According to Wikipedia, Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. The word nostalgia is a learned formation of a Greek compound meaning “homecoming” joined with a Homeric word meaning “pain, ache”. Most of us have experienced the yearning for loved ones and the things in our past that make for fond memories. Since my family excelled at “spreading the love, one delicious dish after another,” many of my most cherished memories involve food. As the first frost comes and destroys our summer gardening efforts and the chilly air requires a coat, a bit of melancholy sets in and my thoughts drift to times long past.
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, hid the sweet memory of “Texas Drive-In,” my first experience at a drive-in restaurant as well as my first taste of what was billed as authentic Texas-style chili dog. It might be safe to say that there isn’t a person who lives in or near Tyrone, PA, who hasn’t consumed at least one of this local iconic taste treat. If you are a Texan, you may debate its authenticity but authentic or not, where I grew up, it was always a much sought after treat. The original building no longer stands and the business has changed hands, but my hometown friends and family assure me it still remains a reason to go home.
Recently, while reminiscing, I put a shout out on Face Book asking if anyone knew what was in their “secret chili sauce.” My dear friend, Rick, responded with what he knew to be the original and I went about making my own version. I tweaked the recipe and cooking method a bit, but I was really pleased with the outcome.
Here is how it goes down.
JEANNE’S “TEXAS DRIVE-IN” CHILI SAUCE for DOGS
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
2T extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, roughly chopped (or 1 large)
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 good quality natural casing wieners, grilled and ground in food processor
1 lb. grass-fed ground beef (raw)
2t medium-hot chili powder
1 6oz. can tomato paste
1 ½ 6 oz. can (above) water (total 9 oz.)
1t red pepper flakes
1t sea salt
- Place the olive oil in a food processor. Add the onion and garlic and chop fine. Remove and place in a slow cooker.
- Roughly cut the grilled wieners and chop until fine. Place those in the slow cooker along with the onions and garlic.
- Crumble the raw ground beef into the above mixture. Add remaining ingredients and stir well until incorporated
- Cook for 4 hrs. on high, stirring occasionally.
Note: Can be served immediately as a condiment for a grilled hot dog or frozen in small batches to be saved for future use.
The version Rick sent me was cooked for 2 hrs. in a double boiler while being stirred frequently. This sounding a bit fussy, I decided to substitute the slow cooker. Good call too, as it cooked beautifully with minimal fuss. I simmered mine for 4 hours on high but you could cook it a lot longer on low if you wish. The addition of ground wieners seemed really odd but I added it to honor the original and they added a lot of flavor.
My husband loved this chili, as evidenced by the quantity he consumed. In addition to the dog topping it is meant to be, he was also using it to make “Sloppy Joe” style sandwiches. I think he was feeling the love.
Admittedly, I eat very few hot dogs these days, but this trip down memory lane was delicious and quite satisfying, transporting me back to the times when we would stop and stand at the window experiencing the thrilling anticipation of that first bite. I always ate mine with yellow mustard. onions and of course, the chili.
I hope you have sweet food memories that serve to plant a big smile on your face and in your heart. Sharing those memories is an important way to keep spreading the love, one heartfelt dish at a time. To all my friends and family living in or near Tyrone PA, I send my love and recipe to you. Thanks, Rick for sharing and helping to keep the memory alive. Until next time, may you walk in peace. Jeanne