Dateline: April 1, 2002

Here it is May already. APRIL FOOL!

The good Doctor has lots of patients again. Seems like a lot of them have chili and barbecue questions. Let's get started.

Janice writes: How do you make chili not greasy? My husband won't eat it the first day I make it because it is so greasy. Please help me.

Hey Janice: No problem. First of all, use meat that has no fat on it, like round or rump roast. When you sear the meat, use just a little vegetable oil to keep it from sticking. If there is still a small amount of grease, crush a couple of saltine crackers to powder and stir the powder in the chill just before you remove it from the stove. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Taylor, a Misplaced Texan in Wamego, Kansas, writes: I saw your answer in last months Q&A about mesquite, but I was wondering, does cut mesquite have to season long enough for the bark to fall off or can you use it before that? As your answer stated, well-seasoned wood gives better results, and I've got some stumps (roots) that are over 60 years old that seem to give me a better flavor. Is this because the wood has no bark on it?

Taylor: Rule of thumb is to let mesquite season about a year. The problem I have with the bark is that some critter lays eggs under the bark, producing little worms that tunnel all through the heartwood. These critters may not occur everywhere. The stumps you are using are probably better because the wood in that part of the tree is a lot more dense to take up the strain of supporting the tree. Everything is more concentrated.

My distaste for the worms comes from the fact that I do wood carving. When you run into one of the little worms with the bandsaw, it really smells bad. Hope this answers your question. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Possumdaddy writes: Hello. I have a new smoker, made of 24"x54"x40" pipe. I cooked my first brisket and it tasted good, but it had too much fat. I cooked it 5 hours at 250-275 degrees, then wrapped it in heavy-duty foil and cooked it 4 more hours. It's weight was 10 pounds. Can you cook the fat away? The foil was full of liquid fat and running over when I took it off the pit!!! Thanks.

Possumdaddy: I've heard of a monkey's uncle, but this is he first time I've heard of a possum's daddy.

First of all, trim all the excess fat off the brisket before you start cooking it. Brisket naturally contains a lot of fat. That's what makes them taste so good. You can cook all the fat out, but what will be left is shoe leather. Not all the liquid you find in the foil is fat. A lot of it is the delicious juice of the brisket. Next time, carefully save all the juice from the foil. Put it in a suitable container, and put it in the ice box for a couple of hours. The fat will harden on the top and you can remove and discard it. The remainder of the juices can go into your finishing sauce, or serve it just plain and warm with your brisket.

Also, there are two types of brisket on the market. First is the "packer trimmed," which comes in the vacuum-sealed plastic. The other is, "market trimmed." The market trimmed one will be from the "toe" of the brisket and contain very little fat. It will not be as good as the packer trimmed one, but you might try it and see if it suits you. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Jim writes: I would like to know what kind of chocolate is used when adding to chili. I do not want to add a lot -- just enough to give it a different kind of taste. Do I use unsweetened or bakers' chocolate or what?

Jim: My choice would be about a tablespoon of cocoa powder dissolved in boiling water. Or the unsweetened bakers' chocolate. Don't tell nobody I tole you, but try mixing about two tablespoons of fresh lime juice and two tablespoons of dark brown sugar and adding some of this mix just before you serve your chili. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Carroll and the cow head

Carroll: My editor at Texas Cooking passed your question about the cow head on to me. I called in my cow head cooking authority, and here's what he said:

Eeho-la, barbacoa, cabeza de vaca. Don't know what I like best-- the eyes, brains or gum meat. It has to be the tongue. Hard to beat a cooked cow head. I never wrote the recipe down. They are better cooked in the ground, but a large oven will do. In the ground, if memory serves me, it'll take more than 12 hours. It'll take a hole three feet deep and two feet wide. After salt and black peppering the head, rub in a little ancho chili powder and garlic powder. Wrap it up in dampened burlap, or in place of burlap, use aluminum foil. Build a wood (mesquite) far in the bottom of the hole and when it burns down to coals, place the wrapped head on top of 'em. Place a sheet of light-weight steel on top of the hole and cover it with coals. Seems like, iffen you get it going around 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening, it'll be ready the next morning. Don't uncover it while it is cooking. This is South Texas cuisine at it's finest.
I hope this gets you on the right track. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Sharon writes: Do you have a recipe for cream of broccoli soup?

Hey Sharon: Here you go:

Cream of Broccoli Soup

In a heavy saucepan cook the onion, the carrot, the mustard seeds, and salt and pepper to taste in the butter over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is soft. Add the broccoli, the broth, and the water, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is very tender. In a blender, purée the soup in batches until it is smooth, transferring it as it is puréed to another heavy saucepan. Whisk in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste, heat the soup over moderately low heat, and whisk in the sour cream. Do not let the soup boil. Makes about 4 cups.

Thanks for writing.
Dr. John