The (cheesy) Coney Dog to Win Them All

IMG-9926 (1)

I live in Motown Detroit where Coney Dog’s reign supreme and the love of American Coney Island vs. Lafayette Coney is as competitive as Michigan State Spartans vs. University of Michigan Wolverines football!

If you’re not familiar what a coney dog is, you’re in for a Michigan local treat. These “coney’s” are hot dogs topped with a chili sauce consisting of ground beef (including beef heart) topped with yellow mustard, diced raw onions in a steamed bun–but never includes beans!

IMG-9924 (2)

A brief history about the origins points back to Greek and Macedonian’s fleeing the Balkan war in the early 1900s and entering the U.S. via Ellis Island in NYC. While these immigrants were thought to have encountered the hot dog from there (Hot dogs were discovered there!) they moved further west settling in Michigan where all Coney restaurants are your modern-day version of a typical diner. On top of breakfast and lunch, you’ll find Greek favorites like gyro’s, Greek Salads, and standard American fare foods like hamburgers, sandwiches, breakfasts, and desserts.

The real debate lies in whether you’re a Lafayette vs. American Coney fan. These two restaurants are situated right next to each other and as the story goes, brothers Bill and Gust Keros opened American Coney Island in downtown Detroit on Michigan Avenue in 1919.  Years later, they had a falling out and in 1936 Bill decided to open his own diner, Lafayette Coney Island, right next door. Today, American remains a family-owned institution while Bill’s employees now operate the Lafayette restaurant. The pair have been battling for Coney dog dominance ever since.

But to me, it’s not about American vs. Lafayette Coney Island but rather how and what I like to enjoy my coney sauce with!

Being a California transplant to Detroit, finding soft, tender bread that Asians prize over the common crusty baguettes is not easy. Don’t get me wrong, I love my artisanal, European style breads but there’s a time and place. Instead we’re making soft milk bread studded with Tillamook Sharp Cheddar wrapped around a hot dog frank. It’ll be dipped into Coney sauce topped with diced onions. Even Coney purists will enjoy this version because who doesn’t love a sharp tang of cheddar in each bite!

IMG-9919 (1)

Who needs to argue with what’s in an authentic coney dog when you can experience the whole messy thing in the privacy of your own home? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m goin’ in!

After 109 years, Tillamook makes its cheddar in the same way – with simple ingredients,

patience, and old-fashioned farmer values. I’m working with Tillamook to bring you something new, something old. A new take on Detroit Coney Dogs with something classic like Tillamook Sharp Cheddar where their cheese is crafted with time for the boldest flavor and the most natural way.

IMG-9918 (1)

This post was sponsored by Tillamook. All text and opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for continuing to support the brands that help make Mightyinthemitten possible!

Milk Bread recipe:

Makes 6 hot dogs


(Note: Dough ingredients are weighed for accuracy)

  • 300 g bread flour
  • 4 g instant yeast
  • 30g milk powder
  • 40g sugar
  • 9g salt
  • 30g beaten egg
  • 125g whole milk
  • 75g whipping cream
  • 300g Tillamook Sharp Cheddar
  • 1 tsp poppyseeds (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • 6 hot dogs of your brand choice


  1. Place all the dry ingredient into a mixing bowl.
  2. Combine egg, milk and whipping cream. Stir to mix well.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredient and mix on low. Knead the dough for about 10 mins until smooth and non-sticky. Cover with a damp cloth and proof for 60 mins or until double in bulk.
  4. Take out the dough and lightly knead. Divide into 6 equal portions. Rest for 10 mins.
  5. Roll out each dough into a rectangular shape. Scatter shredded cheese over dough. Roll up like a swiss roll. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  6. Wrap each rope tightly around a hot dog in a spiral, pinching the edges to seal, and leaving the ends open. About half an inch of hot dog should peek out of each end of the dough. Place on parchment lined sheet tray and repeat with remaining dough. Be sure to leave some space between the rolls as they need to proof again. Cover the rolls and proof for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F once doubled. Mix egg and milk for egg wash.
  8. Brush dough with egg wash and sprinkle with poppyseeds if using.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 30 minutes rotating half way. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Coney Sauce recipe

Makes 1 quart, more than enough for chili dogs and leftover chili cheese nachos!


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½  lb ground beef heart (optional if you can’t find it. Substitute ground beef)
  • 3 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp American chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 cups chicken or beef broth
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp hot pepper sauce (like tabasco)


  1. In a small bowl, mix the American chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef and beef heart for 5 minutes or until brown. Crumble it as it cooks so it is browned all over.
  3. Pour the meat into a strainer and drain the fat into a small saucepan. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of fat. Whisk the fat and flour together over medium heat. This makes a roux. Cook it, stirring frequently, until it turns amber, about 15 minutes. Then whisk in the chicken stock, tomato paste, and vinegar cooking on low.
  4. Move the ground beef to the side and add onion and garlic to the skillet and cook until tender.
  5. Push everything aside and add the spices and cook in contact with the bottom of the pan for 2 minutes, stirring so the spices don’t stick to the bottom. This “blooms” the flavor. Then mix in with the meat.
  6. Add the roux mix ingredients and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Cook on low for an hour to develop the flavor.


  1. Place warm coney sauce in individual serving bowls, top with chopped onion. I add more Tillamook Sharp Cheddar so it has a melty cheesy effect.
  2. Dunk your hot dog milk bun in the coney sauce using it as a spoon. Squirt some yellow mustard on your hot dog as you go and enjoy!



What took so long?

Cá Nướng Cuốn Bánh Tráng (Grilled Whole Catfish)

Cá Nướng Cuốn Bánh Tráng (Vietnamese Grilled Salmon)

2010: The year I always forget.

2010: The year we moved back to Southern California because Michigan is too.friggin.cold.

2010: The year I really proclaimed myself a Foodie.

So what took me so long to write this post? As with most things, I have a Type A /slight obsessive/compulsive mentality where if it’s not perfect, I won’t even attempt it. And every time I begin to think about it, I cringe. “Is my blog going to be like every other food blog out there?”, “Are they going to understand my tone? my voice? my excitement? my dismay? Will they get me?”

Cá Nướng Close up

Cá Nướng Close up

Who cares, perfect I am not. But in my 3rd decade, its time to start compiling my life’s adventures. My passion, whatever they were in my teens, my twenties, now thirties, be it today, tomorrow or just for that hour. Some of you like it and **LIKE** my posts, so here goes the story of @mightyinthemitten!

Cá Nướng Cuốn Bánh Tráng (Grilled Fish on fresh Rice Paper)

Cá Nướng Cuốn Bánh Tráng (Grilled Fish on fresh Rice Paper)

I’ve learned to trust my gut as an ER Nurse–a skill I learned when after 100 patients tell you what their complaint is doesn’t match with what they LOOK like. Um, 10/10 pain but you’re chatting on your cell phone laughing at Bruce Jenner’s Caitlyn Jenner’s hairdo? Yeah, no. Doing the kidney stone dance when you’ve never had a kidney stone but claiming your pain is 5/10 because you’re too stoic to admit you’re about to keel over and die? Yeah, ok.

So last week my gut told me “My Thy, you haven’t had fish in a while. And you’re not taking your fish oil for those omega-3’s (we tout is so good for us).” So I made Cá Nướng Cuốn Bánh Tráng which is Vietnamese for Grilled Fish wrapped in fresh rice paper. Typically you want to use catfish but cleaning and scaling that bad boy is too much work when Costco has Fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon with no added FD&C Red No. 40. This recipe comes together with a little bit of chopping and dicing, slathering and roasting that you wished you had eaten more fish. Wait, you can now!

Salmon wrapped in herbs ready for the fish sauce dunking

Salmon wrapped in herbs ready for the fish sauce dunking

Recipe Notes: Vietnamese herbs are found at most of your ethnic restaurants and knowing their names and which ones go with what dish is an art. I didn’t just know that Fish Mint, Cilantro, Mint, and Vietnamese Perilla accompany Romaine/Butter lettuce in the spring roll. It was years of eating Vietnamese dishes and learning there’s a set of herbs that go with set dish. If you can’t find these herbs, at least buy mint and cilantro because it adds the ‘fresh’ in fresh spring rolls. The scallion oil is not to be missed. It’s the universal Vietnamese condiment, along with fish sauce of course. And yes, the recipe is called “grilled” but it’s actually roasted in the oven but you sure can grill it!

Cá Nướng Cuốn Bánh Tráng (VIetnamese Grilled Salmon)

Serves 4-6 depending how big you roll your spring rolls. My dad likes burrito size. Mom not so much.


2-3 lb Wild caught Salmon


1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 TBS olive oil
2 tsp of fresh ground pepper
2 TBS ginger
2 TBS garlic
2 TBS shallots
2 TBS minced lemongrass
Additional 1/4 cup honey for lathering the fish


1/4 cup Crushed salted roasted peanuts Scallion Oil

Mo Hanh Scallion Oil: 

3-4 TBS olive oil
1 bunch chopped green onion
pinch salt


Rice Paper
Vermicelli Noodles
Fresh herbs: Mint, Fish Mint, cilantro, Perilla
Sliced thin cucumbers, pickled carrots & daikon (do chua)
Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce for dipping
  1. Rinse salmon and blot dry with paper towel. Set aside on foil lined half baking sheet.
  2. Combine marinade ingredients and mix well. You may or may not have extra depending how generous you are with the marinade and how big your fish is.
  3. Lather 1/4 cup of honey onto salmon and let sit for 10 mins. Then slather marinade all over salmon making sure it’s covered completely but not drowning in marinade.
  4. Cover and marinade 1 hr minimum to 4 hrs.
  5. For the Mo Hanh Scallion oil: heat oil in sauce pan on medium heat. Drop a few chopped scallions in oil. It should sizzle and stop. We’re infusing the oil not frying the scallions. If it sizzles, add all the chopped scallions and stir for ~30 seconds and remove from heat. Add pinch of salt. Set aside.
  6. After marinading and before roasting, allow fish to come to room temp (or at least close to it.) As long as your fish isn’t drowning in marinade, use the same half baking sheet. If not, foil-line a half baking sheet and transfer salmon to new sheet. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  7. Bake salmon for 10 -15min or until the fish is just cooked but still a little pink in the center.
  8. Transfer fish to serving platter or serve straight off the half baking sheet.
  9. Top generously with Mo Hanh Scallion Oil and crushed roasted salted peanuts. Traditionally, this dish is served family style in rice paper roll with fresh herbs and dipped in Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce.

Cooks Note: I was out of Vermicelli but typically Vietnamese Spring rolls must include this.