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If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc

Dateline: July 1, 2004

Happy Independence Day everyone. The Doctor is in. Nurse, send in the first patient.

Laird asks: When making up a brining solution for fowl, has anyone tried substituting one of the new sugar substitutes in place of sugar?

Hi Laird: It should work just fine. You know, of course, that aspartame cannot be heated. Splenda seems to be the sweetener of choice now days, and is made from sugar. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Andrew says: I had some barbequed chicken last week smoked by a real Texan and it was delicious. While the flavor was very good, the chicken skin was somewhat leathery and hard to chew. Do you know of a way to make the skin crispy without drying out the meat? Would you recommend putting the chicken in a turkey fryer for a short length of time?

Hi Andrew: The experts recommend seasoning the chicken, patting it dry and then letting it set uncovered in the refrigerator for at least a day before cooking it. Two days might be better. Or, cooking in the usual manner, just before your bird is done, put it over some hot coals to crisp the skin. Let me know how this works. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Ron asks: Can you freeze oysters? If you can, are they as good as they would be if they were fresh?

Hi Ron: Yes, you can freeze oysters, but they will lose flavor and texture. The frozen ones will be okay for cooking in recipes, but not so good raw. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Craig has a chili question: I have read the recipes of many Texas chili champions and most call for the three-step process of adding spices at different times and using tri tip beef. Up north all the chili is made with ground beef and beans all cooked together. I have never seen this Texas style of making and eating chili in Ohio. What I am wondering is, if I make the chili with the ground beef and beans, should I follow the same three steps like the Texans do? See, up in Ohio they just brown the meat with onions and dump everything at once in the meat mixture and cook it.

Hi Craig: A lot of that three-step process is just show. It's not required. They use the expensive beef because it's easier to cut into the delicate little cubes that are so popular. Ground meat, chuck or round, works just as good. You don't want to fine grind it into hamburger though. A good butcher should know what "chili grind" means. And if the butchers in Ohio don't, tell them to grind it as coarse as possible.

It's true that some of the spices will cook down after a couple of hours. You might want to add a little garlic and oregano toward the end of the cooking time. Make sure it's Mexican oregano. I prefer to add cooked beans to the chili. If you cook them in with the meat and get a tough batch of beans, the meat will be cooked to mush before the beans get done. When the chili is done, just add the beans and cook long enough to warm the beans. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Anna Mae wants to know: Dr. John, please explain to me exactly what is Tex-Mex food? While in Houston, everyone I asked about eating at the "best Tex-Mex" food restaurant refers me to Papacitos, however, I do not know what to order! Please help me understand the difference. Many thanks.

Hi Anna Mae: Tex-Mex is the food style that has grown up along the border between Texas and Mexico. It's more where it's from than what it is. Basic Tex-Mex is chili, beans, meat (usually beef), rice and corn. Nearly all of it has a chili base. The typical Tex-Mex platter will have a taco, a couple of enchiladas, a tamale, refried beans and Spanish rice, all covered with cheese. The salad will be quacamole on shredded lettuce with chopped tomatoes. Corn tortillas complete the meal. Flour tortillas are popular, but corn tortillas are classic Tex-Mex. Any Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant will have a combination plate, which will have all or most of the above on it.

Fajitas are more Tex than Mex. Broiled beef in a tortilla with guacamole, onions, cheese and Pico de Gallo. Genuine Mexican food will have soups, stews, seafood (on the coast), beans and squash. Nearly everything will have chili seasoning in it.

It's all good. I hope this answers your question, and thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Paul has a barbecue problem: I have a small New Braunfels Grill, barbeque & smoker. I have tried twice to do a ham and a brisket. I used apple wood for the ham (I found out that it was still a little green). I also used Ohio Oak and some Hickory that I brought at Wal-Mart in bags. With the brisket and the ham, I got a lot of what I would call creosote buildup in the cooking compartment. For the brisket, I used a paprika base rub and a vinegar base mop. When it was done, it tasted terrible. I was trying to keep the temp to about 200 degrees. The same thing with the ham. What am I doing wrong?

Hi Paul: Too much smoke, not enough temperature. About an hour of good smoke from any of the woods is enough. After that you need to open the draft so the fuel gets enough oxygen to burn without smoking. If the temperature gets too high with the damper open, you may have to cut down on the amount of fuel. I'd raise the temperature to 275-300.

Give this a try. I think it will help. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

Traditional Texas Food Articles
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