A yarn about the sign that now has a permanent home at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
Over 35 million years ago the alligator was introduced to the world. But, no one knows how long that alligator lived in the swamp at the end of Lake Ave East. Of course word on the street is the reptile is not around anymore thanks to Chef Ben White and his Gluten Free Corn Dogs. The old sign is now sitting in the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum foyer, so that must mean that alligator is really gone.
Alligators primarily hunt at dusk or during the night, and they lay motionless in wait for prey. The Carleton Place alligator was said to have a constant hankering for hot dogs and Chef Ben White knew that. Ben knew if that old alligator didn’t get out of that swamp there might be some fearful condo owners some day watching their step lest they get eaten. Everyone knows it’s illegal to feed alligators and if people feed them, it’s all bad.
But fearless Ben armed with his famous Gluten Free Corn Dogs paid a visit to that very swamp awhile back. He knew he shouldn’t run zigzag if you come across an alligator, and the position of their eyes on their head gives them a wide sight range. Ben had to be careful, as unlike cats and dogs, alligators will never love the hand that feeds them.
Those ‘dogs’ were mighty tasty, and that old alligator knew it. So clever Ben left a trail that began at the four corners at McNeely, whizzed by Shoppers Drugmart, and went right down the road right into the river. It didn’t take long for that alligator to follow that food trail, right into the Mississippi. Ben White saved the day, and as a memento I got to sample the last one that old alligator never got. It was deeeeelicious! Will that alligator come back? Who knows– but he’s Appleton’s problem now! Let them find their own chef!
The story behind the No Swimming- Alligators sign (from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
No Swimming Alligators” sign! It was a landmark at the swamp at the corner of McNeely and Lake Avenue East for many years. Colleen White Comden said: “This is my dad’s (David White) sign. I remember when he put it up and was getting a kick out of it. He has a great sense of humor and and particularly enjoyed an article about it that was in then local paper a few years ago.” Was there a real alligator? Hmmm I know something, but I’m not spilling the beans.
Chef Ben’s Gluten Free Corn Dogs – From Serious Eats
Making gluten-free corn dogs proved to be a little trickier than I expected. The problem? The cornmeal. Thanks to cross-contamination with gluten grains, not all cornmeal is safe for those on a gluten-free diet. No problem, just use a gluten-free cornmeal for corn dogs, right? Well, sort of.
The corn dogs found at most county fairs have a soft, almost pancake-like coating. When I’ve made corn dogs with coarse gluten-free cornmeal, I found the coating distractingly crunchy with little bits of coarse cornmeal sprinkled throughout the coating. I wanted a traditional corn dog and these, while good, weren’t traditional. Back into the kitchen I went. I played with the ratio of cornmeal to flour. I tried hydrating the cornmeal before using it. (That kind of worked but required way more effort and planning than a corn dog deserves.) Then it hit me. Cornflour*!
I wondered if cornflour’s soft texture would solve my “too crunchy” problem while still providing a nice corn flavor to the finished dogs. It did! The coating, when made with cornflour, is light and soft to the bite. Plus, it’s easy to make (no hydrating necessary) and tasted just like the corn dogs I bought at the fair when I could eat gluten.
*In the United States, cornflour refers to finely ground cornmeal, not corn starch.
Five Keys for Making Gluten-Free Corn Dogs
- Dry the dogs. Before coating the hot dogs, dry them. It doesn’t matter if you use natural casing dogs or gluten-free veggie dogs, they need to be dry. Remove them from the refrigerator, allow them to come to room temperature and then roll them in a towel to dry. Remember to dry the ends.
- Coat them in flour. While researching how to make corn dogs at home, I noticed one compliant coming up again and again: the batter slides off the dog. To keep the batter on the hot dogs, roll them in white rice flour before coating with the cornmeal batter. Again, remember to coat the ends.
- Use a tall glass. Evenly coating the corn dogs with batter can be the toughest part of making corn dogs. To make it easy, fill a tall drinking glass with batter and dip the dogs, one at a time, in the cup.
- Work quickly. While the white rice flour helps the batter to adhere to the hot dog, some batter still drips off the dog after coating. Set your batter-filled drinking class next to your deep fryer or heavy-bottomed pot. Dip the dog in batter, taking care to cover the end of the dog that meets the stick. Lift the dog out of the batter, allow it to “drip” for a second, swirling or shaking it lightly and place it right into the deep fryer. Remember, don’t drop the corn dog into the fryer. Lay it in the fryer gently, tip first. This helps to prevent splattering.
- Wrap the stick after frying. When I fried my first corn dog, I got excited! It was so pretty and corn dog-y. After allowing it to drain for a second or two on a paper towel-lined plate, I picked it up. And…I dropped it down. That stick was HOT. Before serving, wrap the stick in a paper-towel.
Ingredient Note: Not all hot dogs are gluten-free, be sure to read labels, as always, before selecting your hot dogs.
- 1 1/4 cups gluten-free cornflour
- 3/4 cup white rice flour, plus additional for coating hot dogs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 8 gluten-free hot dogs
- 1 quart vegetable oil
- 8 skewers, about 6-inches long
In small bowl, whisk together gluten-free cornflour, 3.75 ounces white rice flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Add milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and honey. Mix together until smooth. Allow batter to stand for ten minutes.
Place about 1/2 cup white rice flour on a medium plate. Dry hot dogs, including ends, and slide sticks into hot dogs. You want to slide sticks about halfway into the hot dog. Roll hot dogs, one at a time, in white rice flour. Place hot dogs on dry plate. Set aside
Heat oil to 375°F. Line a plate or baking pan with a few paper towels. Place near the fryer. (Be sure plate is a safe distance from the fryer.)
Select a glass that’s tall enough to dip the entire hot dog into. Pour batter into drinking glass. Dip hot dogs, one at a time, into glass. Lift hot dog from batter and swirl lightly. Quickly transfer coated hot dog into the hot oil, gently placing the hot dog into the oil. Fry one or two corn dogs at a time. After about one minute of frying, gently “roll” the corn dog in the oil using a pair of metal tongs. (Often they roll themselves.) Remove corn dogs from oil. Drain on paper towel lined plate and serve. If stick is still hot, wrap in a paper towel before serving.
Some of you know Ben White as Blair and Teri White’s son. A few of you recognize him as the nephew of Bill and Bob White. I know him because he is my neighbour, Joyce White’s grandson. It doesn’t matter how you met him, you should be aware that the fourteen year old High-Schooler is an up and coming triple threat to the Food Network chefs.
Ben and his brother Emmett share my Celiac disease, so all Ben’s recipes are gluten-free. His Mother has also set up a Facebook page called Go Gluten Free so everyone can share their gluten free recipes. As he told his father, local plumber, Blair White,
“Dad, you fix peoples pipes, I fix up people’s tastebuds