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Dateline: June 1, 2006

Ask Dr John

We have a lot of really good questions this month. I hope the Doctor has equally good answers. Here we go . . .

Stephanie vs. the Chile Verde Salsa: Hi! I just made your Anaheim Chile Salsa Verde today, and I found it surprisingly easy, AND tasty! I used all fresh ingredients and had a fun time making it. A couple questions, though:

  1. I lack experience using tomatillos. How do I choose the best/ripest ones?
  2. Why do you suggest using gloves to peel the chiles?
  3. Is there detriment in rinsing the chiles in cool water while peeling the charred skin off, without gloves? (This is what I did - it seemed to work fine, but I'm still curious.)
  4. I quartered the tomatillos before putting them into the broth. Again, this seemed to work fine, but I wonder if it's typically a suggested step. Lastly,
  5. Are there any other spices I could add to this recipe to 'jazz' it up a bit? I want it to remain fairly mild, but an alternate flavor boost would be nice, too. (I'm serving it in one day and will add my salt then...just wonder what spice you'd add to give it a flavor in the other direction of salt while still being savory.)
Looking forward to your answers, and thanks for the recipe! I can't wait to dazzle my friends with it!

Hi Stephanie:

  1. The tomatillos. Pick the ones about the size of a golf ball. The husk should still be a bit green and not all dried out. Rinse them in cool water to get the "sticky" off. Put them on a cookie sheet with a lip or similar pan and stick them in a 350F degree oven for about ten minutes or until they are soft. Then chop them.
  2. Peeling the chiles under the water is fine. The gloves are a safety precaution. The Anaheims are very mild but if you mess with something more stout, they can irritate skin. Also, you don't want to touch your nose or eyes after messing with peppers.
  3. I don't remember the recipe, but if it does not call for lime juice, put some in. About two tablespoons or so to start. If the salsa is a bit "sharp," you can put in a bit of liquid brown sugar to taste. A bit of ground cumin would be good, too. Use just a little to start as it is potent. And a drop or two of Tabasco would further perk things up.
Just take it a little at a time. If you make a lot of changes at one time, you don't know what did what. All great recipes came from experiments. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Jimmy vs. The Steaks: I'm a confirmed wood briquette griller, Dr. John. I do well with everything from fish to kabobs, but I massacre fancy beef steaks. Can explain how to grill a terrific steak?

Hi Jimmy: Steaks take a really hot bed of coals. A one-inch steak should cook in five minutes or less. Of course, you want a good grade of beef to start with. It helps to season your steak a couple of hours before you put it on the grill. This gives the seasoning time to soak into the meat.

When doing really hot grilling, you can't wander off and visit with the neighbors. You have to pay attention. The best way to determine when the steak is done to your liking is to put on an extra one that you can cut into and see what is going on. After a while you will be able to tell by poking the steak how done it is. As in anything, practice, practice, practice. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Jerry asks about kippering: Can you shed any light on the kippered beefsteak snacks I see everywhere next to the beef jerky? I am assuming they are just thicker slices of meat and dried in the same manner as jerky. Would round steak work for the jerky and kippered steak process? Or is this cut absolutely to tough for the process? Thank you very much.

Hi Jerry: The term "kippered" comes from kippered herring, which is a way to preserve the fish.

The kippered beef is close to jerky, but should have a cold smoke applied. Jerky does not necessarily have a smoke cycle. The kippered product is not dried to the extent jerky is; it has more moisture.

Round steak would be perfect for either jerky or kippered beef. You want the beef just as lean as you can get it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Berdene is looking for a dessert: Help me! I recently ate a dessert that I thought they said when serving it was called monte cristo. I have always thought this was a sandwich. However, this was a dessert with a shortbread bottom about 1/2 inch thick, and very buttery. Then it was served with a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk over it. Absolutely fantastic. Can you tell me what this is? I was told by the waitress it hails from Texas. I sure do hope you know what this is. Thanks so much!

Hi Berdene: You didn't give me much to go on there. What you describe could be a child of the Texas three milks cake (Tres Leches Cake). This is made in the form of a cake with milk drizzled over it. You can find an article and recipe about it on in the Dessert Spotlight section. This is the best I can do without more info. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Anthony has a beer question: In your Beef Fajita Marinade II recipe you (or whoever writes them) says not to use lite beer. Why not? Is there a difference between lite and light beers? I'm serious here.

Hi Anthony: Nope, that isn't one of my recipes. But I would suppose they specify regular beer trying to get a bit more flavor. Lite/light beer is regular beer with carbonated water added. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Roni is having baking problems: We have spent winters in the Valley, and I love the food! I have tried to make the bolillos, the hard rolls, but I have a problem getting them to raise and stay raised. When I bake them, they turn out very flat. I am using new dried yeast. I got the recipe on the computer. Any ideas? I thank you very much!

Hi Roni: Do the rolls fail to rise or do they go flat in the oven? If they fail to rise, something is wrong with your yeast or method of using same. You can "proof" your yeast by putting it in a small bowl with some warm water, a tad of flour and a little sugar. It should start to bubble and foam in just a few minutes. If it just lays there something is wrong.

I suspect the problem is letting the dough rise too much the first time. You test it by poking gently with your finger. If the dent stays there it is ready for the oven. Most recipes recommend an oven temperature of 400F degreese. As you know, ovens can vary as to temperature. You might try 375F and then work up a little at a time. If this doesn't solve the problem, holler back and we'll work on it some more. 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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