Dateline: September 2, 2004

We have a nice variety of questions from our readers for this month. The Doctor wants to send a special, big Texas "THANK YOU" to all his patients who are nice enough to send him a "THANK YOU". A pat on the back goes a lot farther than a kick in the butt.

Let's start off with a chile question from W.R. Thank you for your quick responses to previous questions, and thank you for being willing to share your knowledge and experience with those of us much less fortunate. My family thanks you as well for the quality of smoke cooking that I am now able to turn out for them.

My question today is how do I dry chiles/peppersB I am growing cayenne peppers, hot banana peppers, and jalapeños and would like to dry them for long-term storage (use during winter and until new crop comes in next year), since I won't be able to use them quick enough while they are fresh. I read your article concerning chiles and you talk about roasting them to remove the skin and say that roasted chiles can be stored for up to a year in the freezer. Is this a better way to store chiles/peppers for a long time versus drying themB I do appreciate all the information you can provide. Thank you.

Hi W.R.: If you want to dry the chiles, the best thing is to get a dehydrator. Second best is to find a warm, dry place to dry them. If you have a closet with the water heater in it that would work good. Don't crowd them, they need space for air to circulate around them.

You can freeze any of them right off the bush. You don't have to blanch them like other vegetables. They will retain most of their flavor, but will come out limp instead of crisp. You don't need to roast and peel the thin-skinned chiles, like you do the thick-skinned ones like Poblano, Anaheim and bell peppers. You can also pickle some. Just check for a "pickled pepper" recipe on the Internet. There should be one on Texas Cooking. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Tiffany asks: I just had a question about cooking Chicken Fried Steak. I am not a native Texan, but am learning the Texas way of cooking. I found a Texas recipe for Chicken Fried Steak, and it said to get round steak to make it. For some reason, I did not think of Chicken Fried Steak as being round steak. Is itB Any tips on getting the best round steak to make it taste betterB Thank you so much for your time.

Hi Tiffany: Yep, the original chicken fried steak was round steak. That was back when the average person could get good steaks in the supermarket. Now, all the tender beef goes to the restaurants and we get what's left. If you can find a source for "prime" beef, you can get good round steak. Otherwise you'll be better off with the tenderized version, or cube steak. That's what the low budget cafes use. Seasoning is up to you. Whatever you use, season the bare steak and then put it in a plastic bag or tight dish for several hours to let the seasoning seep in. I like Lawry's seasoned salt for my chicken fried anything. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Here's a family court question from Chuck: My wife and I are having a disagreement about how long it takes to cook rock Cornish game hens. Specifically, she claims that if it takes an hour to cook one hen at 350 degrees, it should take the same hour to cook 2, 3, 4, or 5 hens at the same temperature. I say it will take longer. Who's rightB Thanks.

Hey Chuck: I try to avoid getting into family squabbles as much as possible. I always end up getting blamed for anything that goes wrong. However, your question deals with phyzziks and Newton's third law of thermodynamics or something like that. When anything cooks, it absorbs heat from the surrounding climate. This cools the surrounding climate. Therefore, if one thing requires X amount of heat to cook, two things will require more heat. I don't know what the formula is, but two game hens will not require double the cooking time of one game hen. Two would take perhaps five minutes longer to cook than one. If you look at the instructions for micro waving a TV dinner, you will see it says if you cook one, cook it for so long, and if you cook two at the same time, cook them longer. So I think you are right.

Why don't y'all just try it sometimeB See if multiple birds will cook in time allotted for one. If this causes a fight, I will deny I ever said anything. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Sherry has drippy barbecue sauce: How do you get barbecue sauce to stay on something you are cooking on the grillB Mine always falls down onto the coals. I would like the sauce to be thick like it is when you order something at a restaurant. Thanks.

Hi Sherry: You can thicken your sauce with cornstarch or arrowroot powder. It won't affect the flavor enough that you can tell. The arrowroot would probably be better, as it will stay clear where the cornstarch will get a little cloudy. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Pam is checking on seasoning beans: After all these years of being away from home, I just have to start cooking some of my most favorite Texas fare. One question I have is regarding flavoring beans with pork. My mother was one of the best cooks ever, however, she had no patience to teach me, so bear with me please. When seasoning a pot of beans with pork, and the recipe calls for slices of bacon, salt pork, etc., are these pieces of pork to be put in the pot rawB It seems I remember her putting the beans, salt, onions, and raw bacon in the pot. Just want to be sure on this one! Thanks.

Hi Pam: Yes, the bacon or salt pork would go in raw. You want all the flavor cooked into the beans. If you use a ham-hock, it's already cooked. If you want to remove the bacon so as to not scare anyone, leave it in strips, if not, cut it in about half-inch pieces. Just as a refresher, beans cook better when soaked overnight. In Texas, about a teaspoon of chili powder and a little garlic goes in. When the beans start to get soft, mash a few against the side of the pot with your spoon, it makes the gravy better. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John