All hands and the cook in the kitchen. The holidays are close at hand. The turkeys are hiding in the tall grass and cow's are in the corn. Let's start off this month with the ever popular turkey fryer question.

Phillip writes: I just purchased an outdoor deep-fry cooker for my Thanksgiving turkey. Do you recommend this type of cooking and do you have any other good recipes to try?

Hey Phil: Deep-frying is always good. Done properly, you don't get near as much fat as the fat police would like you to believe. I'm not a big fan of fried turkey, but I have friends that love it. I like fried chicken and fried catfish. You can find recipes in Grandma's Cookbook here on Texas Cooking Online. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Here's a sample of the type of letter the Doctor likes to get. The more feedback he gets from readers, the easier his job is.

Don writes: Hi, Dr. John. Sure do enjoy your newsletters. Just received the latest issue and noticed the query about the guys at Brinkman not doing the job. When I bought mine, I couldn't get it to work with charcoal, so I bought the electric element and now it works like Hot-Damn. You have to be real patient and like you said, and keep it out of the breeze. My smoker gets used almost weekly. It does a smoked turkey to a TEE. It takes 8-10 hours to cook the turkey, depending on the outside temp. Briskets & pork-butts -- Delicious !!! Thanks again.

Hey Don: Thanks for the input. I suspected the cool air was the problem. Keep 'em smokin'. Thanks for the feedback.
Dr. John

Barbeque Frank in K.C. writes: Been trying to locate a web site offering the following for sale: New Mexico chili powder, California chili powder, Texas chili powder, Gebhardt chili powder. Here in Kansas City, we think we know something about barbeque, but our local spice dealers don't appear to know much about chili powder or where to get it. Can you help? Thank you.

Hey Frank: Check out www.penderys.com for your exotic powders. Gebhardt's is still on the market, but I think the company sold a while back and I don't have address on them. I'll check and see if I can find it. If you see my little buddy Chef Paul Kirk, give him my best.
Dr. John

Dan writes: Hello Dr. John. After being in several chili cook-offs this summer, many of the judges had the same complaint about my chili - in particular, the texture of my meat. I use mock chuck tenders and cube them to 1/4" or slightly larger consistency. Sometimes I will run it through a 'chili grind' die in the meat grinder. Then in a thick skillet over medium heat, I will brown the meat in Crisco shortening in small thin layers or batches to avoid 'steaming' the meat. Then I add my liquids and spice dumps and cook it covered for 1-1/2 hours at a strong simmer.

It's a real good and tasty chili (according to the judges), but many complain about the 'dryness' of the meat. And I notice that, too. It's very tender and pulls apart very easily in the mouth, but the texture of the inside of the meat cubes leaves a powdery, dry sensation on the pallet. It's driving me crazy Dr. John! Can you help me out with this dilemma? Thanks!

Hey Dan: This is one of them things that is hard to do from a distance.

Got two things for you to try. First, instead of the mock tender, use chuck that has marbling in it. The fat should keep it moist. It won't show up as red grease in the pot. Second, instead of using Crisco, use chicken broth to sauté the meat. Don't do both at once. Try one and then the other. If this don't work let me know and I'll get the brain trust together and see what else we can come up with. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

The good Doctor had a letter from a barbecuer in Florida who wanted to know about using sea-grape wood for cooking. The letter wandered somewhere off into cyberspace after I sent the answer, but I think it deserves attention here.

My research said the sea-grape tree that grows near the warm salt waters has fruit that is edible, so there should be no harmful agents present. The only wood that I know of that you really don't want on the barbecue fire is poison ivy. Some folks are so allergic to that stuff that the smoke will make them sick, and Lord knows what would happen if they ingested some of the fumes. Any hardwood that doesn't smell bad when you burn it is suitable for barbecuing, but you want to avoid woods with lots of oil in them such as cedar and pine.

Carolyn writes: My daughter has to come up with a chilli cookout for 300 people using chilli bricks. Can you help? [Doctor's note: The use of two "l"s in chili is a sure tip off this note came from Illinois.]

Hey Carolyn: I assume you want suggestions on side dishes for the chili feed. For a real Texas-style feed you will want:

The chili is served piping hot in a suitable bowl, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and to teaspoon or so of picante sauce on top. The beans are served in a separate bowl. Your guests will want plenty of napkins. For dessert, a small helping of lemon or orange sherbet or a praline. Hope this helps.
Dr. John