The good doctor has been busy this month. All sorts of interesting letters from Texas Cooking readers. Although the Doctor has a lot of recipes to consult there is always one that no one seems to know. Therefore the Doctor is asking his readers for help. He's looking for an old family recipe from West Texas called "Messy Chicken," described as a chicken dish with white sauce or cream gravy on top. If you know this one give the Doctor a holler.

Brent R. writes:

I'm growing my own jalapeños and would like to know how to transform them into chipotle peppers. I have a water smoker (the bullet type), but am not sure how long to smoke them, what type of wood to use, or how to tell when they are sufficiently "done." Any insight you could give would be much appreciated.

Chipotles

No problem. First, you want ripe, red jalapeños. Those that are less than ripe will turn an awful color when smoked. Remove the stem end and slit the pepper down one side and remove the innards. Flatten the little stingers out.

The only wood for smoking chipotles is mesquite. You don't want a real hot smoke -- about 200 to 250 degrees. You can pile them up on the grill a couple of inches thick if you have that many. Use some water in the pan and cover it with foil with holes punched in it, so if the chiles fall through the grill, they won't fall in the water. Smoke them about four hours. If you stack them, rearrange them every hour for even smoking. Thas it.

I think the best way to preserve them would be to put them in freezer bags and freeze them. Get all the air out of the bag that you can before sealing. You can also dry them in a warm oven until they are crisp and then grind or crush them for powder. They can be pickled, but it's so much work it's cheaper just to buy them.

Ever had Dutch oven chicken in chipotle sauce? Hard to beat. Thanks for writing.

Mike P. writes:

Do you have a good "blacken" recipe that can be used on catfish?

Blackened Fish Seasoning

Mix above ingredients together, except for the butter. Grease a cast iron skillet with about a teaspoon of peanut oil. Heat the skillet very hot -- high or medium high on an electric range. Dip the filets in melted butter and sprinkle with the seasoning. Cook about three or four minutes a side. Use filets that are not much more than one-half inch thick. Thicker ones are hard to get done inside.

Mary K. asks:

Is there such a thing as low calorie potato salad?

Ah yes. I try to watch my calorie intake just as every good American does. I've found that using fat-free Kraft salad dressing to make potato salad is very satisfactory. I use the Thousand Island flavor. You might want to try one of the other flavors. The fat-free dressing also works well in tuna and chicken salads.

Franklin J. asks for a Chicken and Dumpling recipe.

For the chicken:

Put the chicken in a large pot with close fitting lid. Cover with water and add onion, celery and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a slow boil. Cook until the chicken is done. Remove chicken from the pot and let it cool.

Strain the stock and return it to the pot and put it on the stove to simmer. (For extra flavor, add two chicken bullion cubes). When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove all the bones and other things you think need removing. Cut into bite-size portions and return it to the pot.

For the dumplings

Mix the dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles cornmeal in texture.

For chewy dumplings, add enough water to make a stiff dough. Knead the dough until it is smooth and not sticky. Roll it out to a half-inch thickness. Cut it into whatever size and shape dumpling you like. For puffy dumplings, add enough water to make a soft dough that will fall off a spoon.

Bring the stock to a full, rolling boil. The puffy dumplings are dropped by the spoonful into the boiling stock. Go slow so you don't cool the stock too much. The chewy dumplings are added to the boiling stock slowly to prevent cooling the stock. When the dumplings are in the pot, cover and cook about fifteen minutes. The pot will tend to boil over so watch it.

The Doctor is going to throw in a free recipe for the hot summer afternoons. My mother was the best at making it, so I count it as an authentic Texas recipe.

Lemonade

You will need a large glass (no plastic, please) pitcher -- about two-quart capacity. Next, you need the juice of three or four fresh lemons. Depending on how much juice each lemon yields, you want about a half cup of fresh lemon juice altogether.

Put the juice, along with at least two seeds and the carcass of one whole lemon, in the pitcher. Fill nearly full with water. Add sugar until it is just right. Add a tray of ice cubes. (Be sure the cubes don't have BO (box odor). Stir well. Serve on the front porch in real glass glasses. After a serving of this, you will never buy the little frozen cans again.

See ya next month.