The doctor has a waiting room full of patients this month. Let's get to them.

Mavis writes:

I tasted a wonderful potato salad at a company picnic in July and asked for the recipe so I could make it too. I received the following recipe but when I followed it recently, I did NOT get the results I expected. It was not like the great potato salad I had earlier. Can you determine what might be wrong with this recipe, it seemed like it was too little mayonnaise for one thing. Any suggestions?

Peel and boil potatoes - not too tender. Cool in cold water, then cube. Mix with French dressing, cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Turn in celery, onion & eggs. Separately mix mayonnaise, celery seed & salt, then add to salad. Best if made at least a day in advance.

Mavis -- First thing I notice is there is no pickle in the recipe. Most potato salad recipes call for pickles. Here's the way to solve your potato salad problem. Boil up the potatoes as per directions. Add the onion, celery and eggs. Divide the potatoes into three equal portions. To the first portion, add the French dressing and mayonnaise. Use in proportion to size of batch.

In the second portion, put in about a quarter cup of sweet pickle relish, a tablespoon of salad mustard and enough Kraft Sandwich spread to get the moistness you want. In the third batch, put in another quarter cup pickle relish and enough mayonnaise to get the moistness you want.

Put all three in the ice box over night. Sample the next day and see which is the one you like best. If it's still not what you expected, mix all three portions together and taste that. if it's still not the one, give it to someone and start over with three more batches and various ingredients until you get the perfect one. Thanks for writing.

Dr. John

Ginger wrtes:

About 30 years ago I made the best chili. I think the recipe came from the Chili Appreciation Society and that it had something to do with the cookoff in Terlingua. It had no beans or tomatoes and was made with chili-grind meat that cooked for a long time in water before adding spices, ending with a corn meal and water mush added for thickening. I lost the recipe. Do you have it? Or anything similar?

Ginger -- Here's a recipe for you to try. I've adapted it a little to fit your specs. Remember, the chili powder is what determines how your chili comes out. They are all different. I like Adams, Mexene or Fiesta brands. You may have a favorite. Let me know how this works out.

Sheriff Smoot Schmid's Chili

Render the suet in a heavy kettle. Add meat and seasonings, and simmer for 4 hours, adding water as needed.

Here are my changes: Start as above. Add only garlic, salt and white pepper to meat. Cover with water and bring to simmer until the meat is tender. Add the rest of the ingredients. For the dried sweet chile pods, substitute about two tablespoons diced canned green chilies. When the chili is as tender as you want it, raise the heat to a hard boil and add cornmeal a little at a time while stirring until it gets as thick as you want it. Reduce and simmer 5 or 10 more minutes. Thanks for writing.

Dr. John

David writes:

Hello, Dr. John. I live in a part of the world where I can't get a good chili-powder (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). On the other hand, because of the diversity of the ethnicity here, we have a number of purveyors of Mexican foods, and they sell a good selection of dried chili pods. My question is how to use these pods to make a good Texas bowl-of-red chili? I would like to know what pods to use and how to mix them to achieve a good blend, what pods to use for flavor, what pods to use for color, what pods to use for heat, etc.

I have looked at Eleanor Bradshaw's excellent article, How to Make Your Own Chili Powder or Some Like it Hot, June, 1997) and have found it very informative. But what I would like to know is why Anchos and New Mexicos are used in the proportions given and are there other varieties that could be used and why. Could habernos be used for heat instead of the two she suggests? I have looked at the award winning recipes of the CASI cooks, but am not able to duplicate any of these recipes as they do not reveal the generic names of the chile pods that are used. Also, what is the difference in taste and texture, if any, between using chile pods that are toasted and ground as opposed to soaking and blenderizing? I know I have asked a lot of questions here, but I would like to make a decent bowl-of-red using the whole pods that are available to me locally, rather than send for ground chili powders from Penderry's, etc., and be using them without knowing what is going into my chili. Many thanks for your time in reading this and many more if you are able to reply.

David -- You are asking me how to reinvent the wheel. As you know, every person has a different idea of how chili should taste. What is perfect to me may be a spitter to you. I do encourage you to have a go at it. You'll need a good spice grinder and a big pile of assorted dried chiles. Exclude all the stems from your experiments, they have very little value.

The seeds and the pith of the peppers contain the "heat". Ground cayennes without the seeds and pith are nearly mild.

The traditional pepper used in chili is the ancho. Start there and work out the blend you like best. You can get the red color from paprika peppers.

One thing I can help you with is a method of tasting your product without actually making chili. Put about a teaspoon of your product in a cup of hot, beef bullion that has been slightly salted. Let set for about 30 minutes. Then you can taste it to see where you are. If the mixture has cooled too much, zap it in the microwave until it is the temperature you prefer.

Also, keep notes on everything you do. I mean everything. Then you won't find yourself duplicating experiments, and you will have a much clearer idea of where you are going.

Good luck with your experiments. When you find the perfect mixture, send me a sample. Thanks for writing.

Dr. John