A.B.C.D: Alton Brown’s Corny Dog

In food on 08/16/2009 at 1:04 pm

Ah…summer means Nathan’s hot dogs at Coney Island. The corn dogs are even better, plus the boardwalk and suburns on the nasty beach, what could be better? But the armpit is so far from the seaside carnival, time to learn to make our own. We turn to Alton Brown for his expertise on this one.

This type of multi-step messy recipe is usually the domain of the other half, but our resident painter was busy brushing on the trim coat in the living room. And our housewarming party is just around the corner…It was up to me to whip these babies up.

Note to self: an uneven gas stove without a thermometer makes frying a dangerous good time every time. Trader Joe’s didn’t carry Nathan’s with its fantastic snap, so we surrendered ourselves to using Hebrew National kosher pups.

I prepped with half the amount of ingredients A.B. suggested (adjusted below) because I know there’s a lot of waste in these kind of recipes. I’m a cheapskate and like to conserve things like organic whole milk. Plus for some reason, Hebrew Nationals come in packs of 7 instead of 8.

While waiting for the batter to percolate, I snapped this pic:

engage number one!

So this put-cornstarch-on-the-plate-for-dredging thing did not work at all. I got too much cornstarch on the dogs, thus the batter didn’t stick when I dipped them into the mug of batter. Maybe the half fail happened also because I thought the batter looked too thin so I added a little more flour than it called for.

I didn’t have any creamed corn or jalapeno, so I just added sofrito, natch. Then I realized, hey I could add whatever flavor I wanted into the batter, why not? So I sprinkled in some curry powder a la the famous German currywurst. The flavor turned out to be enigmatic and rich, rather than distinctly curry-esque, but the crunch of the cornmeal was awesome. Next time, I’d add a heavier ratio of cornmeal to flour. I’m already fantasizing about the other combinations to try, i.e. bratwurst corn dog, BBQ corn dog, garlic soy corn dog…

When I was frying them in a large 14″ Calphalon stainless steel pan, the batter stuck to the bottom and started falling off the dog. Those were some frantic moments of scraping with my tongs to try to free my corny dog from frito lay demise without splashing myself with hot oil.

ABCD v 1.0

cross section of corn heaven and dog hell

What did I learn from this semi-disaster? 1. I need a Fry Daddy 2. Following directions to get the right batter consistency is a good thing (What, so I like to futz?!) 3. Poorly homemade and misshapen corny dogs are still way better than frozen store-bought or standing in the blazing sun at Coney Island for 1 hour just to eat a $5 perfect corny dog.

peanut oil
2/3 cup coarse cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pepper to taste

2 Tbsp (approximately 1 large) jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1 can cream-style corn
1/3 cup finely grated onion

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (Homemade ratio: 1 Tbsp vinegar in 1 cup milk; sit 5 min)

4 Tbsp cornstarch, for dredging
8 beef hot dogs (Nathan’s are the best, proven once again)
8 chopsticks (get cheap but real ones from Chinatown so you don’t get splinters in your mouth)

Pour at least 2″ oil into a deep fryer or large heavy pot and heat to 375 degrees F.

In bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the jalapeno, corn, onion, and buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients all at once, and stir only enough times to bring the batter together; there should be lumps.

Set batter aside and allow to rest for 10 minutes. This gives the baking soda time to do its magic with the acid from the buttermilk.

Scatter the cornstarch into a gallon Ziploc bag. Dump hot dogs in the cornstarch and tap well to remove any excess. Keep them inside the bag while spearing them lengthwise with one chopstick if you want to keep the mess down.

Transfer enough batter to almost fill a large drinking glass taller than the hot dog. Refill the glass as needed. Immediately and carefully place each hot dog into the oil, and cook until coating is golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

With tongs, remove to cooling rack (i.e. for cookies), and allow to drain for 3 to 5 minutes.

Make hush puppies with excess batter.

Reheat to crisp in the oven at 350º degrees for 10 minutes.

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