This makes my fourth attempt at making a good coney sauce. You can read about my previous attempts here (from February 2015) and here or here from two attempts on an August 2014 weekend. I had given up because I just didn’t get the results I wanted. But then this weekend two events converged: I read a coney sauce recipe on Serious Eats and Carla went out of town for the weekend with her gal pals. The stars had aligned and it was time to try again.
The strong umami flavors in this recipe is what encouraged me to try. Usual umami (savory) flavor ingredients are soy sauce and tomato paste. This recipe doubles down with Marmite and anchovies. In addition we will make our own chili paste, and grind our own spices from toasted seeds.
We use three types of dried chilis for this recipe: Ancho, New Mexico Red, and Arbol. First we stem and seed them and cut them into strips which we cook in the microwave with enough water to cover for a couple of minutes and then let them steep about 10 minutes. Finally we blend those chilis with some of the steeping water to make a chili paste.
While the chilis steep, we toast whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds, a whole star anise and a whole clove in a frying pan, then grind them. That star anise smells like licorice (because that’s the flavor ingredient in licorice)
Here is the flavor bomb.
This sauce cooks up much differently than the previous ones. Usually, we brown the 80/20 ground chuck with the onions then add the spices and liquids. Here we flip the order. We start by sweating the onions and garlic about six minutes then add the spices. Then we add 2 cups of chicken stock and off heat break the meat up into it and whisk vigorously to break it down almost completely. Then add another two cups of chicken stock and simmer the sauce for about an hour and a half.
Boil, not brown the hamburger? I’ve seen this process mentioned before and I trust Serious Eats. Some of the hamburger bits wrapped around the tines of the whisk and was extremely difficult to remove. The texture is just right for a condiment sauce – more sauce and less chunks of burger. It thickens up nicely and toward the end we add a masa harina paste to really bring it together.
Now it’s time to put it all together. If you live in the Portland area do yourself a favor and pick up a package of Olympia Provisions uncured beef hot dogs. They are marvelous: rich flavor and that great snap when you bite into it that you want out of your hot dog. You can pick up Olympia Provisions dogs at your local New Seasons market.
A lot of fat pools up to the top; I skimmed quite a bit off.
To prepare the coney dog I microwaved a couple of buns about 10 seconds, spread some yellow mustard on the bun and then put in the hot dog – one hot dog cut in half fills both buns. Then spoon on the sauce and top with grated cheese and chopped onion.
I’m not going to lie; this is a lot of work – making the chili paste and grinding your own spices takes longer than measuring stuff out of jars and cans.
Was it worth it? Sometimes when I spend all afternoon cooking I can hardly stand to look at the meal, much less eat it and I wasn’t super impressed on the first night. But the next day I had it again for lunch and was very happy with it. The flavors melded overnight and I came away with something I can make for the boys sometime – or more likely pull out some of the quart-plus of leftovers I have.
I think this recipe is close to Cincinnati chili. We may be traveling through there this summer. If so, I’ll try to stop at either Gold Star or Skyline to get the classic take. If so, I’ll report back. If you’ve eaten Cincinnati chili somewhere in the city, let me know which is better.