Rhode Island hot dogs are known as New York System weenies, although there is nothing remotely like them in New York. (In New York City, that is. The Michigan of Plattsburgh, New York, is vaguely similar.) The logical explanation is that nearly all of the Ocean State’s wiener depots were opened by cooks who once had worked at America’s frankfurter mothership, Nathan’s of Coney Island.
New York System weenies are small pink links that come smothered with fine-grind beef sauce, yellow mustard, chopped raw onions, and a sprinkle of celery salt. The “system” element of the name means they are made in a systematic way by lining up multiple dogs in buns and dressing them assembly-line style. Old-time counter men can array a dozen from wrist to shoulder, adding sauce and condiments with lightning speed. Hence the common local description of New York System dining: Wieners up the Arm.
Recipes for the fine-grind chili that tops these weenies are as tightly guarded as the formula for Coca-Cola. But after careful study and a little prying, we came up with the following blueprint for producing a chili sauce in the style of New York System restaurants that is eminently suited to franks of any pedigree, all beef or porky.
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound lean chuck, ground very fine
1/2 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Sauté the onion and garlic in vegetable oil until soft. Add the ground chuck and cook until it is browned, stirring constantly with a fork or spatula to keep it broken up. Drain off excess oil. Add the beef broth and seasonings. Simmer 10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
This recipe makes enough to dress about 8 modest-size hot dogs.