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

Dateline: December 3, 2003

It appears most of the good Doctor's patients are suffering from chili-cast iron-grillitis this month. It's a good thing the Doctor specializes in Texas-style cooking. If he got a case of New England Boiled Dinner Syndrome he'd have to call in a consultant. Let's get to our first sticky skillet.

Pam writes: How do you cure a cast iron skillet after it was used for cooking? The pan was from Lodge Cookware. Can't get the burnt food out of the pan, and it has been sitting in water for 2 days and I still can't get the burnt food off.

Hi Pam: What the heck did you burn in there? First thing to try. Turn on the vent-a-hood. Heat that skillet until it is smoking hot. Stick it under the water tap and run cool water in it. It will hiss and pop a lot but should break loose all the charcoal. You may have to scrape with a metal spatula if some is extra sticky. If that don't do it, you'll have to burn it out.

If you have a gas grill, turn it on full blast. Put the skillet upside down over the burner and let it cook about an hour. Then turn the thing off and let it cool down. That should turn all the residue to ash that you can brush out with a wad of foil or stiff bristle brush. If you don't have gas grill, you might get one of them little propane torches and burn it out with that. Best would be to put it in a hot campfire until it turns red hot and then just let the fire die and things cool.

When you get it clean, put in about a quarter cup of Crisco or hog lard. Put it on the burner and heat it until the oil smokes. Turn it off and pour out excess oil. When it gets cool enough, take a wad of paper towels and rub the remaining oil all over the skillet inside and out. Then repeat the process. That should fix you up. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Gail writes: If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of green chili, how much powder should I use as a substitute?

Hi Gail: Green chili and chili powder are two completely different things. The green chili is a fresh or canned chili pepper. Ortega or Old El Paso Brands come to mind. Should be available in any Hispanic section of the supermarket. If you can't find green chili or just want to do without it, just omit it from the recipe. There will not be enough difference to notice. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Kimberly writes: Is there a purpose for grill marks, or are they purely for appearance?

Hi Kim: The grill marks are ninety-nine percent decoration. There may be just a tiny bit of flavor from the charring. We all know pretty food tastes better than drab food. I like the looks of the grill marks. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Gail is back: I am trying to make my own chili powder, and I used cascabel dried Peppers. I put them in my chopper, but I cannot get them to a fine powder. How do I do this?

Hi Gail: You need a spice grinder. A small electric coffee grinder works, too, but don't try and use it for coffee after you've used it for chiles. Check with the kitchen shops. They are not expensive. You can do it in a blender, but it takes a lot more time. You sift the ground chiles through a fine sieve to get the size powder you want. Here's a hint: Remove the seeds and stems from the chiles. Put them on a cookie sheet and pop them in a 350 degree oven for about five or ten minutes. Don't scorch them. They will become dry and brittle and powder much easier. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Jerry writes: Dr. John, how do I cure mesquite or pecan chips for cooking?

Hi Jerry: All you need to do is let the chips dry. Depending on how many you have, you can put them in an old panty hose or stocking and hang them in a dry spot. Just keep them dry; if they get damp they will mildew. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

On this same topic, there was a letter wanting to know how to use hardwood that had been felled by a hurricane for the smoker. The letter got lost somewhere in cyberspace, but just in case the writer is reading, here's my answer:

When you have a windfall of hardwood that you would like to preserve for smoking or barbecuing, it's not a hard task. You want to cut the wood into manageable size logs. Say, eighteen inches long. If you have any that are larger than six inches in diameter you will need to split them so they will dry faster. Stack the wood in an out-of-the-way place so you don't have to move it all the time. You want to keep the wood off the ground. Get some concrete paving stones or the like to stack your wood on.

No need to remove the bark if you plan to use the wood as soon as it's dry. If the wood is going to be in the stack several years, you might want to take the bark off to keep the insects from starting to consume it. If you get a lot of snow or rain, you ought cover the pile on top to prevent the water from seeping down inside the stack. Leave the sides open for air circulation. In about six months, your wood will be ready for use.

Merry Christmas to all. If you get more fruitcake than you need, send it to me, I've got a fruitcake tooth.
Dr. John


If you would like to direct a question to Ask Doctor John, e-mail it to John Raven, Ph.B.

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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