Deviled Ham

Deviled HamI confessed several years ago that I spent many hours as a youth in a bass boat. We also spent hours in a camper, either on our way to a place where we could get into a bass boat, or on our way to a river or stream which contained other sorts of fish.

The camper also took us skiing and to things like the Muensterfest or the Cheyenne Rodeo. I have a very vivid memory of my mother braiding a blue ribbon into my hair and a yellow ribbon into my cousin, Joey’s, hair. We were resplendent in Wyoming that year, as pudgy 10-year-olds, with our Heidi braids and our belts with our names on the back. Don’t deny the cultural value of a youth of relative transience. I had fun, lots of fun, deviled ham sandwiches and all.

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Camp Brisket 2015

BrisketAs luck would have it, I recently found myself in the lobby of a hotel in College Station, TX, having secured a coveted seat for Camp Brisket. A few years ago, I went on for several linear feet about the joys of the BBQ Summer Camp put on by Foodways Texas and the Texas A&M Meat Sciences Center. Now I will wax sentimental about this sister-camp dedicated to that quintessential Texas smoked meat, brisket. Buckle up, friends, this is a long one.

Not just a few jokes have been made during the Foodways Texas BBQ events about how lovely it is that a group based out of the University of Texas should come together in such an ecumenical fashion with a bunch of Aggies to throw a meat party. But that is precisely what it is. And, Brisket Camp is an offshoot of BBQ Summer Camp devoted entirely to the art and science of, and devotion to, this one cut of meat. Apparently the greatest of rivalries can take a few days off when BBQ is concerned.

I bumped into Robb Walsh, a founder of Foodways Texas, in the lobby and we decided that the best way to begin two days of eating little other than brisket was to hustle out to a seafood spot and eat something aquatic. Over oysters and other things, we caught up on life and his upcoming book on one of my other favorite food groups, chili. And a whole group it is, as you will learn…but that is a talk for another day.

Thursday morning, people began showing up at the Meat Science Building well before sunrise. As usual, the students in the Meat Science program had been working far earlier than we ever considered awakening, and pits were already fired up. I showed up a few minutes early and got a tour of the mobile smoker of Russell Roegels, who most recently served a ton of brisket to the secret service who were guarding Texas parachutist George Bush, Sr. during a recent hospital visit. Yes, that one. I was fortunate enough to get a peek at the pepper crusted briskets slowly cooking inside the mobile smoker, and started the day smelling like a proper Texan.

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How to Grind Your Own Beef

Make Ground Beef at HomeUpon going to law school several decades ago, the world of ALL THE THINGS I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT was laid bare in front of me. Prior to that I thought I knew everything. I walked in feeling extremely knowledgeable and within a few short days I was confident only in the fact that I had everything to learn, starting from zero. Hubris is the hallmark of youth. I was frightened, but thrilled, to have the shell knocked off of me because it was as if someone finally showed me that a library was not just a peaceful place, but it was also filled with books. There are so many areas of inquiry about which to know nothing. It is exciting.

Recently, I’ve been pondering how little I know about cows and steers and bulls and beef, generally. You think you know what a cow is. You think you know what a steak is. You think you know how to cook. You might know a bit, and you might even know a lot. But you probably don’t know diddly, kind of like me. Several years ago I met some men and women at Texas A&M who actually do know almost everything there is to know about beef and it made my knowledge base, relative to theirs, look a little puny. I learned a great deal from them, but among the things I learned was how little I actually know, and how fascinating beef and the beef industry is.

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Salt & Pepper Beef Tenderloin

Platter of sliced beef tenderloinThe Winter issue of Edible Dallas & Fort Worth recently became available. I have a few favorite things in this issue. Most notably, I wrote a feature article about Foodways Texas, and I got to take photographs of my friend Meaders Ozarow at Empire Baking Company. Those were my two favorite additions to this issue. But I also put together a collection of holiday dinner recipes with an emphasis on keeping the holidays simple. Beef tenderloin is as simple as it gets. Although, mistakes are costly, so invest in a great meat thermometer.

Along with articles about Empire, there are some great stories about Rehoboth Farms, recipes for great foods that make great gifts, and the Stufflebeam family. And, there are many more articles, ideas and notions between the covers. If you love Dallas, you need to love Edible because this is where you will learn about the farmers, ranchers, restaurants, chefs and businesses that make our region culinarily compelling.

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Traditional Pot Roast

Pot Roast LeadI could write an Ode to Pot Roast. I could tell you every good and bad one that I have made. I could tell you the restaurants and diners that have perfected the art.

Pot Roast is how you feed a crowd something comforting and succulent without spending a fortune. Cooked slowly, ignored really, an inexpensive and tough cut of meat is transformed into a silky mess in a pot of gravy. And that is really the key, time. There is no trick, really, just some basic preparation. It is the time that turns the sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Somewhere along the line I realized that the only long term value of a recipe blog is to make darned sure that I posted every recipe that I thought I or my son or daughter, or my grandchildren, or my great grandchildren might need someday. When I stop this one day, I want to take a day to actually write the recipes down on index cards so they can wear with time and get dripped on and obtain the status of a dog eared, messy, timeless favorite…for someone. A real recipe…not a cyber-flash-dinner-in-a-minute-grab-the-iPad-and-find-something-emergency-idea.  I want to leave something that actually connects me to my descendants. Funny, there is nothing permanent about a web presence unless you have posted inappropriate content that will come back to haunt you. This is why I hold tight to my hand written index card recipes from mom, and aunts and great aunts. And this is why I still buy piles of cookbooks. They are real in a way that web recipes cannot be. It is strange to think that if I pushed the wrong button…all of these recipes would be gone in a flash. But if I wrote them with my hand, turned them from bits and bytes into something tangible…bites that could last.

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