Tuesday, September 14, 2021

How to Survive a Hurricane and Make New York’s Famous Hot Dog Onions by Cleo Coyle

If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know Marc and I (and the rest of our Queens neighborhood) are in the midst of post-IDA hurricane cleanup. The flash flooding in our area was unexpected and unprecedented, and I posted more about it here, if you're interested.

"New York's Strongest" helping us
and our neighbors after Hurricane Ida.

Meanwhile, "New York’s Strongest" (the official nickname for NYC’s hard-working sanitation crews) have been living up to their name these past two weeks, putting in countless hours, combing the streets for pickups of mountains of trash—ruined personal possessions, furniture, and appliances. 

We lost plenty, along with our neighbors, but we still consider ourselves lucky, given the tragic outcome for others who lost their lives in the flash flooding, and our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to their families.

Not long after Ida departed, we found ourselves marking the 20th Anniversary of September 11th. And I also posted about that important anniversary. You can read my remarks on Facebook here, Twitter here, and Instagram here.

Given these trying times, Marc and I have been reflecting on the fact that after all these years, and all we’ve been through, we still (yes, still) love New York, which is how we came to choose today’s recipe. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and we hope (like us) you will count your blessings today. Life is a gift.

Cleo Coyle writes two
bestselling mystery
 series with her husband.
To learn more, click here.

A Recipe Note from Cleo

In our 14th Coffeehouse Mystery, Once Upon a Grind, our amateur sleuth (coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi) delivers caffeinated magic to the crowds of people who throng to Central Park for the city’s Fairy Tale Fall Festival.

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After a long day, which includes discovering a crime scene in the oldest and spookiest part of New York’s famous park, Clare joins her longtime friend, NYPD Detective Lieutenant Mike Quinn, for a late night bite at a humble hot dog stand, where Clare expresses her love of (no, not Mike) but New York’s Hot Dog Onions, a sweet-and-savory relish that’s equally delicious on hamburgers.

For decades, these onions have been part of the city’s hot dog eating tradition. At one time, almost every vendor had his own recipe. This is the one we make at home, and it’s very close to what you once found at New York’s hot dog carts and stands, including the still-standing Papaya King’s hot dog "palace" on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (the very one Tony Bourdain raved about).

Alas, the quality of this condiment now varies widely in the city from good to...not so great. Likewise, the jarred version of these onions (that you may see on store shelves) is nowhere near the delicious quality of a freshly made sauce, so buyer beware—and consider making your own. Today's recipe will help with that!

Cleo Coyle’s
New York Hot Dog Onions
from Once Upon a Grind

Makes about 2½ cups


2 teaspoons olive oil
5 large red onions, sliced thin and chopped fine
1 (11-ounce) can vegetable juice (V8)
½ cup water
1 teaspoon ketchup
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
½ teaspoon white granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


Step 1—Sauté the onions: In a medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and let the onions sauté slowly for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

Step 2—Start the simmer: Add the vegetable juice, water, ketchup, spices, and vinegar and cook the mixture over low heat for 1½ hours, stirring often and making sure nothing sticks to the side of the pot.

Step 3—Serve: The perfect sweet-spicy garnish for hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, or crackers. New York onions are traditionally served hot, but they are just delicious at room temperature.

Eat (and read) with joy!

New York Times bestselling author
of The Coffeehouse Mysteries and
Haunted Bookshop Mysteries

This is me -- Cleo (Alice) 
with my husband Marc.

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  1. This sounds SO good! I can imagine it with eggs, or adding pizzazz to a cold cut sandwich, and more and more!
    Many thanks for the inspiration.

    Best wishes on you clean up. Hope you don't find any major surprises in the gloppy mess. <3

    And poor Texas/LA are getting hit again!

    1. Great ideas, Libby, thanks for sharing and for your good wishes on our cleanup. It's exhausting (mentally and physically) but we well know others have endured far worse. Life is a gift. Onward we go!

      Cheers for stopping by today.
      Have a delicious week!

      ~ Cleo

  2. Echoing Libby. These onions sound delicious! Best of luck with your clean up.

  3. Could I use a small amount of ground red pepper instead of flakes?

    1. Hi, Nora – Yes, you can substitute ground cayenne pepper for dried and crushed red pepper flakes in any recipe because both are made from the same pepper; however, be sure to use far less of the ground version than the flakes! I’d suggest using half the amount or less. For this recipe specifically that would mean using 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne or less, to your taste. I hope that helps!

      ~ Cleo
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