Here we are in November, the beginning of the holiday season. The good Doctor's mailbox is running over with pleas for help from all over the world. The Doctor is in, so fire away.

Les from Minneapolis, Minnesota writes:

I'm always pleased to find a good salsa verde. Generally these have a base of tomatillos. I've grown a few plants and the fruit is coming in, but I'll be danged if I can find any information on preparing them and recipes that use them. Any suggestions?

Hey Les -

You're lucky. Our gardens burned up in May.

Tomatillo (toe-mha-TEE-yo)

They won't get red -- they stay green. To use, simply remove the papery outer husk. To cook, boil in salted water until tender. You can find many salsa verde recipes on the Internet, simply search "Salsa Verde". I don't make it, so I have no favorite recipe in my file. I do know you will want some mild green chiles, onion and garlic. A small amount of hot green chile such as jalepeno or cayenne (green) will really spice it up.

When you find the perfect recipe, send it to me for future reference. I can use all the help I can get. Thanks for writing.

Dr. John

George (Lonesome Texan in Hoosierland) writes:

I have two wild ducks and would like to Q them up real nice. How should I prepare them, and what should I serve with them? (I have a Weber Smoky Mountain smoker). Thanks!

Hey Lonesome George --

Here's a down South duck recipe from my buddy Smoky Hale in McComb, Mississippi. It will make you want to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud.

Roast wild duck

Clean the drip pan in your smoker, and put in about a half inch of water.

Wash the ducks well. Pat dry with paper towels. Season inside and out with salt and black pepper. Stuff the body cavity with apple, onion and celery mixture. Truss the birds, if necessary. While the ducks are coming up to room temperature, mix the vodka and schnapps and divide into two equal parts. Reserve one part, and brush the ducks several times with the other half while they are coming up to room temperature.

Put the ducks on the grill. You want a fairly high temperature of around 350 degrees. After half an hour, check your temperature and give the ducks another brushing with the vodka/schnapps mix. After about an hour and a half, start checking for doneness. They will be done when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160 degrees or the juices run clear.

Remove the ducks form the smoker. Put the drip pan on the stove and deglaze it with the reserved basting mixture. Add the peach preserves and simmer and stir until the mixture thickens. Serve this sauce on the side.

For a side dish, I would get a pack of wild rice stuffing and prepare according to package directions or you can make your own at home from scratch. Enjoy.

Dr. John

Simon from Australia writes:

Hi, Dr. John. I've got an old record by a Dr. John called Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya. I can't imagine you're the same Dr John, but you might know what Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya means, cos I'm ****** if I do. Anyway, barbeque. I'm not a bad cook in your standard kitchen -- make my own pasta, crush my own spices, cut deep gashes in my own fingers, etc. But barbeque's got me buggered. I was pressed into bbq service at a friend's place and things got out of hand - despite the use of a gas bbq, there was quite a bit of charcoal involved in the process, if you know what I mean. A lady present pronounced "Ugh! You can tell a man cooked this." Well, I didn't know whether to complain to a Sex Discrimination Commissioner, or slap the ungrateful cow around the face with a highly crispy piece of meat. In the event, I did nothing, sensibly, but resolved internally to do better next time.

So I rushed out and got meself a gas bbq and invited my colleagues from work around for a feast of Tandoori lamb kebabs, tomato and maple syrup belly pork slices, sausages and homemade hamburgers. Since the invite, I've discovered I'm about to be retrenched, but I've got to go ahead with the bbq.

Q1. Do you think I've bitten off more than I can chew?
Q2. Is there a delayed action but really severe form of food poisoning I could inflict selectively on my boss?

Simon -

No, I'm not that Dr. John. I lean more toward Led Zepplin and Iron Butterfly.

I don't see any problems with your pending barbecue. The gas grill runs too hot for the "smoked" variety of barbecue, but is ideal for what you are going to do. The secret to these things is to do as much preparation as possible ahead of time. All the kabobs will be assembled. Everything will be up to room temperature before you start. All your seasonings and marinades will be in place. Then all you have to do is flop it on the grill and take it off when it's done.

It sounds like you may have too much to fit on the grill all at one time, so you must have a suitable vessel at hand to keep things warm that are done. Lacking a proper pot, you can wrap the items in foil and keep them at the edge of the fire to stay warm.

Just don't panic. This is an exacting science and your guests will understand if you are a little late with the food. As for ambushing your boss, I can't recommend food poisoning, but you might find it entertaining to add a whole lot of cayenne or habenero pepper to portions reserved for him. Everyone else will be complimenting you on your skills, and he will be wondering why the heck he finds it so HOT.

Good luck and don't be a stranger. Thanks for writing.

Dr. John

Dan writes:

I have a chili recipe that requires three pounds of meat. I want to increase it to twenty pounds of meat. How do I figure how to increase the other ingredients? Help!

Dan -

I'm sure that somewhere there are precise directions written for such occasions. I don't have any idea where that would be, so we'll do it my way.

You are going for about seven times your original recipe. Let's stay away from fractions as they give me a headache.

Mix up seven times the regular amount of your dry ingredients. If you use oregano and or dried garlic, keep that separate. If you use onions, use a half a cup of onion to two pounds of meat. Fresh garlic, about two cloves to two pounds of meat. About one half your usual amount of tomato whatever -- sauce, fresh, or canned.

Start your pot in the usual manner. When it's ready, add one-half the spice mix. Let it simmer a while and taste. Add more spice mix if needed. Keep tasting and adding until you have the taste you want. Add the oregano and or dried garlic in the last thirty minutes of cooking time, as the oregano will get bitter and the garlic will go away with too much cooking. I think you will find about two-thirds of the spice to be enough. If you use cayenne, you might want to cut back on that at the start, too.

My first big batch of chili -- 50 pounds -- was done in this manner. It came out real good. Once upon a time, I assisted in cooking over 2000 pounds of chili in one pot. We just shoveled spices in there.

Be sure and write down exactly how much of what you use and then next time you will have a place to start. Thanks for writing.

Dr. John