Monday, July 2, 2012

Texas Hots

Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
Girls do just want to have fun!  No matter their age!  This includes grandmothers - and their grown granddaughters - who are now mothers as well.  Today's recipe is forever locked to a memory I have of my grandmother and I.  My maternal grandmother was a big part of my life as she always lived close.  She was fundamental in shaping who I am today.  But this particular memory, linked to Texas Hots, took place in my adulthood while I was back in Pennsylvania for a quick visit.  The goal of the trip was to find out more about my ancestry.  The outcome, however, was finding out more about the living - and learning that you're never too old to have fun.  You're never too old to want to have fun.

Texas Hots!  Many of you may be asking yourself "What are Texas Hots?"  Oh!  What sadness that there are so many who do ask - who don't know!  

Let me explain - Texas Hots, as I know them, are hot dogs served with mustard, a meat sauce, and chopped onions.  I refrain from calling it a chili sauce as there are no tomatoes.  These dogs defy all reason in their deliciousness!  The meat for the sauce is boiled until soft and the spices have all melded together.  The variety I know come from the western N.Y. area and have infiltrated to other regions thereabout - making their way down to my hometown of Warren, PA.  I remember when we had to travel to A.J.'s in Jamestown, NY, though, to get them.  It was a 30 minute drive and well worth it!  

When I was 18, I moved to Utah where, not only did they not know about Texas Hots, but they thought that hot dogs, in general, were inferior.  Hamburgers reigned supreme!  I was often mocked with a "tsk tsk" for my preference of the hot dog over the burger.  I was dumbfounded.  They did not understand and no amount of gesticulating or campaigning could get them to realize the error of their judgment.

So whenever I went home to PA to visit, I always made sure I got some Texas Hots.

Several years ago I went home specifically to visit with my grandmother and have her answer some genealogy questions.  Part of the visit would involve traipsing around some cemeteries to gather data from headstones.  She wasn't getting around well at the time so I knew she'd have to stay in the car and guide my footsteps from there.  We were both looking forward to the adventure!

On the day of the outing we talked about making a "picnic" out of it.  I told her that I hadn't had my Texas Hots "fix" yet so she called ahead to a restaurant where she knew they made really good ones.  They would have them all packaged up for us and ready around lunch time!  Perfect!

To set the stage, I must first tell you about my grandmother's voice.  It was easy for people to think she was angry.  She had a way of talking so matter-of-factly that it could be taken as being a bit disgruntled or crabby.  Thankfully, I realized this early in my life so I was able to take her instructions and pointers in the manner intended - not necessarily in the manner in which they sounded.  With that being said, I may continue the story.

On the day of the "cemetery picnic," she directed me to each of the graveyards on the list.  She'd give me a verbal map to follow to find the specific marker I was looking for and I'd set out to find it.  As I walked, she would yell at me from the car window - "Go left!"  "Not THAT far!"  "Now, TURN around!"  "You're almost standing on TOP of it!"  "Just open your eyes and LOOK!"  I hope you added that matter-of-fact and slightly impatient and disgruntled tone to those directions.  If not, go back and read them again!  Some people might have gotten angry.  I just kept thinking how comical it must look to onlookers and got a fit of the giggles.  As she ordered me around the cemetery, I'd turn and smile and she'd smile back - bossing me all over the place.  It was a happy day.

At lunchtime, we made our way to get those Texas Hots.  Just as promised, they were all wrapped up and sent with plenty of napkins - a very good sign.  We grabbed some sodas and I headed out to a country road where the next cemetery waited.  We pulled off to the side and opened up our Hots.  With a heady breeze drifting in through the windows, we both dove in and soon we had the sauce dripping from our chins, talking with our mouths full, like it had been well more than just a few hours since our last meal!  I swooned a little.  Grandma smiled.  

When I finally came up for some air and looked over at Grandma, she smiled straight at me and said, softly, "This has been a really fun time.  Thank you."  FREEZE FRAME!  I will never forget the look on her face and the tone of her voice.  Oh, how I love that woman!  I replied, "Well, Grandma, I know how to show a girl a real good time.  All it takes is some Texas Hots and some graveyards!"  We both laughed until we just about choked.  

Although I had eaten Texas Hots my whole youth growing up, that is the memory that will always stick with me.  

I searched the internet for recipes for those Texas Hots and came up with just a few - none of them exactly what I imagined would be right.  Some suggested using beef stock in place of the water but I found that approach to muddy the flavors of the spices.  I decided to marry the methodology of one recipe with some ingredients of some others - the end result being a very close rendition to what I remember.  It's been a few years, folks, so I reserve the right to make some adjustments later.  But, for now, I stand by this!  It's very good!

Texas Hots
makes enough for about 10 hot dogs
Printable Recipe Card
1 lb. ground beef
1 T. butter
3 c. water
1/2 T. paprika
1/2 T. cinnamon
1/2 T. sugar
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. turmeric
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. oregano
1 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. water

Place all ingredients except the cornstarch and 1 T. water in a large saucepan and stir to distribute well.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, uncovered.  You are reducing it until it becomes thick.  While there's still some liquid left, make a slurry out of the cornstarch and water and stir in to the sauce.  It will thicken it up the rest of the way.  Be sure to season well with salt and pepper.

To create a proper Texas Hot Dog, place your dog in a bun (I prefer my hot dog boiled) and give a squirt of mustard down the center.
Ladle some of the sauce over top of the mustard.  Pull the sides of the bun out a little to let the sauce run down the sides and into the bun.  Add more sauce, if you're so inclined.  Sprinkle with some minced fresh onions.  Keep an eye on your dog - because this will happen if you turn your back -
Which is ok if it's YOUR bite!


  1. My friend Ann Higgins likes this!

    1. Thank you, Ann Higgins - and friend!

    2. I'm from Jamestown and live in Minnesota. I tell everyone about Johnny's and AJ's! Nothing compares! Really miss Lena's pizza too!

  2. Tears running down my face as I remember Gramma. Some people just didn't get her.... How I miss her! Awesome recipe; looks right, gonna try it out this weekend. Thanks for this blog- it gives me moments to think of all the "wonderful things".

    1. This is sounding like a cousin who appreciated our Grandma as much as I! Thanks for stopping by and reading! I'll be serving these up tomorrow for the 4th - and wishing I was back in Warren for the parade and fireworks!

  3. I also appreciate Gramma every time I make a meal and sprinkle the meat with her special seasoning. She also taught me to dip rhubarb in sugar. Oh the memories

    1. Are you talking about the seasoning that's so good we used to line up to suck the juices from the strings that trussed the chickens onto the rotisserie? Heaven!

    2. That would be the one. My mom makes it when she comes to RI. We still fight over the strings. Tammy

    3. People think I'm crazy when I tell them about that! Sucking strings? They have no idea!

  4. I came across your recipe brings back memories i am from Iowa but all of my fathers family is from Elmira and Corning NY Texas Hots is a must have every time we visit!
    Thanks for posting the recipe!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Peggy! It makes me happy to be able to share "memories' with people. Food memories are some of the best! Next time you're back in New York, have a Texas Hot for me!

  5. i was raised in Western New York and there was a "TEXAS HOTS" Diner in Wellsville, N.Y., about 7 miles from my home town of Belmont. People would drive from Olean, N.Y. (about 40 miles) to get them....The "TEXAS HOTS" Diner was opened in 1921 and is still going strong today! God, I miss them...thanks for the recipe..

  6. What a great post! My family has frequented the Texas Hot in Wellsville, NY for three generations. When I get back home, it's a special treat for us, too, to have a girls' day with my mom and grandma sharing Texas hots. Your story made me smile--that generation had it so hard; they had to be tough to survive all that they did. Thanks for sharing your memories as it resounds with me and many others I'm sure. Thanks, too, for the recipe!

  7. Thank you for this recipe, I also grew up in WNY along with some of your readers and love the Texas Brand Sauce, but I'm inclined to make my own with all organic ingredients. And your recipe will be great!