Every region of the world cultivates its own local flavor. Upstate New York is no different. Our Upstate neighbors have given us some familiar favorites like Buffalo Wings, Beef on Weck, Spiedies, Salt Potatoes, Utica Greens, Thousand Island Dressing, Chicken Riggies, Grape Pie, and Sponge Candy.
Yet, Rochester has given us a true culinary legacy. Rochester has always been a food town, called the “Flour City” in the 1800’s, due to the many mills along the waterfalls of the Genesee River, it is the birthplace of French’s mustard, Gerber baby food, Ragu, Cantisano & Francesco Rinaldi pasta sauces, and Zweigle’s hot dogs to name a few. Many say we are the originators of “Chicken French” and that can be debated… but Rochester is definitely the home of the White Hot and the original Garbage Plate! And what is a Garbage Plate without that uniquely Rochester ground meat hot sauce.
“Meaty Hot Sauce” (as my kids have always called it) is somehow different than other hot dog toppings. Not really a chili like Coney Island or Cincinnati nor a tomato/onion sauce like NY City street carts. But a spicy, meaty, greasy (admit it) slurry of heat and texture that you have to grow up with to really appreciate.
This week my son and his girlfriend have been visiting, and they absolutely love Zweigle’s white hots. So white hots were the first thing on this week’s menu and, of course, I ran right out to Wegmans (another Rochester original) to stock up… and, of course, I had to make a batch of Dan’s Meaty Hot Sauce.
Now before I go any further, I want to tie this post (somewhat loosely) to 74 Main Street…
One of the stories my Dad told back in the day was that he had always wanted to put hot dogs on the menu at Lista’s but my Grandpa ‘Pat’ was totally against it saying it wasn’t classy enough for Lista’s. So that humble American icon never graced the menu of Lista’s Italian Cuisine. Ironically, I was also told that “franks and beans” was one of Grandpa’s favorite meals. Go figure!
…now back to the present — serving grilled white hots with meaty hot sauce.
Meaty hot sauce is typically a blend of ground beef, onions and several spices — some add tomato paste, some don’t. Some like to thicken the sauce with bread crumbs or corn starch, while others leave it in its loose, watery state. And most locals know that wherever you go to eat, if they offer a hot sauce, it’s going to be different from place to place. And the person eating the hot sauce will vary in their like or dislike of said hot sauce. So the whole thing is very subjective. But one thing I think meaty hot sauce aficionados would agree upon is that a hot dog without meaty hot sauce is like… well, really, why even bother finishing that similitude.
Dan’s Meaty Hot Sauce
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes (or more)
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 medium Onion – finely diced
2 cups Water
1 (6 oz) can Tomato Paste
2 TBSP Cayenne Pepper Sauce (like Red Hot)
2 TBSP Ground Cinnamon (or more to taste)
2 tsp Chili Powder
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Salt (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (or more to taste)
1. In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil and add the ground beef and diced onions. Using a wooden spoon break up the ground beef while cooking and stirring until it begins to brown about 10 minutes. Do not drain the grease off.
2. Add the water, tomato paste and pepper sauce — stir until it is completely blended with the beef and onions.
3. Add all the dry spices and blend into the meat sauce (I use a wire whisk at this point). Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes — then reduce to a simmer, cover and allow to simmer for about an hour — stirring only occasionally to be sure it’s not sticking/burning on bottom. You can add a little more water if needed but it usually just simmers and reduces nicely to a thick sauce. (Personally I like to let it simmer up to 3 hours because I think it develops more heat and flavor as it cooks.)
4. Taste and adjust the salt/spice if desired. (I like the authentic cinnamon taste so I sometimes add more.) If you prefer a hotter sauce add another 1 tsp cayenne.
5. Serve warm over hot dogs, burgers, sausages, or your homemade garbage plates.
So there you have it, my version of the Rochester “Meaty Hot Sauce.” I hope you try it or use it as a base to create your own personal version. Either way if you live or have lived in the Rochester area please don’t deprive your family and friends of the authentic local experience when grilling this summer — serve some Meaty Hot Sauce with those white hots!
Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”