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Quasi-Cincinnati Coneys

Sunday, 18 September, 2011

If you are more than a few hundred miles away from the Queen City, you cannot get proper Cincinnati Chili, aside from parts of Florida or if you want to spend a fortune on shipping, or if you actually know the secrets of its preparation. Nonetheless, a very reasonable approximation can be created from items available at the typical North American grocery.

Honestly, the only thing really missing is the chili itself. If you so much as reach for that can of “chilidog sauce” I will stab you with this fork. It is easy to go overboard on “quality”,  but premium ingredients just won’t get you where you need to go. If you are looking for a healthful meal for your family, this is the wrong place.

To prepare eight sandwiches which are pretty much proper Coneys:

  • Start with a package of eight wieners, ideally of a store brand or common discount brand. If in doubt get the second cheapest wieners available at your store. If you cannot find wieners, frankfurters or even hot dogs may be substituted.
  • Be sure to get the package of eight cheap, white “hot dog buns”. Store brand or your local white-bread brand is appropriate. This is where it is very easy to go wrong. Nicer buns or, god forbid, some kind of roll are inauthentic and may convey unwanted texture and flavor.
  • A small onion or proportion of a larger onion chopped into pinky-nail sized pieces. Not julienne, not minced, but chopped. White, yellow or red onion is acceptable. There are no green onions; you are thinking of scallions. I like the red, but yellow transports me back to those days I don’t actually remember from my youth.
  • One and only one condiment shall be tolerated on coneys: brown mustard. You are expected to use whatever brown mustard you have inventoried. The authentic article is Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard. You don’t need much.
  • Two cups of mild cheddar cheese, shredded. Yes, mild. Not sharp. Not Mexican-blend cheese. Not colby jack cheese. Mild cheddar.
  • This is the hard part, for me. Just get a 14-16 oz can of a national or regional brand chili. It must not have beans. It shall not be chilidog sauce. Hormel and Wolf Brand brand have been used with excellent results. If you knew where to get proper Cincinnati chili you wouldn’t be reading this. Do not get the hot or spicy varieties.

Just know that this is not so much a recipe as it is assembly instructions. It scales beautifully.

In a tiny pot warm the chili over a low flame, covered. Or you could just nuke it to serving temperature.

Fill a covered pot half way with not more than 2 qt of water. Less is always better. Heat to a rolling boil. Slice open the pack of sausages and dump them into the water with all of the fluid or brine or whatever that stuff is. Cover and lower heat to simmer for twelve-to-fifteen minutes. You want the sausages to plump, but not split.

While all of that happens, chop your onion.

Then prep your buns by opening and adding a pencil-lead thick strip of mustard. You may schmear a similar quantity if you do not have squeeze-bottle mustard.

If you have purchased shredded cheese, open the packet and pull the shreds apart until the cheese is at least double its packed volume. Cheese should be very loose, which makes for a dramatic presentation. Let the cheese achieve something close to room temperature.

To each prepped bun add in this order: a wiener, three tablespoons of chili, enough onion that you get six-to-ten bits in each bite, and cover with cheese. Traditionally, the cheese should be at least two-inches high, but very, very loose. The key to this is to have a little bit too much of everything.

The heat of the ingredients will “steam” the bun and warm the cheese to a desirable temperature. Your coneys should sit for several minutes before serving.

Serve with beer, boxed red wine or milkshakes, or you know whatever.

Recommended sides include creamy cole slaw, seasoned or not fries, baked beans, mustard potato salad, onion rings, or more coneys.

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