Friday, June 2, 2017

Hot Dog/Hamburger/French Fry Chili Sauce

Homemade Lower Sodium Chili Dogs
You know what I’m talking about! That tasty sauce used on chili dogs et al. Not a lot of meat but with plenty of super thick gravy. It’s not the kind of chili you serve up in a bowl and eat by itself. It’s made to be a topping – for hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, or nachos. Maybe even mixed with pasta for chili mac. Or how about spooned on top of a bed of polenta for a tamale inspired meal? Or taco-style salads? There’s always chili gravy on cornbread, spooned over a baked potato, or as an omelet filling. The possibilities are endless.

This sort of chili sauce is usually associated with fast food joints. And, if you’re on a low sodium diet, the sauce can be prohibitively salty. But there’s no reason why a low sodium version can’t be made at home. And then you can enjoy your own homemade fast-food type treats.

True confession time. I have always loved chili dogs and chili burgers. In fact, they run in my family. My uncle, Tom Koulax, started a famous Los Angeles area chain of restaurants that specializes in chili burgers and chili dogs. I grew up eating Original Tommy’s very tasty and very messy delights.

Nachos with Low Sodium Chili Sauce
 So, when it came to making a homemade version of chili sauce gravy, I looked for a clone of the Original Tommy’s recipe. I found a pretty good one from Todd Wilbur, the “Top Secret Recipes” guy.

The spices were fine, but I didn’t care for using full fat hamburger and incorporating the fat with 1½ cups of flour. I’m sure the end result is probably more like the real thing, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I tried lessening the fat content and flour amount by using Ultra Gel for part of the thickener. That worked fine, as did using all Ultra Gel when making it for gluten sensitive family members. But I wasn’t completely satisfied.

Thick & Tasty!
Then I remembered my mother telling me that her dad, my grandfather, used to thicken homemade chili and beans with crushed up crackers. I thought maybe that’d work with the chili sauce. But instead of crushing whole crackers, I decided to try matzo meal (finely crushed matzo crackers). I can get Manischewitz Matzo Meal at all my local grocery stores, and it’s got zero sodium. I used 1 tablespoon matzo meal for each cup of liquid, and iIt was perfect! I could cook the hamburger meat in the flavored liquid as long as necessary, until it was soft and tender. The matzo meal dissolved into the liquid, and with additional simmering, created a thick, spoonable sauce. I was done tinkering. Hello chili dogs, chili fries, and chili burgers!

(For a list of lower sodium hot dogs, click HERE.)

Hot Dog/Hamburger/French Fry Chili Sauce
Adapted from Todd Wilbur

1 lb lean ground beef
2-3 C NSA beef broth, water, or combination of both*
3 T NSA chili powder (I use Penzeys, the Spice House, or Gebhardt)
1-2 T white vinegar
2 tsp dried minced onion
1 tsp  sugar
1 tsp  paprika
½ tsp  garlic powder
2 tsp  ground cumin
2-3 T NSA matzo meal (1 T per cup of liquid)*
Brown meat in large heavy dutch oven. Crumble meat into very small bits. Do not leave any big chunks.

Add broth/water and seasonings; stir well. Simmer at least 30 minutes or more to tenderize and soften meat.
Add matzo meal and stir well. Simmer on low heat for at least 20 minutes until matzo meal has dissolved into sauce. Stir frequently. Add broth/water as needed to make a thick gravy. (Remember, hot dog/hamburger/french fry chili sauce is not supposed to be meaty.)

*Note: The more liquid you use, the closer you’ll get to the kind of chili sauce served at fast food joints. Their chili sauce gravy is never meaty or chunky.

Optional: If desired, after cooking, whizz mixture a bit with a stick blender for a smoother consistency.
For more of a Coney style sauce:
Use the larger amount of vinegar (2 T)
Add 2 T low sodium yellow mustard
Use 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce or 1 C NSA ketchup for part of liquid
Add ½ - 1 tsp celery seed

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