Monday, January 24, 2011

Hot Dog Gravy? Yes! Hot dog GRAVY!

It came to me in a dream...

I was boiling hot dogs for lunch during the lazy Christmas holidays and found myself staring at the leftover hot dog water - that wonderfully greasy and slightly scummy processed meat runoff juice. It smelled like hot dogs and a quick sip confirmed that it also tasted vaguely like hot dogs. No surprises there, but two ideas hit me like machine-separated-and-processed lightning.

Could you make hot dog stock?

And if you could, could you then make hot dog gravy?

A quick google search confirmed that while people had indeed made ‘hot dog gravy’, as in gravy FOR hot dogs or gravy containing hot dogs, no one that I could find had made a traditional gravy FROM hot dogs.

I knew this was big. Too big to handle alone. A quick email enlisted the help of DrCapn, a friend and food enthusiast of epic talent. The man smokes cheesecake. CHEESECAKE.

He agreed it was worth a try. For science!

We picked an appropriate afternoon and after a quick trip to the grocery store we had the necessary ingredients.

Then, it BEGAN. Or was BEGUN. Whichever sounds more ominous.

We purchased the most generic hot dogs we could find, along with carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves, and parsley.

Mmm.... Wait... What?

Next, much dicing...

Until we had a nice mirepoix.

Bonjour! Je suis francais!
Then the fun began.
About to make it rain... We're so meat.

Leading to...

I was ready to throw everything into the pot and commence the stockery but DrCapn suggested, nay demanded, that we brown the hot dogs first. Y'know, so they'd have a deeper flavor. That's what he said, flavor.

With the dog nuggets browned, it was into the pot along with the mirepoix, the bay leaves, the parsley, and a few peppercorns - then covered with water.

We put it on the stove for a hour and a half of gentle simmering. Then it was off to our time machine, otherwise known as the Xbox. It lets you travel into the future!

Soon we were getting somewhere. Where that was, I wasn't exactly sure - there were no maps for where we were going...

After an hour and half, it was time to strain out the stock, pressing on the hot dogs and vegetables to make sure we had extracted all their precious essence.

We had no idea it would cost me my ladle...

We finished the straining with a substitute ladle, (R.I.P. my stainless prince), leaving us with a bowl of tasteless detritus. 

After tasting the leftovers for no perceptible reason, DrCapn declared it fit only to be made into a pie and sent to our enemies. But I was already hypnotized by our wondrous hot dog stock. Our beautiful creation beamed up at us, glowing liposuction yellow. Huzzah! Success! It tasted like liquid hot dogs - smokey, salty, slightly greasy.

I chilled a cup or so in the freezer to see if much fat would rise to the surface. Surprisingly, not much did.
But we were only halfway... And as everyone knows, halfway to gravy is hardly halfway at all. Giddy with our early triumph, DrCapn decided that while I made the gravy, he would attempt a hot dog demi-glace. It was madness, but that was why he was there... For MADNESS.

I started with the roux. Butter and flour.

Then whisked in the stock. On the other burner, DrCapn began reducing unadulterated hot dog stock.

The demi-glace reduced much faster than the stock.

We ended up with a not-unattractive sauce that was-- OH MY JESUS-FACED SOLID GOLD GOD SO SALTY. The best description for the taste was heavily salted marmite. It wasn't entirely unpleasant and probably would have made a good spread or preserve for seventeenth-century sailors to avoid the dreaded 'meat scurvy'. 

But back to the gravy. We simmered until it thickened.

And then we had it. The texture was right, the mouth-feel, the look even. It was undoubtedly gravy. Hot dog gravy. By this point, the odors of our cooking had attracted several vagrants in from the street - hungry and willing to test our results.

He likes it! He really LIKES it!
It was an unfair test. After all, gravy isn't a meal in itself (not yet anyway... we're working on it). But what food should have the honor of being draped in our creation? Since you often have chicken gravy on chicken and beef gravy on beef, the answer was obvious.

The gravy tasted exactly like what you would expect hot dog gravy to taste like - warm, salty, and deliciously hot doggy. While it was good on hot dogs, I think it might be even better on french fries - or even poutine, if we dare dream again...

And like any good gravy, the leftovers congealed nicely in the fridge afterwards.

So there you go. Genuine hot dog gravy. Many thanks to DrCapn and our small legion of taste-testing volunteers and the beautiful Tanis Rideout for most of the photos. God have mercy on all their digestive tracts.

And thanks to the amazing Serious Eats, my favorite food blog who inspired this experiment with their Dead Simple Turkey Gravy recipe.

For those of you wishing to create this wondrous abomination at home or at work (oh god, please let some chef try this in a restaurant!), here's the recipe. If you do, please make sure to email me your results.

Godspeed and good luck.

Two packets of hot dogs
One large onion
Two or three carrots
A few stalks of celery
3 or 4 bay leaves
A few peppercorns
A few sprigs of parsley

Roughly chop the hot dogs, carrots, onions, and celery. Add to a large stock pot along with the bay leaves, the peppercorns, and parsley. Fill with cold water until everything is just covered. Bring to a boil and immediately lower to a very gentle simmer. Simmer for one and a half hours – stirring every once and a while and checking that it’s still gently simmering.

Remove from heat and push through a fine sieve – crushing the hot dogs and vegetables with a spoon or ladle to extract the juices. Strain again and you’re done.

HOT DOG GRAVY (adapted from Serious EatsSimple Turkey Gravy)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups hot dog stock

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and stir in the flour. Stir and cook until golden brown. Pour in the hot dog stock and whisk quickly to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring every so often until it reaches your desired consistency – about 45 mins.

2 cups hot dog stock

Add hot dog stock to a small saucepan and reduce, stirring often, until thick.