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Boy did I screw up!

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A 'Flint-Style' Coney from Rio's Coney Island in Flint, MI A 'Flint-Style' Coney from Rio's Coney Island in Flint, MI

I received more emails on this topic than any other column since my debut in The Maine Edge. Everyone and their mother asked me why I didn't include the Coney dog. Even the eminent Dr. Mazzei of Bangor, for whom I have great admiration, spoke to me like my father would have. With a laugh and a hearty reminder, he bellowed, "Where's the Detroit dog, Jim ?" It was funny because his assistant, "Cutty" - another great friend - told me he tried to get in my room before the doctor to forewarn me but he couldn't make it. Well I heard you, Dr. Mazzei, loud and clear along with everyone else. Can I tell a little about it first though?

Let me explain the difference between the Coney and Detroit dogs to begin with. While Coney Island may be the birthplace of the hot dog, it is not the origination of the Coney dog, which uses a special type of beef and pork hot dog in a natural casing. The 'chili' originally was a mixture of beef hearts, cinnamon, nutmeg, bacon and olives - with no beans.

Why the name Coney? Because in the second decade of the 1900s, two brothers from Coney Island opened two different restaurants next door to each other in Detroit: American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island. It was at these restaurants that the first Coney dog was born. The chili is now a hybrid of the original and more like a chili sauce runny, but oh so good. With chopped onions and two rows of mustard, you have a true chili - err, Coney dog. Please, don't get the two confused; they are worlds apart.

To add fuel to the fire, there are two types of Coney dogs. The dominant dog around Flint, Michigan has a very dry beef-like chili, while those in and near Detroit prefer (as I do) the sauce I am giving you right here:

Sautee 1 diced onion and 2 T. minced garlic in 1 T. of vegetable oil until soft. Add 1 lb. ground beef and continue cooking over medium heat until done, breaking the meat as it cooks. Add 1/2 c. ketchup, 1/3 c. your favorite barbecue sauce (Kansas City Brand BBQ sauce is used in Detroit), 2 t. cumin or more to taste, salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer the entire mixture, well blended, for 5 minutes or until well heated and mixed. Layer two rows of prepared mustard on each side of your hot dog (please use new England style hot dog rolls though), ladle on the chili and chopped onions and you are good to go, my friend.

If you want a true Coney dog, go online and buy some Koegel Hot Dogs. If not, buy some snappers at W.A. Bean or in your local supermarket.

Happy now, Dad - I mean Dr. Mazzei?


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