ASK DR. JOHN For February, 2000
Doctor John has fully recovered from the flu bug and is ready to get to this month's questions from our readers.
From Canada: Some years ago while working in Wisconsin I stopped at an "Uncle Mikes Texas Style Bar B Q." I have not been able to get that flavor out of my head since. I have started doing some Bar B Q here, but in this part of the country we "grill" everything and call it Bar B Q. I know better since Uncle MIkes!!! And have been experimenting and reading about real Bar B Q... Is it just me or we up here in the "Great White North" really missing something by not Bar B Qing?
Dr. John says: You are just missing the best eating in the world. Nothing compares with food that has absorbed the flavor of good wood smoke. The grill cooks with the heat of the flame, while the smoker uses the heat of the smoke. I recommend you go back to www.texascooking.com and check out my "Traditional Texas Fare" articles on Barbecue. It will tell you everything I know about the process.
We have two requests for rub recipes this month.
I'm an East Texas transplant (Nashville, TN) trying to learn to cook Tejas style. I use a #7 Kamado and need some good brisket rubs.
Dan in San Antonio
I purchased a new smoker a few days ago and need some good recipes for dry rubs for pork ribs, chicken and brisket. Also on how hot and how long to cook them. Thank you for your time.
The Doctor says: Go down to your local bookstore and get them to order you a copy of "Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces" (The Harvard Common Press) distributed by the National Book Network. The book will tell you all you need to know about rubs and sauces and other barbecue "secrets".
Puffy Tacos Gone Bad
What do you know about puffy doggone tacos? We've tried Mike's recipe, but it doesn't work for us. We can't get the tortillas to puff up without tearing apart in the Wesson Oil. We're makin 'em from scratch using Masa Harina for corn tortillas and using a deep fryer and watching the temperature of the oil (350 Max) -- but no luck.
Gil & Mary Lou
The Doctor says: I think you are trying to fry the raw masa. That won't work, the water will turn to steam and everything will fall apart. You have to first cook the masa patty on a hot griddle about two minutes per side and then deep fry them.
Can you help us identify "chile molido"? We've got a recipe that calls for 1/4 cup of it, but have not yet been able to identify it. Recipe seems southwestern. Please and thank you.
Greg & Carol
The Doctor says: Chile molido is pure ground chilies without any added ingredients. What we call "chili powder" contains stuff like garlic, cumin and oregano. You may have to order chile molido from a spice supply house. I recommend you get "New Mexico Red." It's the best for most applications.
I have some duck breasts that were given to me. I would like to know if they are tender when smoked and what kind of marinade or sauce I should use to cook them. I have an electric smoker and have pecan, hickory, walnut or oak wood readily available. Should I place bacon over them when they are cooking or should the duck skin provide ample fat? Thanks.
The Doctor says: I've never smoked duck bosoms, but I think I would use Italian dressing for marinade and mop. Use the pecan wood; it's milder. And I think the skin will be fat enough that you don't need the bacon. If you smoke them slow and easy, they should come out tender. If not, send me the next ones you get, and I'll work on them.
I would like your advice on buying a new smoker. I currently have a New Braunfels Hondo model that I have about worn out. I want to graduate to a higher quality smoker. Any suggestions?
The Doctor says: It's a matter of individual choice. The smoker that I like might seem foreign to you. You have used the New Braunfels model, so I think you should stick with the same basic design. Just look for good materials and workmanship. Good smooth welds are a sign that the manufacturer takes pride in his product. You might look up Oklahoma Joe, Pits by Klose, and Pitts and Spitts on the Internet.
Can you recommend some cookbooks on smoking meats? I have looked everywhere for a copy of "Pit, Pot, and Skillet" by Red Caldwell. Do you have a copy of that cookbook? A friend lost my copy and I would really like to replace it. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
The Doctor replies: There is not much variation on smoking techniques. Any of the books on the market will contain essentially the same materials. Red Caldwell is an old buddy of mine. If I can track him down, I'll see if he has any of his books left.
I wish I could give everyone who writes me an individual reply and solve all their problems. There just is not enough time. For those of you seeking recipes, please check the bulletin boards on www.texascooking.com. There is a world of information there and a lot of nice people who will help you find what you are looking for. Thanks for writing Dr. John and keep them cards and letters coming in.