Saturday, November 29, 2008

Charcuterie: I Made Hot Dogs!

Right, it's been a while and it's time for posts. I've been using my wife's camera to take photos of various things and it turns out that actually getting them off the camera is a bit of a challenge. But first up: I made Hot Dogs!

I used the recipe from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie. These are All-Beef Chicago-Style, with no mechanically separated meat, raccoon parts, or old boots used at all. It took me three days and about 8 hours of work to make 12 hot dogs. Was it worth it? Oh yes.

The recipe is as follows:

1 lb. Boneless Lean Beef (I used chuck)
1 lb. Beef Suet

3/4 oz kosher salt
1/2 tsp Pink Salt
10 oz. Crushed Ice

2T Corn Syrup
1 tsp dextrose
1 tsp minced garlic
1 T dry mustard
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 tsp white pepper

5 feet or so of hog casings (or use 10 feet or so of sheep for skinny dogs)

Step One was to make suet, on account of I don't have any idea where to buy it around here. I asked the butcher at Norman Brothers if I could get some "beef fat trimmings" and he looked at me like I'd grown a second head. "I'm making hot dogs and I need fat." "So you want some sirloin?" "Um, no, I just need beef fat." Which brings me to an issue I've been having. Seriously, it is irritating how the state of the butcher's art has declined. Most supermarkets are near useless, and even Whole Foods has turned out to be generally unhelpful. Fortunately there's a few good specialty and Cuban places around here that can hook me up. Anyway, it was finally communicated that I was making hot dogs from scratch, which fascinated the butcher at the counter, and resulted in a wonderful cry to the back of "Hey, get the fat bucket!" Now we're talking. So I got about 6lbs of beef fat scraps for $6 and went home to render.

I brought out the big cleaver and went to town on the scraps. In retrospect I might have bothered to run it through the grinder, the yield would probably have been higher.

So all the bits went into a pot with about a half cup of water. Then it went on low until it was simmering a bit. When it had done that for a half hour or so I popped it in a 200 degree oven and left it for about 4 hours.

When I was done I ended up with a good pound and a quarter of pure delicious beef suet, and maybe a half-pound of rendered beefy jelly. (The jelly went into a beef stew and was delicious. The process also left crusty little bits of beef that had essentially confited in the fat. They went into some carnitas tacos and were also delicious.)

Here it is on the left after it cooled. The next day it was time to make hot dogs. Hot Dogs are an emulsified sausage, with bits of meat suspended in a paste of fatty goodness. Heat is your enemy on this one. So the chuck and suet were diced and put into the freezer until crunchy but not frozen solid. Then they were ground through the large die onto a baking sheet and put into the freezer again. Then, it was mixed with the salt, pink salt, and ice through the small die and into my Kitchenaide bowl set in ice. Added the corn syrup, dextrose and spices and whipped it on high for about 6 minutes with the paddle attachment.

Mmmm looks delicious no?

Did a quenelle test like the recipe said and discovered that I am terrible at doing the quenelle test. Soldiered on and loaded the mess into my sausage stuffer and made links of varrying regularity...

Now, normally these would be left to dry out a bit for a day and then smoked. But the weekend was over and I just didn't have the patience or time to fire up the smoker. So the next day my darling wife poached these at 160-180 F till cooked and ready to eat (140 F internal).

I figured that by grilling them I'd get enough smoky goodness to make up for it, and I was more or less correct. The final verdict? They were possibly the most amazing hot dogs I've ever had. Like the best dog you ever had at your first baseball game with your father when you were six kind of awesome. You can see the finished product below next to some very bland looking leftover coleslaw and potato salad.

My only advice: cook them properly. On the grill, George Forman, or whatever is ok, just make sure to take an internal temp reading and hit 150. If it's colder then water inside sortof comes out in a lukewarm rush. Not good eats. But if it's hot enough it comes out in a toasty warm flood of deliciousness.

Will I make them again? Maybe. I think I could streamline the process a bit. Still a lot of work though. But worth it.


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