It all began over lunch in the communications suite. One of my co-workers mentioned something about her father digging on West Virginia Hot Dogs.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘It’s just a hot dog with chili and slaw,’ she replied.
My interest, already piqued at the mere mention of a new (to me) style of hot dog, prompted an involuntary battery of questions to my friend. I’ve driven through the Mountain State more than once. I’ve stopped and eaten there. Heck, I’ve even played as the Marshall Thundering Herd on my children’s Play Station. Yet the West Virginia Hot Dog has managed to elude me.
As it turns out, West Virginians are as serious about their hot dogs as Texans are about their barbecue. If you don’t believe me, just head over to this website, whose author/owner was kind enough to have a virtual sit-down with me to satisfy my culinary curiosities.
The first thing to know about a legit West Virginia Hot Dog is that the wiener itself is almost insignificant, according to Stanton, the Head Weenie Wonk at The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog.
‘The secret to a WVHD is that we take really inexpensive parts and combine them in such a way that the whole is infinitely better than the sum of its parts. Other regions seem to stress the quality of the wiener above all else,’ Stanton told me.
Now, I’m not so sure that I agree with West Virginia’s stance. Shouldn’t the hot dog be of some reasonable quality? What if I used the same philosophy with steak or ice cream — if the topping is good, who cares about the main ingredient? — Still, Stanton told me I wasn’t breaking any rules by going with my standard beef hot dog. (Whew!)
While plain ol’ yellow mustard and steamed (standard) hot dog buns are the norm in a West Virginia Hot Dog, the slaw and chili are held to stricter standards.
‘The slaw needs to finely grated so there is no chewing necessary to break down the cabbage. Using the finer portion of a standard box grater is about right.’
The correct chili just depends on where you are in the Mountain State. While some places serve up a meaty concoction similar in consistency to Coney Island Dry Sauce, others drench their dogs with a true sauce (no meat). Some serve it spicy. Others serve it mild. The one thing they all seem to have in common is that the recipes are quite close to Tex-Mex chili gravy — with plenty of cumin, chile powder and garlic.
Onions are optional, but there is only one option for the order in which this dog is built:
- Hot dog
‘Sometimes the mustard goes on top of the chili,’ Stanton said. ‘No penalty. There are some rogue areas of the state that put the slaw under the chili. We do not condone this boorish behavior.’
As it goes, my co-worker’s father was kind enough to sample my West Virginia Hot Dog attempt. I believed he liked it, but my chili is a little meatier than what he’s accustomed to, and not as spicy as he prefers. I think my slaw might also not have been sufficiently chopped in the West Virginia style. — Easily remedied … Or not, depending on your preference.
If you’re a Yelper, let’s be friends. Meanwhile, want to receive notifications of my Confessions, Chronicles and recipes in your email? Just click here. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. Why not witness some of my Instagram antics too? — Many thanks to Stanton at The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog for setting the record straight on the Mountain State’s favorite hot dog.
West Virginia Hot Dogs
- 8 - Hot dogs
- 8 - Hot dog rolls
- Chopped onion, if desired
- 1 lb – Lean ground beef
- 1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce
- 3 cups – Beef stock
- ¼ cup – Chopped onion
- 2 TB – Chile powder (preferably ancho)
- 1 TB – Cumin
- 2 tsp – Black pepper
- 1 tsp – Cayenne pepper (or 1-2 tsp more, for spicier chili)
- 3 cups – Finely shredded cabbage
- ⅛ cup – Finely diced carrot
- 1 cup – Mayonnaise (not the diet stuff)
- 1 TB – White vinegar
- 2 tsp – Granulated sugar
- 1 tsp – Celery salt
- Whisk vinegar, sugar and celery salt with mayonnaise; combine with cabbage and carrots.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Place all ingredients in a large pot or Dutch oven.
- Bring to a slight boil, while chopping meat into fine consistency with a wooden spoon.
- Cover, tilting the lid slightly; reduce heat to low/simmer.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until most liquid has evaporated and chili has a 'dry' appearance, about 3 hours.
- Place all ingredients in slow cooker, chopping meat into fine consistency with a wooden spoon.
- Cook on 'high' setting for 4 hours, tilting the lid slightly during the last hour of cooking to help liquid evaporate.
- Boil, grill or fry hot dogs.
- Steam the buns (If you have a steamer, use it. Otherwise, just slightly dampen a paper towel, cover 2 buns at a time, then microwave for about 10-15 seconds.)
- Top hot dogs with mustard, then chili, and top with slaw and chopped onions, if desired.