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Dateline: February 2, 2007

Ask Dr John

Here we are just a couple of weeks away from the first day of spring. As I am writing this in the middle of February, I can only hope that the cold weather is gone by the time this hits the big screen. It has been a long, cold winter in the Texas Hills.

Spring always means fresh vegetables to me. The turnips, cabbages and onions thrive in the cold. You really need to find a source of garden fresh vegetables. They are so much better than produce that has ridden up here from Peru or somewhere in an airplane.

It is also time for everyone to get their grills and smokers in order. If you didnt remove the ashes from last falls final cooking, shame on you. Make sure all the nuts and screws are tight while the grill is cool. Check and make sure your charcoal left from last season did not get damp. If you use bottled gas, make sure the bottle is full.

If you have a question about your Texas-style cooking be sure to drop the doctor a line. So lets see what we have for now:

Sabrina writes: Help! I am cooking seven 26-lb. barons on the rotisserie. Normally, in an oven this would take about 12 to 15 minutes a pound for rare. How long on the spit? I know to use a thermometer, but I will have 175 hungry people at 6:30, so need to know approximately what time to start them. Or should I just grill them?

Hey Sabrina: Spit cooking is such an inexact science. It takes years of experience, which I don't have, to predict the cooking times. How about putting the barons on the spit for about an hour to get the good crust and appearance, and then transferring them to the oven for finishing? That would give you a pretty good handle on the cooking time. Wish I could help more. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Charles writes: I have heard that if green wood is used in a smoker it leaves an odor in the smoker that won't go away and taints the meat. I've also heard that building a big fire in the cooking chamber will cure the problem. What do you think?

Hey Charlie: Anything you burn in the smoker is going to build up a residue. I'm not sure the residue will "taint" the meat, but you do need to clean it out once in a while. A big, hot fire will usually remove the gunk or dry it out to where you can scrape it clean. I don't know of any chemical that would clean it without leaving something bad in the smoker. You can clean grates, etc., with oven cleaner, but you still need to get them real hot afterward to take off any lingering odors.

I have seen smokers build up a deposit to the point where the deposit catches fire and really makes a mess. Best thing is to wipe out your smoker after every use and don't let a big build-up of residue happen. Hope this helps.
Dr. John

Betty writes: A friend is looking for a recipe she calls Texas Pickles. She says it's real hot and has sugar and Tabasco sauce. Can you help?

Hi Betty: Oh good, someone finally asked me something I know. Get a pint bottle of sour pickle chips. Drain off all the juice. Remove the pickles from bottle. Sprinkle in a layer of sugar, just enough to cover the bottom of the bottle. Put a layer of pickle chips on that and sprinkle with Tabasco. Then more layers of sugar, pickles and Tabasco until you have all the pickles back in the bottle. Now, seal the bottle. After one day, turn the bottle upside down. Next day, turn it right side up again. Repeat for a week. You will then have Texas Pickles.

Steve writes: Im learning how to bake bread, and I dont quite understand what the recipe means by "proofing". Can you help?

Hi Steve: Proofing means to check and see if the yeast is working. You mix the yeast and some sugar in warm water and let it set a few minutes and see if it starts to bubble. If it bubbles, it means the yeast is alive and active. Yes, the yeast is little living spores. When they get wet they start eating the sugar and making carbon dioxide gas. This gas is what makes the bread rise by filling it with bubbles.

Ive never found a pack of yeast that has gone bad. If you look, there is always a "use by" date on the package. I just skip the proofing process and start the dough. You can kill the yeast by using water that is too hot. You dont want to use any over 110 degrees. You can also kill the yeast by letting the dough rise in a place that is too hot. Between 70 and 80 degrees is ideal. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

PEZGAL writes: I'm looking for a great marinade for a tri-tip roast. Also, can you tell me how long I would barbecue a 2-1/2 lb. tri-tip roast (medium rare)? Can you help? Thanks so much. Any way you can answer as soon as possible? I would like to make this for a special occasion tomorrow.

Hey Pezgal: I hope this shows up in time.

Tri-Tip Marinade for 3- to 4-Pound Roast

  • 1 split (small bottle) cheap red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (optional)
  • black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, and marinate at least 4 hours or overnight. Place tri-tip on hot barbecue grill. Cover. Turn every 15 to 20 minutes until done, approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Slice thin. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

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

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