Hot Weather Cooking

After the horrendous winter storm this year, you’d think Central Texas would be happy about warm weather. Don’t get me wrong, when it was below freezing in my living room because the criminally inefficient* ERCOT was unable to sustain power in the state, I was longing for hot weather, too. Now the highs are hovering close to triple digits and everyone is melting, but guess what? We are okay. We will complain, because it is rough, people, rough. I touched the metal at the top of my driver’s side window inside my car yesterday and almost burned my finger (with my a/c on, of course). I have an outdoor thermometer on my partly shaded back porch and it’s been tracking triple digit heat off my concrete this week.

Extreme heat is what Texans are built for, otherwise how would we have the stamina to stand watch over a pit, slowly turning a tough cut of beef into a meal that leaves you dreaming of your next bite of brisket? Texas BBQ is legendary, just like our weather. Festival season is the nicest, with brilliantly blue skies, white puffy clouds and temps that stay in the 80’s at the highest. That’s when all the visitors fall in love with our city and decide to make the move here permanently. But this time of year and the next few months are why I’ve purchased a misting system for my back porch. I like to sit out there in the early morning and late evening, when it’s warm but not sweltering. Misters make it so much more comfortable.

This is the time of year that I cook in ways that won’t heat up my house. I plan my favorite Instant Pot meals such as chili chicken verde and roast beef with veggies. I also plan for outdoor cooking on my Orion Cooker or our BBQ grill. I absolutely love to use the Orion for ribs and chicken or turkey as the combination of steam/smoke/convection makes for a quick cook. Up to three racks of ribs take an hour and fifteen minutes, while chicken cooks at 7 minutes per pound. Y’all know I throw steaks, burgers, hot dogs, stuffed jalapenos, fish, shrimp, portobellos and pretty much anything that can’t crawl away from me on the BBQ grill. So easy, so delicious. What are your favorite cooking methods that don’t raise the heat in your kitchen?

*At least 151 people died as a result of the winter storm, says Texas Health & Human Services Commission, Division of State Health Services.

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Hot ‘Cue, Hot Rods, Haute Whiskey

Photo credit: Treaty Oak Distilling

Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and for all you folks out there jonesing to get out and do something, have I got news for you! Treaty Oak Distilling and Smoke + Mash are throwing a shindig that combines three of my very favorite things: smoked meats, delicious libations, and hot rods.

On May 29th Treaty Oak Distilling Ranch is hosting an all-day BBQ expo featuring delicious offerings from ranch resident Alice’s Restaurant, six-time World Barbecue Champion pitmaster Tuffy “The Professor” Stone, third-generation North Carolina pitmaster Sam Jones , and award winning pitmaster Moe Cason. Each vendor is offering a tasting plate of excellent ‘cue that showcases their particular style and flavor profile.

Guests may purchase $5 tickets (one ticket per tasting plate of barbecue), and enjoy drinks from the bar in Alice’s Restaurant while listening to live music by the Hot Texas Swing Band, Night Cap, and Deezie Brown. The event benefits Southern Smoke, a nonprofit that provides emergency relief for people in the food and beverage community, and Tate Farms in Rockwall, Texas. Southern Smoke distributed more than $6 million dollars to 2,744 service industry people during the March 2020 – March 2021 portion of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the nonprofit has supported people and industry organizations with upwards of $8 million in donations. Tate Farms is a fourth-generation ranch whose event barn was destroyed in an April fire. Tate Farms has been raising Hereford cattle for over 50 years, selling their grass-fed and finished beef to the public.

During this event, Treaty Oak Distilling launches their new, limited-edition Red, White & Blue Single Barrel Whiskey. Whiskey connoisseurs, the Red, White & Blue will be available all day for purchase, and through July 4th or until all 210 bottles have sold. Don’t sleep on this one, or you’ll miss out. The whiskey is a three-year old Texas bourbon that was barrelled in March 2018. Bottled at 123.5 proof, Red, White & Blue Single Barrel is made with heirloom Bloody Butcher corn, white corn and Hopi blue corn, delighting the palate with roasted caramel, cinnamon and raisin flavor on the nose, smoothing out to a spicy earthiness. For each bottle sold, Treaty Oak will donate $5 to USA Cares, a national non-profit providing post-9/11 veterans and their families with emergency financial assistance.

Photo credit: Treaty Oak Distilling

Austin Speed Shop’s hot rod car show starts at 2pm. Anyone familiar with Austin Speed Shop knows they produce the most stylish customized cars around. This show will have a mix of cars, both completely customized, as well as ones preserved true to their time period. Expect plenty of circling around a car to take in every meticulous detail, and selfie opps, of course.

Photo credit: Treaty Oak Distilling

The weather should be beautiful, after our mid-month rains, and this is the perfect occasion to enjoy stellar smoked meats and liquor crafted from heirloom grains. Come eat, sip, enjoy, relax and appreciate, knowing that your good time will positively affect change in the lives of others.

  • Location: Treaty Oak Distilling Ranch, 16604 Fitzhugh Road, Dripping Springs, TX 78620.
  • Time: Treaty Oak Smoke + Mash runs noon – close, with the car show beginning at 2pm.
  • Tickets: Free entry to Treaty Oak Ranch, $5 per BBQ sample plate, tickets available for purchase onsite. Cash bar for drinks.
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“The Sickness” and Thanksgiving

In my house we cope with life’s downturns with joking and laughter. Our gallows humor got us through my father’s dying, from the time of his terminal cancer diagnosis to the first day he accepted that death would not be put off, to the seconds after his actual passing. It’s our family’s way. That said, my son has put his foot down and refused to take part in referring to all normal activity pre-COVID as things that happened “before the sickness.” I deliver this line in total scary movie voice, of course. Unfortunately, my kid has drawn the line, and I can’t seem to talk other family members into joining me. We were all in agreement, however, on keeping to our traditional holiday meal for Thanksgiving. (Except my husband, the turkey-hater, who would rather eat anything else, but he was overruled.)

Does anyone else feel weird about Thanksgiving now that we’ve grown as a nation and admitted that our European ancestors basically dropped anchor, unloaded the Uhaul and stole land from the Indigenous People? Half of my family makeup were Indigenous Mexican American, so they were here already, but the other half immigrated from England, Northwestern Europe and Scotland. Most of them came here for cheap land, although some might’ve been on the run from the law. We’ve always been big on a “fresh start.” I think for my family, we celebrate Thanksgiving as a time to express gratitude for what we enjoy in life, in all the various ways we experience comfort, happiness and joy.

This year we’ll smoke our turkey in our Orion Cooker, and have our cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, broccoli, cheese and rice casserole from my old Cotton Country Collection cookbook, both dinner rolls and King’s Hawaiian rolls (my son’s request), and of course, pies. My mother makes pecan pie and pumpkin pie, and I might make a chocolate pecan pie for my sweet husband. He’s been extra supportive in this rough year, and deserves a treat. We’ll end up with too much food for 3 adults and one middle schooler, but I’ll be happy for leftovers. There’s nothing tastier than a warm turkey and dressing sandwich, with a smear of cold cranberry sauce, right?

How are you celebrating the holiday in this season of “the sickness?” What traditions are you forgoing, for the sake of social distancing?

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