by John Raven, Ph. B.

The good Doctor has the waiting room full this month. Let's get started:

Glenna writes:

I am planning on cooking sopapillas (fried Mexican bread) at a cook off in Giddings, Texas, in May. I have a recipe that I have used for years, but would like to roll and cut them at home and transport them to location for cooking. The recipe has baking powder in it. Can I roll, cut and freeze them for cooking later?

Glenna: I don't think that will be a problem. You do have time to try it ahead of time. I know lots of these recipes say you can store them in the refrigerator, but don't say anything about freezing them. Let me know what happens. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Judy writes:

I know the many church ladies in the Fort Worth area cook briskets for fund raising suppers. The cooking process is slow and flavorful. Would you have any directions on cooking the brisket? Thanks for your help.

Judy: Best thing to do with brisket, other than barbecuing it, is to give it a long baking in the oven. Trim off all the fat you can. Season it with salt and lemon pepper seasoning. Slice up a big onion. Put the brisket on a large sheet of heavy-duty foil. Put the onion on top. Wrap it all up real tight. Put it in the oven in a pan because it's gonna leak. Cook at about 300 degrees for four to six hours. When you unwrap it, be careful of the hot juice. Save the juice for gravy. Some people think it's the best part. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Jo-Ann writes:

Hi, John. I've got a brisket to cook. I brought it raw and I have no idea how to cook the thing. It has all the fat trimmed off of it, and it is sliced into about 2 inch thick pieces. All the recipes I have found do not deal with a sliced piece of meat. Thank you.

Aw Gee, Jo-Ann: You got some tough meat to deal with there. Here's what I'd do. Slice the slices in half so you have parts about an inch thick. Slice up a big onion. Give the brisket a good shake of lemon pepper seasoning. Reassemble the brisket with a slice of onion between slices of brisket. Wrap the whole thing in heavy-duty foil. Seal it real tight. Stick it in the oven at about 300 for about four hours. Put the pack in a pan 'cause it's gonna leak. Be real careful when you unwrap the pack, as the juice will be very hot. Save the juice for gravy. If you are not partial to lemon/pepper, just use salt and pepper. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Pamela writes:

I was wondering how to smoke a chicken or turkey. I tasted smoked chicken several years ago when I was living in Texas. I would love to know how to cook and it and capture the flavors. The best meat dishes I have ever tasted were when I was in Texas. There is just nothing to compare.

Pamela: Of course, you will need a smoker. Brinkman or Weber water smokers work best for poultry. Just follow the included instructions. Also, go back to and review my article "Power to the Poultry". Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Larry writes:

I subscribe to Chile Pepper Magazine. In a recent issue, there was an article concerning Texas Hot Links sausage. I have been searching for some recipes with no success. I was hoping you could help me with some or tell me where I could find some. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Larry: You are a man after my own heart. I was raised on genuine Texas Hot Links (called hot guts back home). They were pork sausages highly seasoned with red pepper. Too hot for lots of folks. I'm afraid the real thing has fallen to political correctness -- they just had too much fat in them. A proper hot link would squirt hot grease when you cut into it or bit off the end. But dang they were good. I'm sure that somewhere, someone is still making real hot links. There are several on the market that are okay. Earl Campbell brand has a fairly decent one if you can find them in your area. The last ones I had that were close to the originals came from of all places, Washington State.

If you make sausage at home, use any good pork sausage recipe and put in a lot of cayenne, say, a teaspoon of cayenne to a pound of meat. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Amy writes:

Hello! I was just wondering if you could find out the origin of the recipe Pico De Gallo. I really need this for a Spanish class I am taking. Your help is greatly appreciated! Thanks alot!

Amy: I don't think you will find any one source for the pico de gallo recipe. It probably evolved over the years until one day someone wrote the recipe down. The recipe became popular about twenty years ago when fajitas were discovered by the yuppies. Pico de gallo is the one thing that makes fajitas authentic. You know, of course, that pico de gallo means "peck (or beak) of the cock (rooster)." Probably so named because of its bite. Good luck with your project. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

The Doctor really appreciates all the letters he gets every month. If you have a question or a good tip to pass on send it in.

See you next month.