Dateline: November 1, 2006

Ask Dr John

It must be fall. I'm seeing lots of pumpkins, winter squash and Indian corn decorating nearly everything. It makes me feel good knowing the holidays are nearly upon us. Nonetheless, we have people with problems. Let us see if we can assist them.

Debbie wants to know: Who started the first ever chili cook-off? Where was it held and how did it all start? Thanks.

Hi Debbie: The first chili cook-off was on October 5, 1952, at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. It was staged as a promotion for Joe E. Cooper's book With or Without Beans. A Mrs. F.G. Ventura was the winner. Joe E. Cooper died about a month later and never got to see his book on sale. The next chili cook-off was in 1967 in Terlingua, Texas, and the rest as they say is history. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Heather wants smoked veggies: We recently purchased a new BBQ Grillware propane smoker. It unfortunately did not come with a cookbook. Do you have any good recipes for smoking vegetables like potatoes and onions? We aren't squash eaters and the only recipes I have found for smoking veggies are with squash. We both swear Brinkmann has a vegetable recipe to smoke with their smokers. Hope you can help!

Hi Heather: Veggies are easy. Just a couple of things you need to know. The likes of potatoes and carrots need to be precooked. You cook them in salted water until they are just barely tender, then put them on the grill. You can cook them ahead of time if you like. You will want your veggies to be of the same sort and about the same size. That way they all get done about the same time.

The standard method for all veggies in the smoker/grill is about the same. You brush them with a light coating of oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, or whatever. Then give sprinkle of seasoning. You get to choose the seasonings. For onions I like to just sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper. With potatoes you might want to try a bit of onion powder, salt and pepper. A tomato can be a thing of beauty. Just oil it and sprinkle with a bit of minced basil or other Italian type seasoning. The tomatoes cook until they are tender and start to wrinkle a bit. Vegetables ala shish kabob work very well and are easier to handle.

Just jump in and try some things. It is really hard to mess something up to where you can't eat it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Jo has a beef question: Most of my relatives used to live in Weatherford, Texas, and liked to cook. One of my favorite types of meat they cooked in the grill was what they called "clod", but I have never been able to find out anything about this in any cookbook, and supermarkets meat departments are also of no help, so thought I would ask you. The only thing I remember about it is that it was a large piece of beef, and my Grandfather cooked it for a long period of time.

I find the website to be very helpful. Thanks.

Hi Jo: The full name is "shoulder clod". As the name implies, it comes from the shoulder area of beef. Some of the commercial barbecuers around here still use them rather than brisket.

The clod is a little better cut of beef than the brisket. It does not have the long grain fibers the brisket has. You would cook one in the same manner you cook a brisket. [Editor's note: See John Raven's article Brisket from B to T.] Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Betty needs brisket for a crowd: I am planning a large charity event and would like to purchase enough brisket to feed about 350 people. I have found someone to cook them for us, but I do not know how many to buy. Could you please give me some advice or tell me where I might find information on this. Thanks. Hi Betty: A regular serving is 6 ounces for cooked brisket. Some will eat more, some will eat less. If you want to feed 350, that would be 2,100 ounces or 131.25 pounds.

Now, you know the briskets shrink 40 to 50 percent when cooked, so we are looking at about 260 pounds of raw brisket.

I have no degrees in mathematics so I think the above is pretty close, but won't guarantee it. Call your local county home extension agent and ask them for an opinion. Also if you have a barbecue joint in town big enough to cater, ask them. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

The bride's a Pepper, too: My daughter wants to serve Dr Pepper floats at her wedding reception. We plan to serve them in a punch bowl. I need to have enough for 300 to 350 people. Can you give me a recipe or proportions of Dr Pepper to ice cream to make these?

Mother of the Bride: Calculating on a serving being 12 ounces of soda and one scoop (approximately 1/2 cup) of ice cream you would need 9.37 gallons of soda and 3.125 gallons of ice cream for 100 people. Multiply that by 3 to 3.5. Have a good time. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Robbie is in for a treat: I just moved to Texas and will be getting my first wild pig to cook up. It will weigh about 35-40 pounds. I wanted to do an oven roast, but am unsure how to go about cooking the whole pig, or even if I should cook the whole pig at one time. Any suggestions? Thanks.

What a treat! Wild pig/hog is one of my favorites.

You can oven-roast him whole if your oven and roasting pan are large enough. If not, quarter him into two front pieces and two rear pieces. I would prefer the smaller portions as they are easier to handle and should cook a little faster.

Season the meat on all sides with what you prefer. Use the open pan roasting method like you would a turkey. After the roast gets brown, put a "tent" of foil over it.

You want to cook it to an internal temperature of about 160 degrees measured in the thickest part. We want the pork well done. I'm sure your results will be spectacular. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Tracy has soggy tortillas: I made some machaca and egg burritos for my husband. He goes to work to early in the morning so he wanted warm them in the microwave and eat on the road to work.

The flour tortillas get soggy. I knew they would, but they're still eatable. Do you have any suggestions? Also, what type of salsa would you suggest for them? Thanks!

Hi Tracy: First off, do you warm the tortillas before you make up the burritos? I think warming them in a dry skillet would sort of seal them so they don't absorb so much moisture. Also, you may be wrapping the burritos while they are still warm. This will condense the moisture in them. Let them cool before you wrap them.

As for salsa, it's a matter of individual taste. Try a couple of different ones until you find one Hubby likes. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John