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Attempting a taste of summer in the winter

By JIM BUSEK • Dec 11, 2018 at 10:00 AM

In general, I have pretty healthy habits.

I get more exercise than most people my age.

I get plenty of sleep.

I don’t smoke and never use alcohol to excess.

And I try to make and consume healthy meals.

These are not perfect healthy meals by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes, I eat some salmon and brown rice and broccoli and other healthy meals each week.

But I also eat red meat and fried food and potato chips and drink diet soda.

That’s why you should not be surprised by what I am about to tell you.

I enjoy an occasional hot dog.

I know, I know. No nutritional value. High sodium. High fat. Mystery contents. Nothing good about a hot dog.

So sue me — I like to have one now and then.

In particular, I like the coney island hot dogs at Vargo’s.

Not chili dogs — coneys. Hot dogs topped with coney sauce, mustard and chopped onions.

In season, Char and I drive through about once a week and get one for each of us. It is a guilty dining pleasure of the first order. Virtually every visit one or the other of us will exclaim about how good our nutritionally vacant little sandwich is.

And you can’t get a good coney just anywhere. I know. I’ve looked. The fact that we have such a good one right here in Norwalk is a wiener blessing from the gods.

Of course, I am sure by now you have considered the qualifier for all this weenie wonder: Vargo’s is closed now and for the next four months.

That’s why I have started experimenting with my own coney sauce.

There are lots of recipes online. And different parts of the country have developed variations on the original Coney Island sauce.

I only wish the guy at Vargo’s had published his.

Oh, don’t think I haven’t asked at our weekly visit to the drive-thru, but nobody at Vargo’s is about to spill the beans — which, by the way, is not an ingredient in any true coney sauce—for how to make the delightful topping.

So I’ve been experimenting.

I started with a recipe called Grampa’s Classic Coney Sauce Recipe. It had good reviews. And the guy at Vargo’s looks like he could be somebody’s grampa. So I tried it.

I was leery when I saw how much ketchup was in it (the Vargo’s sauce is not really red). And the bit of sugar called for made the topping entirely too sweet. If I wanted sweet I wouldn’t have loaded my coney with mustard and onions. Sorry Grampa.

So I went another route and chose a spicy recipe that had chopped garlic, cumin and chili powder — but no ketchup or sugar — in it. Char and I agreed that it was heavy on the chili powder; we were trying for a coney, not a chili dog. In other words, not really right.

But getting closer.

Give me another month or so and I believe I’ll have it.

Or maybe you already do. If so, email the recipe to me and forget about whatever other Christmas present you had in mind for me this year.


Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.

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