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

Dateline: March 2, 2006

Ask Dr John

WOW! It's March already. Only three weeks until the official opening of spring. We have had an exceptionally mild winter in Texas. Only thing we need is a bunch of slow rain. It's mighty dry around the state.

It's time to hang out the "Doctor Is In" sign and get to work. Several of our patients are searching for old family recipes.

Dave wants to know if the Doctor has chicken fried steak secrets. He writes: Your answers to peoples' questions are always so right-on and perfectly in sync with the way cooking was done when I was growing up in East Texas. I thought I'd ask if you would share your recipe/technique for that second-most blessed icon (after chili, of course!) of Texas dishes, Chicken Fried Steak. I know how to cook it; my Mama did it better'n anyone I ever knew. I just want to see how close your version is to my Mama's and mine, since most everything else you write about seems to be 'right there'.

Hi Dave: Nothing special. Just like everyone, season the meat, flour it, dip it in the egg, and put more flour on. Fry it.

In 1954, I ate in a little cafe in Port O'Conner. They had the best chicken fried steak ever. We were impressed enough to ask the cook the secret. He said "Lawry's Seasoned Salt". I think that's it. Ever since then I have had a shaker of Lawry's in the pantry.

Biggest complaint I have on other people's CFS is the gravy. Too many put white sauce on it and think it's gravy. You gotta have old-time cream gravy with lots of black pepper in it. I once hit a diner in San Antone that served "Mexican chicken fried steak". It was regular CFS with chile con queso on it. I thought it was outstanding. Anyway you might want to try that once. Thanks for your kind words and thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Gayle is looking for bread pudding: My grandmother used to make the most wonderful bread pudding, but nothing like what is served in restaurants. It had a custard poured over -- I do not like calling it stale as that seems old and green - but it was bread that was dried out, and she would either layer it or tear it in shreds and pour a custard-like substance over it and bake for an hour. It would puff up but after it cooled, it shrank down. I loved it, but she died taking that recipe with her. I am 64 and the rest of my family and cousins are trying to find a recipe like hers. Can you help?

Hi Gayle: Here's a recipe you can try. We like it. The bourbon sauce is optional. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Southern Bread Pudding

  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 12 ounces fresh French bread, crusts trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1-1/2 cups milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Combine the raisins and 1/3 cup bourbon in small bowl. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place bread in a large bowl. Whisk the milk, 3/4 cup sugar, cream, eggs, 2 egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium bowl to blend. Pour egg mixture over bread. Add raisins; mix gently to coat bread.

Transfer mixture to a buttered 9x5x3-inch glass baking dish. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes longer.

Bourbon sauce
Melt butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water. Add 3 tablespoons bourbon, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 egg yolk. Whisk until mixture thickens slightly and candy thermometer registers 160F, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Cut hot or warm bread pudding into 6 slices. Transfer to plates. Spoon bourbon sauce over each portion and serve.

Rose is looking for flour and fresh vegetables: Where can I buy flour for Italian bread making? Duram for some things and Simoline. Also, where is the best farmers market for Italian veggies?

Hi Rose: You can find the flours at Look under "Gourmet foods, flour". I like to have never found them as I had no clue as to how to spell either.

Durum flour is from hard wheat, as opposed to soft wheat. It is preferred for making pasta, and does not lend itself to baking. Semolina is Durum wheat that has not been ground as fine. Also used for pasta.

As for the Farmer's market, you'll have to ask around, I ain't ever bought a vegetable around west Foat Wuth. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Bob wants to try something new: Is it possible to fry chicken in a cast iron skillet in an oven? I thought that setting the oven temp to 350 or so and verifying it with a thermometer beforehand would ensure the best temperature control, especially in a cast iron skillet. I would only use oil halfway up the chicken pieces and use a spatter screen. I might be crazy enough to ask the question, but I'm too chicken to try it without some authoritative okay.

Hi Bob: That's a new one on me. All the "ovenfried" recipes I find are like Shake-and-Bake. The chicken is coated with breadcrumbs or flour and then baked in a minimum amount of oil.

I don't see any reason that your idea won't work. I don't think the chicken will know where the heat is coming from. Try a small batch and see what happens. But I would elevate the temperature about twenty-five degrees higher. Good luck, let me know what happens.
Dr. John

Chuck writes: Hey Dr. John. I grew up on a farm in Hopkins County Texas, and the main thing that I remember about growing up in Texas is the food. We didn't have much money, but I don't ever remember being hungry. Mom used to make a soup that had corn, potatoes, tomatoes and elbow macaroni. I think she may have put chicken in it also and seasoned it with chili powder. I've looked at many recipes and none seem to be anything that I recognize. I would appreciate any feedback on this.

Hi Chuck: You are remembering the world famous Hopkins County Stew. Here's the authentic recipe. If you think it needs macaroni, put it in near the end of the cooking process so it does not overcook. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Hopkins County Stew

  • 2 pounds chicken parts, preferably breasts or thighs
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 16-ounce can cream style corn
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Place chicken, stock and salt in large pot. Bring to simmer and simmer until the chicken is done. Remove chicken from the stock and cool.

Bring stock back to simmer. Add the potatoes and onion, simmer until the potatoes are tender. In the meantime, remove the chicken from the bone and shred or dice. Discard skin and bone.

Return the chicken to the pot along with the tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, paprika and pepper. Bring back to simmer. Add the corn and the butter. Cover the pot and continue to simmer for at least 30 minutes until the stew is quite thick. Stir frequently to the bottom of the pot to keep the stew from scorching. Add water if needed.

All cooking at a simmer. Don't boil the pot. Serves 6 to 8.

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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