Dateline: September 1, 2006

Ask Dr John

It won't be long until the long, hot summer starts to mellow out. It will soon be time to clean and cover the outdoor cooking equipment and move inside where it's cozy and smells good.

So let's see what kind of problems we can solve this month.

Our first request comes to us from Canada. A nice lady says that on her recent visit to Texas her son discovered flautas and now that is all he wants to eat. She asked for flauta recipe.

Flautas (Crisp-Fried Beef-Stuffed Tortillas)

For the filling:

Make the filling:
In a large saucepan combine the beef, the sliced onion, the whole garlic clove, salt and water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer the mixture, covered partially, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Let the beef cool in the broth, drain it, reserving 1/3 cup of the broth, and shred it with forks.

In a large skillet cook the remaining finely chopped onion and the 2 minced garlic cloves in the olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the shredded beef, tomato sauce, chopped jalapeño, cumin and the reserved broth. Simmer the mixture, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it is thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let the filling cool.

Working with one warmed tortilla at a time and keeping the others covered, spread about 2 rounded tablespoons of the filling down the center of each tortilla, roll up the tortilla enclosing the filling, and secure the ends closed with wooden picks. Keep the rolled tortillas covered with plastic wrap. The flautas may be prepared to this point up to two hours in advance and kept covered tightly with plastic wrap and chilled.

In a large skillet, heat 1/2 inch of cooking oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Fry the flautas in batches, turning them, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are crisp, and transfer them with tongs to paper towels to drain. Spread the lettuce on a platter or divide it among six plates, arrange the flautas on it, and top them with the guacamole and the sour cream. Or you can serve the garnishes separately and let people garnish their own flautas.

To warm tortillas:
In the oven: Stack 6 tortillas at a time and wrap each stack in foil. Heat in the middle of a preheated 325F degree oven for 5 minutes for corn tortillas and 15 minutes for flour tortillas. (If the tortillas are very dry to begin with, pat each tortilla between dampened hands before stacking them.)

In the microwave: Stack 6 tortillas at a time and wrap each stack in a microwave-safe plastic bag. Heat in a microwave oven at high power (100%) for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until they are heated through and pliable.

Charles wants to know what to do with leftover brisket.

My favorite way to handle leftover brisket is to make "Faux Fajitas". Slice the brisket very thin. Warm it either in the microwave or in the oven wrapped in foil. Serve on a warm flour tortilla with chopped tomato and chopped onion and some shredded cheddar. Top with a dab of picante sauce. You can also add some guacamole if you like.

Texas tradition calls for chopped beef sandwich. Chop or grind the brisket very well, and heat it with enough of your favorite red barbecue sauce to get a good texture. Serve on a bun with onion and pickle.

Vicky writes: Can you please give me a brand name (or two) for Triple Sec as I cannot find it anywhere. Either that or let me know what it is.

Hey Vicky: A few brand names: Arrow, Bols, De Kuyper, Du Bouchett, Giroux, Hiram Walker. Triple Sec is a bitter orange-flavored liqueur. Grand Marnier will substitute if you can't find the real thing. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Holly writes: I am trying to find a good recipe for beans. I think they are called Cowboy Beans. Three kinds of beans with a real good flavor.

Hey Holly: I've never heard of a cowboy bean recipe that uses more than one kind of bean. But I can tell you how to make superior beans, cowboy style.

For one pound of dried beans (pinto preferred), wash the beans and pick out any rocks and sticks. Put them in a large pot with enough water to cover them about three inches. Let the beans set overnight.

In the morning, drain off the soaking water and add fresh water to cover them about three inches. Put them on the stove and add three strips of bacon that has been diced. Put in about a quarter cup of minced onion. Bring them to a boil and then cut the fire down to a light simmer, just barely boiling. After about an hour, add a teaspoon of chili powder and a clove of crushed garlic.

Continue to simmer. Stir occasionally. When the beans begin to get tender, mash some of them against the side of the pot with the spoon. This will thicken the gravy. When they are tender enough to suit you, they are done. Just before serving, add the juice of one small lemon and stir it in. This really wakes up the flavor.

If you want to combine beans, try and get them about the same size, such as pintos, navy and kidney beans. If you use white beans in the mix, omit the chili powder and add a couple of more strips of bacon.

If you want "to die for" butter beans, cook them in chicken stock instead of water (or half stock/half water) and add a couple of tablespoons of butter when they are just about done.

Of course, in any case you season to taste with salt and black pepper. And don't forget to make some cornbread to soak up the "sop". Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John