Have a fair at home with corn dogs
August 12, 2008
What would a day at the fair be without chowing down a corn dog?
A little healthier, for sure. But a whole lot less fun.
Like fried dough and cotton candy, corn dogs go hand-in-hand with summer fairs and festivals. You look forward to eating them when walking the parade grounds or seaside boardwalks, but never at home.
A corn dog is just a hot dog on a stick wrapped in cornbread. How hard could it be? Turns out, not very.
While my main inspiration for making my own corn dogs was adding a little whimsy to an end-of-summer cookout, it also was an opportunity to try to create a great-tasting version that was somewhat less artery-clogging.
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Choosing the right hot dog is a big part of achieving both goals.
Thinner dogs are better when it comes to corn dogs. Hebrew National Reduced Fat Beef Franks were best. They are about half as thick as a ballpark wiener, which made for a better dog-to-breading ratio.
And once the dog is breaded, you can’t tell it has 4 grams less fat than the company’s traditional beef hot dog.
The trouble with many corn dogs is breading that is dense and greasy. There are at least two reasons for that.
First, at fairs, most corn dogs are made long before they are sold, giving the breading plenty of time to absorb too much of the oil it was fried in. And the other, more important, reason is that the batter probably was overmixed.
It is best to mix the batter only until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined. You’re not kneading bread dough here. The more you mix, the denser the final product will be.
For the liquid, buttermilk produced a rich, flavorful batter and mixed well with the cornmeal. But if you would rather, whole milk also could be used.
Of course, a corn dog isn’t a corn dog if it isn’t on a stick. Short wooden skewers (about 7 to 8 inches long) work best. They provide a handle to hold the dog while eating it, but they aren’t so long as to get in the way during cooking.
Preparation time, start to finish: 1 hour, 10 minutes (20 minutes active). Makes 10 servings.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow corn meal (fine ground)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 quarts vegetable oil (or enough to fill a large skillet to a depth of 1 inch)
10 wooden skewers (7 to 8 inches long)
10 Hebrew National Reduced Fat Beef Franks (or other thin hot dog)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, corn meal, baking soda and powder, salt and cayenne. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy, then add the buttermilk and honey, and whisk until incorporated.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and gently stir with a wooden spoon until just incorporated. Do not overmix. The batter should be very thick and slightly lumpy. Ladle some of the batter into a tall drinking glass, slightly longer than the hot dog.
In a large, deep skillet or a deep fryer, heat about 1 inch of oil to between 350 F and 375 F. Heat the oven to 275 F (the oven is used to keep the finished corn dogs warm while the others cook).
One at a time, skewer each hot dog, inserting the skewer through one tip of the dog and pushing it about halfway up the length of it. Dip the skewered hot dog into the glass of batter, slowly twirling it as you pull it out to ensure an even coating of batter.
Place the skewered hot dog into the oil (the stick can go in the oil). Fry, using tongs to turn the corn dogs occasionally, until all side are a deep golden brown, about 30 to 45 seconds. Two to three hot dogs can be fried at a time.
Transfer the corn dogs to paper towels to drain, then place them on a baking sheet in the oven. Repeat with remaining hot dogs.
– Howie Rumberg can be e-mailed at email@example.com.