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February 2, 2008

February, the month where the ground hog looks for his shadow and lovers look for someone to send Valentines to. You can’t go wrong with weather forecasting and love in the same month.

So far the good doctor and his associates have managed to avoid the dreaded flu and, in the Texas Hill Country, the "Cedar Fever". We owe it all to clean living and eating well.

Let's see what the doctor's patients require in the way of good advice.

Gene is looking for old family recipe.

My mother use to make Louisiana country sausage in links. She would mix up the ingredients and stuff them into cleaned pig gut. It was the best sausage I have ever tasted. I cannot find this recipe anywhere. It was spicy and had a country taste like the old smokehouse hams. Do you know of any recipe that would come close?

Hey Gene: Louisiana has two native sausages, boudin and andouille. Boudin is mostly rice, so I think you remember andouile. I found a good recipe at Scroll down the page until you find "index of Creole and Cajun recipes". Andouille will be in there. You might also want to check my sausage article, The Wurst of Times: Making Sausage. There may be something of interest there. I hope this solves your problem. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Aggie writes:

My husband is the cook in the family and has a major problem with his cornbread crumbling when taking it out of the cast iron pan. What can he do to stop this and get corn bread that cuts and serves in full pieces instead of crumbles? He uses cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, egg, baking powder and Crisco. He's been doing this by memory for years. HELP!

Hi Aggie: I have been having the same problem. I'm not sure what causes it. They may be putting something in the cornmeal. I always used stone ground meal. When the problem popped up I switched to regular meal, but it did the same. When I use cornbread mix, it comes out more like yellow cake than cornbread. I have worked on the problem some. I tried hot water cornbread, but that is too much trouble. I changed my recipe to two parts flour and one part corn meal. That makes a good, solid bread but it's not real corn bread. The egg is what is supposed to bind the ingredients together. You might get your cook to try two eggs and change nothing else.

My next experiment will be to make up the regular batter and then let it set for at least thirty minutes before baking it. This will give the gluten in the flour a chance to develop and may bind better. I'll keep your address on file and, if I come up with something, I will let you know. If you all solve the problem, let me know. We will have decent cornbread no matter what. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Prize winner consults Dr. John:

I see you are looking for a good sauce. I won the Blue Ribbon at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas back in the 80's for my sauce. It is the true pride of this Native Texan, and I proudly sport that framed ribbon in my kitchen. The recipe has seemed to evolve over the years into something else. I never really used a recipe to begin with and am open to new ideas.

One ingredient I used is no longer available, so I am looking for a substitute for the smoky flavor. What do you think about smoky Spanish Paprika? How about the drippings from the smoked meat added for smokiness? I usually catch those on the foil wrapped finish when the meat has set for a while after removed from the heat and wrapped up. They contain a lot of fat, which I can remove when chilled or skim off and reduce. I do use a lot of Lea & Perrin's and ketchup too, plus other specialties. What do you suggest for the chili powder? Do you use any vinegar? Many thanks.

Hi Cindy: Yes, I'm going in search of my perfect Texas-style sauce. I know what you mean about the recipe sort of sliding away over the years. I think a lot of this is caused by commercial ingredients changing flavors over time. As for a smoky flavor, I'd stay away from the liquid smoke. That is bad stuff. I think the meat drippings would be a lot better. I am going to experiment with some chipotle peppers (dried, smoked jalapeños). Texas sauce cannot be made without Lea &Perrins.

As for the chili powder, Texas' own Gebhardt's is my favorite. I never use vinegar; lemon juice is a better source of tartness. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Marie writes:

I received a corned beef brisket as a gift from a friend. I have no idea what it is or what to do with it. Can you help?

Marie: Corned beef is beef that has been cured in brine. It's simply beef placed in a real salty solution and stored in the icebox a couple of weeks. The most popular method of preparing the corned beef is to boil it with cabbage and then you have Corned Beef and Cabbage. (How do they invent these names)? When cooking a corned beef brisket, a longer than average cooking time is required. Usually two to three hours. The brisket should reach an internal temperature of at least 160°F.

There are two other ways to prepare corned beef brisket that are very good and better than just brisket and cabbage. The New England Boiled Dinner is corned beef brisket boiled in a large pot along with assorted vegetables. Potatoes, onions, carrots and the cabbage make a good combination. You would start by boiling the brisket a while and then adding the vegetables in the order in which they cook. Starting with the ones that require the longest cooking time, in this case, carrots, potatoes, onions and lastly the cabbage. The cabbage needs only about fifteen minutes of cooking time.

My favorite is cooking the brisket like a pot roast. Instead of browning the brisket, you start it cooking in a small amount of water. Add the vegetables and cook at a slow simmer for two to three hours. Don't add any salt to the mix until it is done. The brisket is rather salty on its own. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
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