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

June 1, 2010

June, the month of graduations and weddings, is upon us. Those of you who have not recently been in the Texas Hill Country have missed one of the finest wildflower shows in memory.

Your kindly old doctor has been maintaining the office and solving problems. In this business you don't get a day off. The doctor recently attended a seminar at Cooper's Old-Fashioned Barbecue in Llano, Texas. The brisket there was just a tad salty on the rind but tender as could be.

Coopers has come up with something new that the doctor puts his stamp of approval on. They have for each serving tray a sheet of plastic that serves as a self-healing cutting board. This puts an end to having to eat your barbecue off the tabletop through a hole in the butcher paper. All barbecue joints that do not provide real plates can take a hint from Coopers.

Enough get-acquainted chatter. Let's get to the job at hand.

Alex says: Doc, we are competent with the grill on plain things. We want to start getting a little more advanced. Can you recommend a couple of marinades that will get us in the ballpark on that technique?
Alex: I'm happy that you are progressing. You know if you stand still you never get anywhere.

For your chicken:

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon
  • Salt and pepper
Marinate the chicken in this mix for at least an hour; two hours would be even better. Grill using leftover marinade as a baste.

Beef marinade

  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • About a dozen peppercorns
Marinade the beef for at least 24 hours. This mix will also tenderize the beef.

These two marinades should get you started. You can alter either recipe as you see fit. As long as you get a mix of acid, oil and seasoning, just about anything goes. Be sure and use a good quality wine in all your recipes. The so-called "cooking wine" is best left to the guy who lives under the bridge. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

From Carol: I like the mint sauce that goes with lamb dishes. Can I make some at home?

Carol: Yes indeed. You will need:

  • A handful of fresh mint leaves, washed and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (you may want a little more)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
Combine the water and brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside. Combine the mint, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour on the boiled water, cider vinegar and oil. Let it stand for 30 minutes. Use as a baste while grilling the lamb.
George is looking for a salsa recipe: Dr John, I remember you mentioning a recipe for a salsa to go with grilled meats. I would like to try it.
George: You are a lucky man. The doctor has been working at up-scaling his recipe. The lastest batch is outstanding to my taste. You will need:
  • 1 white or yellow onion chopped fine (3/8-inch chop)
  • 1 medium large cucumber peeled and chopped fine
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper chopped fine
  • 1 small can of chopped green chiles
  • 12 of the little, marble size tomatoes quartered
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup or more, to taste, brown sugar, Splenda or regular sugar (The doctor uses Splenda to cut the calorie count.)
  • A good sprinkle of black pepper
Mix everything together and refrigerate overnight. This keeps well in the icebox.

While the doctor is on his calorie counting spree, as a lot of people should be, here is a sweet snack or dessert recipe I am using.)

  • 1 5-ounce bag dried apples
  • 1 20-ounce can pineapple tidbits
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • Splenda to taste
  • Put the pineapple and lemon juice in a non-reactive pan on medium high heat. Chop the apples into uniform pieces no more than 1/2 inch on the side. Add the apples to the pineapple. Stir in the cinnamon and a scant teaspoon of salt. Bring to a light simmer, stirring often. When the apples have rehydrated, set off the heat and stir in about a half cup of Splenda. Mix very well. When it has cooled, place it in a covered container suitable for the icebox. It will keep a long time.

    This makes a great sweet snack when nothing else will do. It is as good as a dessert dish. If you put it on ice cream, the low-calorie aspect sort of goes out the window.

    Joe has a smoking problem: Dr John, I have a homemade smoker copied after one of the brand name products. It is the kind with the firebox on the end. I just can't get the temperature to stay constant in it. How is it done?
    Joe: The best way to start is to understand the basics of fire. Our ancestors knew only "fire hot". That served well for thousands of years.

    Now that we need smoke and temperature control, there are a couple of things that need to be understood. The first is that wood or charcoal will not burn without oxygen. The amount of oxygen available determines how fast the fuel burns and the amount of smoke and heat produced. Smoke is unburned carbon from the fuel.

    Less smoke means either less heat or your fire is going out. There should be an adjustable air vent on your firebox. This regulates the amount of oxygen available to your fuel. To get the fuel started burning, you need ample oxygen. Then when things are warmed up, you partially close the vent and get the smoke started.

    The smoke should escape from a smoke stack on the far end of your cooking chamber. The height and diameter of the smoke stack will contribute to the amount of oxygen sucked into the firebox. (I'm sure someone has a computer program for calculating the optimum height and diameter of the smoke stack.)

    If you understand what is going on inside your smoker, you can more easily determine how to alter the process to get the amount of smoke and temperature you want.

    There is no simple answer; it's a learning process.

    Everyone tune in again next month, same time, same station. The Doctor will be in.

    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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