Dateline: April 1, 2006

Ask Dr John

We have an interesting mix of questions this month. The good doctor is always happy to get a good variety of questions -- keeps him on his toes.

The Texas Cooking readers who write in are to a man (or woman) really interested in their foods and cooking procedures. It is nice to know that in a few years there will still be people around who know how to cook, and that everything won't come from the frozen food section of the supermarket.

Let's get to work.

Peggy wants to mix her own fajita seasoning: I have a lot of spices and would like to know what is in Fajita seasoning so I don't have to buy it separately. Do you know?

Hi Peggy: I'm sure each of the commercial mixes has a different formula. The base for fajita rub would include onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Proportions would be about one tablespoon of the onion powder and one teaspoon each of the other spices. You can experiment to see what blend you can come up with that satisfies your taste. If you want some color in the mix, use paprika. It has little taste. Some of the fajita rubs include chili powder and cumin. It is all up to what you like. Like I said, experiment with it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Joey wants to know the difference between "country fried" and "chicken fried": Last night we ate dinner at our club and they served "country fried" steak. When we lived in Texas, we ate "chicken fried" steak. Is there a difference between the two in Texas?

Hi Joey: At one of our local feedlots, the difference between chicken fried steak and country fried steak is seventy-five cents.

Actually "country fried" would be seasoned, floured and fried without the egg dip. As you know, "chicken fried" is flour, dip in egg and flour again to get a thick crust. Either way, it's not bad. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Kay has some frozen potatoes to deal with: Is there anything I can do with whole, raw Yukon gold potatoes that have been frozen by accident? Can I salvage them?

Hi Kay: I would think you could boil the potatoes and make them into mashed potatoes. I know there are frozen raw potatoes on the market, I don't know if they get mushy when thawed or not. You might thaw one and see what happens. If it doesn't get mushy, you can cook it for other than mashed. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Doug and Mike want to go into the jerky business: I'm interested in making and selling my own jerky. Is there a web site that can tell me the process of packing, and what I would need from the government. Is it okay to make it in my house? Do I need a co-packer? Just basically, how do I get started? People say if anyone can help me it would be you.

Hi Doug and Mike: It will take some research. Rules governing the sale of food products can vary by state, county or city or all three. A couple of years ago, there were a lot of jerky stands along our roads. They were hooked up with some franchise. I can't locate it nor have I seen any of the vendors in a long time.

Start with your local health department and explain to them what you want to do and take it from there. I hope it works out for you.
Dr. John

Lana seeks a Chinese cook: I'm looking for two recipes that aren't Texas cooking, but thought perhaps you could help. A few Chinese restaurants I have eaten in have green beans and I don't really know what is in them - it kinda looks like a little ground beef, but I really don't think that is what it is. Also, there is chicken (perhaps sesame) that is coated heavily with a real sticky sorta sweet sauce that stays on the chicken. They are both great and I would love to try to make them at home. I've found sesame chicken recipes but nothing that makes the gooey, sticky sauce that sticks to the chicken. Sorry about my descriptions. You may not be able to tell what I'm looking for, but any help you can give me would be most appreciated. Thanks!

Hi Lana: The only thing Chinese I cook is rice. I don't know the green bean recipe. The sweet, sticky sauce you describe may be peanut sauce.

Junie is into frying pickles: Is there any way to fry pickles other than just rolling them in flour and deep frying them?

Junie: Head over to the Shake & Bake section of your grocer. There are various things there you could try. I know there's a coating designed for fish, and I'm sure there are others. You should also find some corn dog batter mix. A pickle dog sounds good to me. Give it a look and see what you can come up with. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John