Monday, June 18, 2012
Let me begin this post by stating that I don't frequently make carnival food at the Commissary (Mrs. Hackknife: "We're having what for dinner?"). I do have fond childhood memories of my mom occasionally preparing homemade corn dogs for my sister and me (once in a great while, she'd get wacky-weird and use bacon-cheddar dogs instead of the generic Oscar Meyer ones - let me tell you, that's living large, my friends). My recollection is that they were surprisingly good (or maybe that's just the way they seem through the 1980s filter in my mind), maybe not as great as the ones out of the greasepit fryers at Kiddieland, but perfectly fine. Outside of a summer festival here and there, I hadn't given corn dogs much thought in the past 20 years until my latest Saveur issue arrived with a feature article on the Minnesota State Fair, including a corn dog recipe that looked fairly easy to me (ed. note - if you do go to this link, try to ignore the blatant, um, suggestiveness of the mustard-slathered corn dogs in the article photo). Not able to conjure enough reasons against making them for dinner (indeed, there were several pluses, not the least of which, was, hey kids, carnival food!), I gathered my ingredients and set off to transform the Commissary into a Midway.
I did encounter a few challenges. The wood skewers I had on hand were too long to fit into my impromptu deep fryer (9-qt. Dutch oven), so I had to chop them down an inch or so using a wire cutter (as it turns out, I should have shortened them even more). The recipe advises a 2" depth of oil in the pot; however, I discovered that when you only have a quart container of canola oil and a slightly larger pot than recommended, the oil only gets to be about an inch deep. This becomes a problem when the top of your corn dogs poke above the oil and don't brown as well as the bottom sides (and yes, I tried turning them with tongs, but because of some sort of nebulous sausage-density issue, they kept flipping back over). In general, I suspect that my batter may have been a bit too runny as I had considerable difficulty getting it to spread smoothly over the hot dogs, yielding bare patches of meat interspersed with warty-looking blobs. Even so, the final product didn't look too awful (judge for yourself in the photo above) and the taste was just fine, although neither mom nor the carny cooks have anything to fear from this hack. As much as I hoped the progeny would latch onto these creations at the dinner table, both Hackknife Jr. and Hackknifette stopped after little more than a desultory nibble or two, sealing the fate of this recipe once and for all back to the dustbin....