Dateline: November 1, 2005

Here it is Turkey month again. The good Doctor is thankful that the turkey questions did not come this year. I'm sure all the articles in Traditional Texas Fare have made turkey experts of everyone.

Just a reminder that November is National Hog Lard Month. The grease of our forefathers is being honored. Fry something or make a pie crust with lard. You'll like it.

Let's get to them spunky questions.

Darlene has steak to cook: l have to cater to 210 people, and they want STEAK. Please help me out on cooking this many steaks either rare, medium or well done. Is there away to time it in minutes, rather than by feel or just looking at it? Thank you.

Hi Darlene: Information from Hormel Foods about grilling steaks says:

For a 3/4-inch ribeye over medium-hot fire
Rare: 5 to 7 minutes
Medium-Rare: 6 to 8 minutes
Medium: 7 to 9 minutes
Medium-Well: 8 to 10 minutes
Well: 9 to 11 minutes

Of course, you turn the steak about half way through the process. That should get you in the ball park. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Shaun is Hungry in Oklahoma: I love eating hot links, either sliced or on a hot dog bun with mustard, so much that I spend a small fortune at the local BBQ joint close by each week. I have purchased my first smoker and am getting pretty good at the basic meats. I have tried to slow cook hot links, but they either burst while cooking or the casing is so tough to bite through. I have searched for info on the Internet and local bookstores, and I cannot find any info or tips on temperature and time. I can find some pretty good hot links to buy from a local butcher; I just need to know how to cook them. Can you help please? Thanks.

Hi Shaun: You have to cook those buggers slow. Keep the temperature below the boiling point of water. It's the steam that causes them to explode. I have seen sausage explosions that led to fire trucks being called. Or, you can punch a few little holes in the casing before you start to let the steam out. Rule of thumb is when they get wrinkled they are done. As for the casing, some casing is just naturally tough. If it's a natural casing, you might try basting with a little oil while they are cooking. If it's man-made casing, I don't know what to tell you. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Danny has black beans: I found an old cast iron pot that my Great Grandmother used. I tried making pinto beans, but they came out almost black instead of brown. Am I doing something wrong, or do they look like that because of the cast iron cookware? I am going to try seasoning it again, but this will be the second time for that, too. God Bless.

Hi Danny: This comes from a chemical reaction between the food and the cast iron. Any high acid food will try to eat the pot. I don't know your bean recipe, but if you have tomatoes in them, this may be the chief villain. When you have a cast iron pot that has a real deep seasoning from years of service, it will seal to where the chemicals can't get to the iron. You may have to use your pot for other things until you get a really good seasoning in it. Frying things in the pot helps a lot. Or, you can tell people you are cooking black beans and be considered really up to date with the latest trend. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Vivian is creaming things: How can you tell when butter and sugar are the right consistency when recipe calls for them to be creamed?

Hi Vivian: The mix will be "creamed" when you can no longer see any patches of sugar or lumps of butter. Everything mixed together well. Make sure the butter is at room temperature when you start. Most recipes say "cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy". Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Rachel is looking for armadillo meat: I have a lot of recipes that call for armadillo meat. I have made them with chicken, beef and pork, but I want to make these recipes with armadillo meat. Unfortunately, I cannot find armadillo meat for sale any place at all. Any suggestions?

Hi Rachel: It's illegal to sell armadillo in Texas. I'm sure it's the same elsewhere. You would have to get some hunter to bootleg some for you. In a blind taste test, the average person cannot tell armadillo from chicken, so stick with the chicken. Also, some armadillos carry leprosy. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John