Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Carny Surprise

It was between making this or Funnel Cake au Gratin.

Did you hear about the Casserole Party hosted by Emily Farris at Pryde's Old Westport last week? Sounds like it was wicked awesome, but alas, we weren't able to be there. Besides, the only casserole I've ever made is a little something called Carny Surprise, and since it's a modification of Taste of Home's Corn Dog Casserole, I doubted it was eligible for the big night.

True, the rules of the Casserole Party state that you can manipulate a pre-published recipe to make it your own. And while I've made a few changes to the Corn Dog Casserole recipe that might technically allow it to qualify, I still feel obligated to add a disclaimer that Carny Surprise is perhaps best described as a “straight-up rip-off.”

The deal is thus -- there are three big differences between Carny Surprise and Corn Dog Casserole. First, the Taste of Home recipe calls for a scant one-and-a-half pounds of hot dogs. Knowing there's no way that could ever even come close to possibly being enough, however, I double that.

That's right. Three pounds of hot dogs.

I don't use just any hot dogs, either. In order to more authentically evoke the seedy flavor of carny folk heritage, I go for “Old-Fashioned Wieners” from McGonigle's Market. Sure, at $4.99 a pound, they're mighty expensive, but they're worth it for both the delicious taste and unbeatable snap. Everything else in this recipe is dirt cheap, though, so it evens out.

The second difference is that Carny Surprise is to be served with a barrel of yellow mustard for topping.

The third difference is that I cut down the celery and the green onions to one cup each. I'm not quite sure what celery is bringing to the party anyway.

So it was a bummer to miss the casserole party, but it just so happened that this month's agency luncheon here at the office had the same theme -- and that was all the excuse I needed to get my casserole on and whip up a batch of Carny Surprise.


  • 3 lbs hot dogs, cut into coins (I recommend getting the best quality dogs available, if possible from the meat counter)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sliced green onions (two bunches should do it)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 packages Jiffy corn bread mix (8½ ounces each, 17 ounces total)
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Barrel of yellow mustard
  1. In the largest pan you have, saute celery in butter for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add onions, and saute for 3 more minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside.
  2. In the same pan, saute the hot dogs for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add to the bowl with the celery and onions. Stir it all up real good, and set aside 2 cups.
  3. In the largest bowl you have, combine eggs, milk, sage and pepper. Stir in the cornbread mix, and add remaining hot dog mixture. Add 1½ cups of cheese. Spread into a 3 quart baking dish. Top with the reserved 2 cups of hot dog mixture and the remaining ½ cup of cheese.
  4. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Serve the Carny Surprise alongside the yellow mustard barrel for topping.

Here's a warning -- after standing over a pan while sauteing three pounds of hot dogs, you will absolutely smell like hot dogs for the rest of the day.

Did I say warning? What I meant was, “Here's the best part.”


  1. Just a hey out there from the web universe that I made this recipe this weekend. I altered it a big by using 2 lbs of Polk Red Hot style hot dogs as well as adding close to twice the amount of celery and green onion. Pretty damn tasty and a very popular "guilty pleasure" with friends. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. You're welcome, and thanks for letting us know! The Polk hot dogs sound awesome. We're going to have to try something like that the next time we make it!