Friday's meal was wonderfully easy and wonderfully satisfying:
Boiled hot dogs (found deep in the freezer) with “hot dog chili" (leftover from DD’s birthday cookout), cole slaw and potato salad (left over from last week), plus some fries found (again) at the back of the freezer.
After the earlier confession about my chili-inspired nickname and it's history, it's fair to also reveal my passion for chili as a main course (or in this case, a condiment). Our chili is often a "what-the-heck-why-not" recipe, meaning I throw in anything we have on hand that seems interesting and somewhat harmonious. Who's guessing we have chili on New Year's Eve around here?! These are feasts (or famines!) which will never be recreated exactly because I rarely write it down. Veggie, beef, steak, chicken, spicy, mild, with tomatoes or white, but always with beans: kidney, black, white, even garbanzo beans. Chunky and spicy. Like me!
This condiment I refer to as "hot dog chili" is really a creature of a different sort. I don't think I'd ever had a "chili dog" before moving to Virginia almost 20 years ago, although I had seen them on menus during my travelling days. In Ohio I fell in love with Skyline Chili's 3-Ways (Cincinnati-style chili over spaghetti with shredded cheddar cheese) and learned what a Coney Dog is from the menu. Never ordered one. DH's introduction to Skyline wasn't as much of a rave as mine. Skyline is on my bucket list, not his.
Shortly after moving to southwest Virginia, I received a fantastic local culinary lesson. DH's extended family was planning a birthday cookout. We discussed what to bring for the potluck. Menu was simple enough: hot dogs and the works. SIL was bringing chili, so I offered to bring cheese and sour cream or tortilla chips or corn muffins (the kinds of things I associate with chili) or a second kind of chili altogether (not the "substituted" kind, I promised, probably the white chicken version I'm fond of).
DH says, "Um, DEAR, I think she'll bring chili for the hot dogs, and she'll certainly have enough." Oh. Right. Reset thinking. I've seen that. Coney Dogs at Skyline. Should I make spaghetti? "No." (See previous remark about DH's introduction to Skyline). Is there a recipe? "Probably not". When pressed for time (SIL has very busy career and active family), you can get this at the grocery. Open cans, add water and heat. OH. RIGHT. Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.
Somewhere between then and last year, Someone Wonderful asked me to make chili for a church youth function. Meaning the kind for hot dogs. Asked ME. A Northerner. A Damn Yankee (you know, the ones who move South and STAY), those folks who don't know anything about making biscuits, gravy, tea (sweet and iced, not hot and add-your-own-sweet-if-you-like), BBQ (the noun which involves pork, not the verb meaning to cook outside) or chili (condiment for hot dogs).
I need a culinary interpreter. A study in food's foreign language with the Southern dialect.
My first inclination was to search my library of cookbooks for a recipe. It's a nice library (thanks to KKS-PHD, Mom, Sigrid, Sis, Aunts Dawn and Ellen, my friend VISA), I don't like to simply open cans (don't start on how much easier it would be if I did, and don't lecture me when I use canned goods to help in a pinch).
For the kids? For a church gathering? I'm cooking. From scratch. This is a fundamental belief, that all wonderful people should eat tasty, (mostly) healthy food. I know how to cook and I intend to prove it!
Pay attention here. I'm about to give away a "secret recipe"!!!!
I turned to my Despiration! friends Alicia and Beverly. They have another phenomenal cookbook (go out and buy this one too... get it together with the other one I suggested and you will get both a discount and probably free shipping!) titled Despiration Entertaining!
The recipe is Carolina Chili Dogs. I made this recipe for that original event and then by request (from same Someone Wonderful, who "doesn't like hot dog chili but likes this!" for several years, at least until a recent bout with flu put an end to this devotion. On DD's birthday at that, thus the leftovers in our fridge this week).
We were asked to bring something for DS's baseball concessions stand last spring, I volunteered one batch and was immediately asked to bring gallons (at 2T. per hot dog, a gallon goes a LONG way feeding hungry baseball players and families). At one point our family freezer had 15# of on-sale hamburger stored to make this condiment upon request, when it ever stopped raining. Double-headers were the best: LOTS of hot dogs sold to captive players and their related audience.
My Despiration Entertaining! cookbook has "Janet's version = for a crowd" calculations in the margin. The spine on my paperback version is broken open there. Easy to find... kinda like looking for the spots on the pages for a family's favorite recipes.
There's no secret recipe: I bought it! I bought the recipe in a cookbook in a bookstore (how RETRO!) and the ingredients in a grocery (how retro again - not a superstore!). I put them together (with a variation, no substitutions!), and it's a chili condiment for hot dogs. One which People Request. HEHE. I'm publishing my crowd version here but expect you to buy your own version of the cookbook as well.
Our family take on hot dogs includes “Yankee Buns”: DH’s term for the “New England Split-Top Buns" ubiquitous in Maine but in limited supply here in southwest VA. More dough, less crust than the standard buns available here. Soft sides we grill with butter to a golden, crispy-but-still-soft perfection. DH moaned (with pleasure) the first time he tasted boiled hot dogs with "grilled Yankee buns" and corn chowdah at Mom's Welcome Back Again Inn (my mother's home, alternative B&B, hostel, refuge, "free" bathroom (leave a quarter), Next Generation hangout, back-to-basics-boot-camp, heavy tools warehouse, and unexpected greeting card inspiration) in Maine.
All this, “Says You” (one of my favorite radio programs ever), AND a movie tonight. Microwave popcorn from the pantry. Mom, papa, kids, even the pets were satisfied tonight.
Score two for the freezer and three for the fridge, only two hot dog/bun pairs and chili leftover. Those vanished during someone's Saturday snack-time. No one's confessing, but I have my suspects.
Hokie Hot Dogs for a crowd
2T per serving, makes a gallon or so.
(my SWVA variation on Despiration Entertaining!'s Carolina Chili Dogs)
6# ground meat (up to 2# turkey or chicken, the rest beef of any fat content)*
3 onions, finely chopped
3 cans (12 oz) tomato paste
3 cups ketchup
3 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. salt
Ground pepper to taste (I use plenty!)
Water, as needed
*(Here's where my recipe differs). I prefer to cook the meat before making the chili, because I want to get most (but not all) of the fat out. It's less expensive (because you can use burger with higher fat content), but it does take longer. I usually add a generous scoop (about 1/2 c.) of the cooked-out fat/water mixture to the larger chili pot as I transfer the meat with a slotted spoon, then water to make up the difference.
1. Place the meat (2# at a time) in a large skillet. Cook over med heat until brown all the way through. Transfer meat with a slotted spoon to large pot. Reserve other fat/juice to separate container. When all of the meat is completely cooked, add ladle (1 at a time) of reserved fat/juice (and water as preferred) to pot until meat is covered, but not swimming, in liquid.
2. Add chopped onion. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.
3. Add tomato paste, ketchup, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir well until the tomato paste has dissolved and the meat is broken up.
4. Continue to cook the chili at a slow boil, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the mixture is thick (about 15 minutes). As the mixture thickens, you may have to reduce the heat to prevent sticking.
5. Move chili to crock pot set on LOW. Serve on hot dogs. Add water as needed, stirring well, to maintain desired consistency.