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

September 1, 2010

September is here. Now we can look forward to some cool air seeping down from the North Pole. August was a hot little bugger. Most folk were eating light, frying eggs on the sidewalk and making flapjacks on the hood of the truck.

The doctor is in, so let’s get them problems solved.

From Sandra: Dr. John, what is your opinion of canned chili?

Sandra: Canned chili has its place on my menu. It was the only kind of chili I knew until I was nearly full grown. In working families, the cook doesn’t always have time to spend two or three hours coming up with a pot of homemade chili. It is a lot quicker and easier to hit the can opener a lick or two and be done with it.

Of course, you know there are a bunch of different brands of chili out there, and some of the brands have sub-types. You have to just look around until you find your favorite. Two brands compete for being senior in the Texas market: Wolf Brand and Gebhardt’s. Both date back to the early years of canned goods.

My favorite at this writing is Wolf Brand lean beef chili. The lean beef is an offshoot of the chili cook-offs. In the glory years of the chili competitions before chili got to be a headline food, a can of Wolf Brand contained a little cube of fat about as big as a sugar cube, a bit of gristle, and the rest was oatmeal. Now their lean beef variety has real beef in it, and the beef is cut into cubes like you used to find at the cook-offs.

The Wolf Brand "original" is pretty good chili, too. It has done away with the chunks of fat and gristle and uses some beef, but it still mainly oatmeal. But it’s certainly good on a cool fall evening and fills the bill on the hot dog.

Just find one you like and go with it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

More Biscuits:
Bob wants biscuit update: I make a pretty fair scratch biscuit. I know nothing is perfect, so do you have any tips that may make for a better biscuit?

Bob: There are two things I have found that improve the quality of biscuits without a lot of fuss and bother.

  1. Have your shortening cold when you cut it into the flour mix. Measure out the amount of shortening you need the night before you bake and keep it in the icebox until you are ready for it. Don’t cut the shortening too fine. You want some pieces about as big as a BB. Also, use ice-cold milk or water in your dough.
  2. Don’t overwork the dough. The less you handle the dough, the lighter the biscuits will be. Through careful research, determine the amount of liquid you need for your size batch and then add it all at once and mix just until you have a dough with no dry spots in it.
You can see the theory in action. When you make cut biscuits, the ones cut from the dough the first time through will be much better than the ones that you make after gathering the dough scraps and making a second cutting. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

John, who is one of our faithful readers, has sent in a couple of tips on how to add some extra zip to your meals.

I enjoyed reading your article about cabbage recipes. We enjoy cabbage that has been chopped and then steamed in a skillet until it softens up. Then pour off the water, add bacon drippings and fry until it just starts to brown. Eaten hot with vinegar sprinkled over it (from the little skinny bottles of green Tabasco peppers), that's good.

I also use the same vinegar when I mix the dressing for coleslaw, and it spices the slaw up. I refill the jars with white vinegar until I use up the peppers. I also use a couple of the little green Tabasco peppers diced and stirred into stovetop stuffing for an unexpected flavor.

Isn’t that nice? Thanks so much, John. You have a great name. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Phil fries wings outside: Dr. John, on an outdoor cooker how long to deep-fry wings?

Hi Phil: Rough rule of thumb when deep-frying anything like wings is, when they float, they are done. For a dozen or so wings, it should take five to ten minutes, depending on how brown you want them. Make sure the oil is no less than 350°F. If you are doing large batches, it will cool the oil so you want the temperature up around 375°F when you start. Hope this makes sense. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

From Harold: I recently won a gift certificate from a drawing Austin Telco had. So with it I bought a New Braunfels smoker, and I made my first brisket following your directions. It weighed 14.5 lbs. and I kept the temp between 200 and 215°F. After 17 hours total, my wife and I had a really great tasting brisket. Now I want to smoke chicken. My question is how high should the temp be, and how long should they cook? I plan on using half chickens. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Harold: The long, slow smoking time for a brisket is to give it time to tender up. It's a really tough cut of meat.

A chicken is a different bird. Unless you get an old rooster, it's pretty tender. I like 325 to 350°F. Time depends on size of bird. I'd start checking for doneness after about forty-five minutes.

If you're new at smoking chicken, baste often with Italian dressing until you find something you like better. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

That about winds it up for September. Don’t forget chili, brisket and chicken fried steak in the kids’ school lunches.

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

Traditional Texas Food Articles
By Dr. John, Ph.B.

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