I love it when I step out the door in the morning and smell summer for the first time. The promise of warm, sunny weather and days becoming longer is carried on the light breeze. Summertime brings back many wonderful memories for me. Spending days swimming with my friends at the neighborhood pool, chasing butterflies, making mud pies, building sand castles at the beach, and of course going to the county fair.
Many of you think that all I do is eat gourmet food all year long, but I am just like everyone else and have my favorite junk foods too. The one thing I must have each summer is a corn dog at the county fair. There is something about wandering around the fairgrounds in the wilting heat of summer, hunting for my favorite corn dog vendor, and then finally finding them! The Artist has his favorites too, but mine never varies. A corn dog smothered with yellow mustard takes me right back to my childhood and always puts a huge smile on my face.
I know that most of us either wait all year to get a corn dog at the fair or buy the frozen variety sold at the grocery store. But I urge you to try making them yourselves. You will be amazed at how simple they are to make. I don’t know why, but a crisply fried cornmeal batter changes an ordinary hot dog into something that makes my knees weak.
Today’s recipes come from one of the most successful cookbook writing teams, Cheryl and Bill Jamison. With over a dozen cookbooks and four James Beard awards, they focus on American regional cuisines, home cooking and outdoor grilling. They make their home just outside of Santa Fe and travel the world sampling local cuisines. Whether it is a comparison of Kansas City and Texas barbecue styles or what to make with crabs from the Chesapeake Bay, they have honed their skills and share a wide variety of recipes and many invaluable tips with us in their books.
Their first cookbook, The Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook is one of my most treasured books. The Artist and I discovered this delightful restaurant when we were touring the area around Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. We sat down to eat lunch on their terraced patio, enjoying the cooling breeze and bright blue skies. That meal turned out to be our favorite of the entire trip. Imagine my delight when I discovered that two of my favorite food writers had written the recipes from this amazing restaurant!
The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining is a wonderful cookbook that literally has something for everyone. It contains over 850 recipes that cover nearly every type of food and drink you would want to serve to your family and friends at a summer barbecue. In addition to the expected grilled items, they also include plenty of starters, sides, beverages and desserts to complete your menu. If you know someone who is just learning to cook on a grill or wants to improve their skills, this is the book for them.
When it comes to choosing which kind of hot dog to use for your corn dogs, go with your personal favorites. An all-beef dog is the most traditional and will give you the flavor you expect. But these days there are very good chicken and turkey dogs that you can use or even pork sausages if you prefer them.
The cornmeal you use can make a huge difference in the flavor and texture of the finished corn dog. The recipe recommends a coarse grind which I also like. My favorite brand is Bob’s Red Mill. Made in small batches with organic products, Bob’s consistently produces very high quality grains and flours. Most grocery chains are carrying their products these days, but you can also order them online.
So get in the kitchen and create some new family traditions this summer!
- 8 all-beef, chicken, or turkey hot dogs
- 8 sturdy wooden or bamboo skewers, about 8 to 10 inches long
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 to 3 tsp Southwest Sizzler Spice Blend (recipe below), optional
- 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
- Organic vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Condiments such as mustard, ketchup, or chili sauce, optional
- Place 3 tbsp of the flour on a large plate or in a shallow dish large enough for the skewered hot dogs.
- In another shallow dish large enough to hold the dogs, or in a deep bowl, combine the remaining flour, cornmeal, and salt, and Spice Blend if using. Mix in the milk, oil, and egg. Stir together thoroughly.
- Warm at least 3 inches of oil to 375°F in a large heavy pot. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the heat.
- Roll a skewered hot dog in the plain flour on the plate, and then dunk in the batter, coating it lightly but completely. An offset spatula, table knife, or spoon may be helpful in coating the dogs. Wipe off any batter that extends down the skewer and then gently lower the dog into the hot oil.
- Repeat with the remaining dogs, in batches if necessary, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Drain on a rack for about 1 minute. Serve immediately with the garnishes that you like.
- Yield: 8 Corn Dogs
- 1/2 cup ground dried mild to medium New Mexican red chile powder
- 1/4 cup ground dried chipotle chile powder
- 1/4 cup ground ancho chile powder
- 3 tbsp ground cumin
- 3 tbsp coarse salt, either kosher or sea salt
- Stir the spices together in a medium bowl. Store covered in a cool, dark pantry for up to a few months.
- Use this as a rub for steaks, burgers, trout, shrimp, or pork chops. You can also use it to spice up other dishes.
- Yield: about 1-1/2 cups