Friday, September 2, 2016

Chili Buns and Slaw Dogs - Appalachian Style

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OH BOY... Chili Dogs!!!

But not just any Chili Dogs, these are the legendary dogs of my youth.  The ones sold at drive up stands across the country back in the early days of my youth (5 decades ago).  Although the roots for these nostalgia dogs go back to the pool halls of Appalachia way back nearly a hundred years ago.

There is a fascinating history of these seemingly simple dishes.  A little of which is given in a new cookbook/travelogue/history book, Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes.

Keep scrolling down to find the recipes and techniques needed to replicate these drive-in delights at home, but first, let's talk about the book...

"Victuals is an exploration of the foodways, people, and places of Appalachia. Written by Ronni Lundy, regarded as the most engaging authority on the region, the book guides us through the surprisingly diverse history--and vibrant present--of food in the Mountain South.
     Victuals explores the diverse and complex food scene of the Mountain South through recipes, stories, traditions, and innovations. Each chapter explores a specific defining food or tradition of the region--such as salt, beans, corn (and corn liquor). The essays introduce readers to their rich histories and the farmers, curers, hunters, and chefs who define the region's contemporary landscape. Sitting at a diverse intersection of cuisines, Appalachia offers a wide range of ingredients and products that can be transformed using traditional methods and contemporary applications. Through 80 recipes and stories gathered on her travels in the region, Lundy shares dishes that distill the story and flavors of the Mountain South."

I thought this book was fantastic.  I have a small history of the region, For a brief time in my youth (when I was 4 or 5 years old), my maternal Grandmother owned a small diner in a small area of the Ozarks (just a stones throw away from Kentucky which shares an awful lot of the same history and food cravings of the Appalachian Mountains).  I only have a few memories of that diner, but one of which is the pot of simmering chili meat that created my favorite... a Chili Bun.  No need for a hot dog, just that seasoned ground beef on a bun with a little mustard.  Who knew that my Southern Baptist Granny was serving up fare that originated in pool halls, honky tonks and dive bars across the area.

I was drawn to the 4 full pages of the book devoted to these dogs.

Seems like a lot, but then for an awful lot of folks in the area 50 years ago, these were a staple of not only ne're do wells in pool halls but also Church going families on the way home from service.

Slaw Dogs was a small portion of the book.  The Appalachian Mountains (portions of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia) was a Farm to fork area long before it became a catch phrase for city folks.  Land Locked and in many cases rough terrain locked forced cooks to make do with locally grown produce, wild caught game and local beef and pork farms to provide daily grub.  Simple and plentiful, nutritious and filling... Stick to your ribs food.

The book covers the history of the area through food.  The recipes are authentic with occasional references to difficult to source ingredients.  But these are indeed the dishes your great grandmother would make for any Sunday supper.

Beautiful photographs and a rich history to tell a fascinating tale of a by gone era and regional specialties.  The book reads more like a book of short stories than a cookbook.  One of those books you will get lost in on a rainy afternoon.

Here's the legal stuff... "I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review." But the review and opinions are 100% accurate and mine!".  I did indeed cook the recipe as printed and it worked on every level I could ask.  Wonderful Look, appealing texture and delicious taste.  I look forward to making many more of the beautiful dishes offered!  Love this book and highly recommend it!

I am so thrilled to add this book to my library.  A terrific inspiration.

As a gift or a new reference book for yourself, this is a keeper.

As to the Recipes... The Chili Buns and Slaw Dogs of the Appalachians (and my memories of Granny's Diner) have very specific rules...

The Buns are soft and never toasted.
The condiment of choice is yellow mustard.  Relish, ketchup and anything fancy is frowned upon.
The Meat is not really a chili... No beans, never runny (if you use a wet chili, the buns disintegrate).  The meat is a seasoned ground beef that simmered in it's own slurry all day until the meat is mostly liquid free but FULL of flavor.

In the diner you can order a Chili Bun (Bun, Mustard and the meat (NO dog)
OR a Chili Dog... Same as the Chili Bun but add the Dog.
OR... the classic Slaw Dog... Bun, Mustard, Meat, Dog and of course... Slaw.

You will ENJOY!

OK... Here's what I did...

Chili Buns and
Slaw Dogs

    (about half a small head)
    3 cups finely chopped cabbage
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Several turns of a pepper grinder
  • 1/4 Cup Mayonaisse
  • 2 tsp Buttermilk
    1 Bottle Beer (Never use light beer)
  • 2 Pounds Lean Ground Beef
  • 2 Clove Garlic, smashed and minced
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 12 Saltine Crackers, crushed to crumbs
  • 2 TBS Tomato Paste
  • 2 tsp Chili Flakes or Cayenne Pepper Spice
  • 1 tsp ground Cummin
  • 1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
Cooking Directions
  1. FOR THE SLAW...
    In a large mixing bowl, mix the mayo with the buttermilk to thin.  Add the salt and pepper and finally mix in the cabbage.  Taste, add additional salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours (overnight is better).  Drain the excess liquid prior to serving.
  3. Put the Beer and the ground beef in an unheated medium saucepan.  Use your fingers to gently rub the beef until it makes a slurry with the liquid.  You do not want any chunks or lumps of beef.... NOTE - I used a slow cooker, crock pot.
  4. Stir in the garlic, salt an cracker crumbs and place the pan over medium high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pan,
  5. Reduce temp to medium low. stirring frequently until the liquid has largely evaporated (about 5 minutes) but the mixture is still moist.  The mixture should be a finely grained aggregate that holds it's shape on the spoon.
  6. Stir in the tomato paste.  Remove from heat and add the seasonings.  Cover and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.... NOTE - in my slow cooker, I added the meat and beer, crushed into a slurry.  Added the garlic and salt.  Turned the cooker to high.  Left uncovered for 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.  The liquid was simmering and eventually evaporated.  Then I added the paste and spices, covered, reduced to warm and was ready to serve at my convenience.
  7. Cook your Hot Dogs as you like (Boil, Broil, Grill), serve with buns, mustard, Slaw and meat and of course...

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