Dateline: September 2, 2003

We are going to start off this month with a success story. The Doctor had a patient solve her own problem.

Katherine wrote in wanting to know how long to cook a whole turkey in a pressure cooker. The Doctor does not do much pressure cooking so he had to check the medical references. He didn't come up with a good answer. Best he found was for cooking a whole chicken. The Doctor wrote back to Katherine and suggested the best way to determine the cooking time was just by guess and by golly. Here is what Katherine replied:

Well, I gambled. I put two 13-pound turkeys in my pressure cooker, cooked them at 15 psi for one hour and 45 minutes. IT CAME OUT PERFECT. I also stuck one onion in each turkey cavity. Salt, pepper and liquid smoke. They turned out moist, cooked through, and tasted like I spent hours on the grill. Take broth, make gravy with Wondra flour, and away you go. You have the utmost delicious gravy, sauce, and turkey. How's that?

Thank you, Katherine! This is the way you learn. Try it and see what happens. I'm happy you had a success. I'll file the information in case the question comes up again.

So on to our regular questions:

John writes: I was visiting Chicago recently and had dinner in a Texas-style seafood restaurant. Along with my meal, a dish of dirty rice was served. It was wonderful. Do you have a recipe for this dish?

Hey John: Here's the real recipe. It is not a pretty dish, but it sure is good.

Dirty Rice

Cook the rice according to package instructions.

Cover the gizzards and livers with water, bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and chop.

Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Pour off the grease after the ground beef is done. Stir in all of the other ingredients except the rice. Cook for another 15 minutes over medium heat. Stir in the rice and continue cooking over medium heat for another 5 minutes stirring a few times.

Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Mrs. D. writes: I can't seem to find anyone that can tell me how to make good clear ice tea like I had in a little diner in Texas. Can you please help me? My tea comes out cloudy all the time.

Hi: I don't know how you are making your tea. If you put a pitcher of tea in the refrigerator, it will turn cloudy. You can add a just a little hot water, and it will clear up. There may be something in your water that makes for cloudy tea. Try some bottled spring water. Other than that, I can't tell you any more. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Phillip writes: I have what I hope will be a very simple question. How can I find out what spices will taste like without buying every spice there is and putting it on my tongue? I am just now, at 51, really getting into cooking and I love to try new spices, but I cannot afford to ruin meals experimenting? Can you help me?

Hey Phillip: That is a good question. I really never thought about it. First thing you need to do is read up on the spices. has a food dictionary that will define the spices for you.

There are only four tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Spices and herbs fall into "families". I won't look up the Latin names but, for example, there is the onion family which includes, of course, the onion, garlic, leeks, chives and shallots. They all have the same basic taste. There are variations in the basic taste. Marjoram, basil, tarragon and oregano are another family. So by going to the basic taste, you can get an idea of what the family is like. To taste a spice without putting it in a dish, put a little of it in some warm chicken stock. This will tell you how it will taste when cooked.

Check around and see if there is a spice store nearby where they sell in bulk. They would probably be happy to let you smell and taste and provide you with a small sample for testing. Bulk spices are a whole lot cheaper than those in the fancy jars and cans. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John.

Kathy writes: I have a recipe for salt rising bread that calls for sweet milk. Is this whole milk? Or any milk with sugar added?

Hey Kathy: It's just plain old milk. In the old days before we had iceboxes, the milk went sour very fast. So you had "sweet" milk that had not soured. It was also a way to distinguish plain milk from buttermilk, which was more prevalent back then.

Rachel writes: After a recent trip to Texas during which I tried Key Lime Pie, I have been keen to get a recipe for it. Could you provide me with one for it, please? Thanks so much.

Hey Rachel: Key Lime Pie is a Florida staple, but we have it here in Texas for tourists. Give this a try. By the way, use fresh squeezed limejuice. That bottled stuff just won't cut it.

Key Lime Pie

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine limejuice, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour into prepared crust, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before refrigerating. Serve chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

If you would like to direct a question to Ask Doctor John, e-mail it to John Raven, Ph.B.