Let’s be frank: it’s the finest fair fare of all.
What do you get when you combine cornmeal, an impaled wienie, and hot oil? No, not a trip to the ER—what’s wrong with you? You get a corny dog! The State Fair of Texas, ground zero for fried-food fanaticism, owes quite a debt to Neil and Carl Fletcher, who changed the fair’s fare forever when they introduced this blessedly simple, eminently portable foodstuff. The “silly little wiener on a silly little stick with a little bit of silly batter around it,” as Neil’s son Skip has fondly referred to his family’s cash cow, has inspired cultish loyalty (get in line as soon as you can); a semantic dispute as fierce as the Red River Shootout (I’m not going to touch the “corn dog” versus “corny dog” debate with an eight-inch skewer); and, of course, endless opportunities for puerile humor (note to campaigning politicians: get the turkey leg). Enjoying this legendary taste of the fair at home is easier than you’d think. It’s not a Fletcher’s dog; that recipe has been top secret for some seventy years. But this bad boy, adapted from Peg Hein’s delightful More Tastes and Tales From Texas With Love, is damn good, with a crunchy-craggy crust that cleaves to the plump, salty frank like a fleece-lined jacket. Just close your eyes, conjure up the palate-priming perfume of funnel cakes and livestock, and listen for “Hooowwwdddy, foooooolllkkks! ”
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal (the pale-yellow floury stuff, not the stone-ground polenta type)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted bacon drippings
1 egg, beaten
1 to 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (you want the batter to be kind of thick)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 package of wieners (we liked Applegate’s Great Organic Uncured Beef)
oil for frying (we used peanut)
Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add bacon drippings and mix well. Combine egg, buttermilk, and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until smooth.
Heat 3 inches of oil in a heavy, deep pot to 375 degrees (be sure to use a thermometer, as proper temperature is key). Dry the wieners with paper towels, then impale them with bamboo skewers (get the ones with the pointed ends), leaving enough room for a good grip. Dip each dog in batter to coat, then fry in hot oil until a shade past golden brown, turning as necessary. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with—need I say it?—yellow mustard.