogs.)
* beanless all-beef chili (a special variety of this is called "Coney sauce" in Michigan.  Again, I don't have this near me, so I bought a few cans of beanless all-beef chili made in North Carolina, for $1 a can.  No corn syrup in this one.)
* yellow onion (those are quite easy to find here)
* yellow mustard (the same)
* soft hot dog rolls (I bought store-made rolls from Harris Teeter)

As so many websites point out, the Coney Island dog is assembled thusly:

First, grill your dog.  You must never boil, steam or fry it.  It has to be grilled.

While grilling the dogs, chop the onion and heat the chili or Coney Island Sauce (ambitious?  Make your own Coney sauce with this recipe from eHow - it's for the sauce as well as the entire hot dog).

Now assemble the Coney Island Dog, first with your hot dog.

I didn't know if I should have put the mustard on before or after.  In retrospect, I think it went on after the chili...

...which was next.

And then finally the onions, and you are done!  This is quite the hearty hot dog, though not as messy as I assumed it would be.  Yes, one of the rolls fell apart so I had to resort to a fork, but this is still a lovely way to top a hot dog.

- - - - -

It's just a short hop from Michigan to our next state.  It's the land that gave America lutefisk.  Whether you consider that a plus or a minus, it's time to head to the US's own little slice of the Great White North.  Ya, you betcha!  It's Minnesota.

Sources:  "Arab Americans".  Much information contributed by Rosina Hassoun, (Arab Americans in Michgan, 2005). Copyright, 2011.  All rights reserved.

Adams, Marcia. Heartland: The Best of the Old and the New from Midwest Kitchens. Clarkson Potter: New York, 1991.

braniac (eHow user).  "How to Make a Detroit-Style Coney Island Hot Dog".  eHow article, post date unknown.  Copyright 1999-2011 eHow.

Dooley, Beth, and Lucia Watson.  Savoring Seasons of the Northern Heartland.  Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1994.

Farah, Madelain. "Falafel: Chickpea Patties".  Featured on the episode "Late Night Sandwiches" of the show Sara's Secrets (Sara Moulton, host).  Food Network, 2004.

Farah, Madelain.  Lebanese Cuisine: More than 200 Simple, Delicious, Authentic Recipes.  Twelfth edition. Self-published: New York, 1997.

Magnier-Moreno, Marianne, with Frédéric Lucano (photographer).  Middle Eastern Basics: 70 Recipes Illustrated Step by Step.  From the series "My Cooking Class".  Firefly Books: Buffalo, NY, 2010.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Michigan" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Michigan".