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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Coney Dogs inspired by The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

Coney Dogs with Homemade Coney Sauce
In the modern world reality tv, overt voyeurism, and little left to the imagination...where everything is on's easy to long for the past. A time when things were simpler, people were friendlier, and humanity was more evident. But was it really?

I tend to lean towards the answer yes—but only slightly. Human slavery, evil dictators, shady businessmen, human traffickers, and plain-old bad people have always existed. With the population explosion and the invention of the internet, it's just more prominently displayed now. I could argue back and forth (with myself, mind you) on both sides of this coin—and often do.

What's my point? Reading a well-researched, well-documented account of American history, such as The Lost Tribe of Coney Island tends to sway me towards the side that says the darkside was always present. A lying, cheating, heartless swindler coerces an unsuspecting tribe of Igorrote from their home in the Phillipines with empty promises. He them displays them alongside "other freaks and curiosities" in a display that somewhat bends the confines of reality. And people pay to see it happen. I admit to being equally fascinated and revolted by this tale.

There's so much more to it, a recollection that spans several years, starting in February of 1905. This is a great book for a history buff or non-fiction reader, that is even written in a manner that will hold the attention of someone who prefers to read fiction (like myself). As Prentice says... "Ultimately, this is a story of a hero turned villain that makes us question who is civilized and who is savage."

Why, the reporter asked, did the tribe eat dog? "We eat dogs when we are going to war because they make us fierce and help us to hear, see and smell well."

Let me go ahead and get this out there—I know Coney Dogs did not originate on Coney Island, New York (referring to the title of this book), but it was very hard to resist the play on words. Both the Coney Island part, and the dog part. I know, sort of sick humor. I'm not trying to make light of the past, just to shift focus to some tasty food for a while.

So where did Coney Island hotdogs get their start? They were born of the popular Coney Island-style restaurants that originated in the early 20th century in Michigan. Now, traditionally Detroit-style uses a roux and some minced beef heart along with the ground beef. If I'd had more time, I wouldn't looked for some. Maybe add about 4 ounces for a batch this size. I really found it plenty thick (without a roux), though I imagine it adds a slightly different flavor profile and viscosity. You could add fat and flour to make a roux, but this particular recipe would have to be modified (additional liquid) to make that work.

Anyway, we devoured these dogs. This tangy sauce with a hint of sweetness tasted pretty darn close to perfect to me. Next time I head to Detroit, I'll order a dog to compare, because honestly, it's been a while since I've eaten one from the source. Or I'll have to urge one of my local friends to make this and then compare side-by-side. Oh, that sounds like something I want to do myself...

Coney Dogs with Homemade Coney Sauce
Beef hotdogs smothered in a rich, tangy, somewhat sweet Coney Sauce, then topped with yellow mustard, and chopped white onions—all in a steamed bun.
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Coney Dogs
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Keywords: simmer condiment entree sauce dairy-free nut-free beef hotdogs onions American

Ingredients (3.5 cups of sauce / enough for ~16 dogs)
    for the Coney sauce:
    • 1 pound ground beef (preferably 90/10)
    • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
    • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) water
    • 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) ketchup
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
    • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon celery salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    everything else:
    • all beef hot dogs with natural casings
    • hot dog buns
    • chopped white onions
    • yellow mustard
    Cook ground beef and dried onion in a skillet until meat is browned and cooked through, adding garlic during the last minute of cooking. There shouldn't really be any fat/grease in the pan, as the onions absorb it (unless you use a fattier ratio - drain if you need to).

    Add the remaining ingredients for sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce as low as it will go (to a very gentle simmer) for about 15 minutes. About halfway through simmering, run an immersion blender (stick/wand blender) through the pot until the meat is ground very finely.

    Boil or grill the hotdogs, then serve them in a bun (preferably steamed), smothered with hot coney sauce, and topped with onions and a line (or two) of mustard.

    If you don't have an immersion blender, you still want to break down the meat (otherwise it'll look like a dog with sloppy joe spread over the top). What you can do instead is to transfer the meat to a food processor once it's been cooked through, then whiz it until it is very fine crumbles (onion and garlic should already be in there, fat drained if there was any). Scrape everything back into the pan and proceed.
    Coney Dogs with Homemade Coney Sauce

    They had no choice but to eat the dog their new bosses gave them, and their only work was creating a show for their visitors. Without physical work to do in the fields, they felt idle and got little exercise. A roll of flesh hung over the bands of their loincloths. Their Coney diet was making them fat.

    The Lost Tribe of Coney Island
    Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century

    author: Claire Prentice
    publisher: New Harvest
    source: TLC Book Tours
    hard cover: 416 pages
    "foodie" read: mmmmm, no.

    random excerpt: The interpreter frowned. Far from being greedy for dog, the tribe were sick of the sight of it. There was indeed a new, higher fence around the village, but Truman had had it put up to prevent the public from seeing the Filipinos without first buying a ticket. The events described in the story had never happened. Julio knew this was part of the business they had signed up for, but some of Truman's farfetched stories made him feel uncomfortable, especially the portrayal of his countrymen as violent savages.

    overview (from TLC page): The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of “headhunting, dog-eating savages” from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as “human exhibits” alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.

    Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New York’s social elite. The Lost Tribe of Coney Island is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream.

    about the author: Claire Prentice is an award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The Washington Post, The Times of London, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, BBC Online, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire.

    connect w/ author: website

    recipe inspired by the book: Coney Dogs

    I received a free ARC of this book. All opinions stated in this post are my own.