You'll get a taste of Texas in a pair of new cookbooks

February 16, 1994|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Universal Press Syndicate

Y'all listen up now, y'hear? If you been hankerin' for a heap of good eatin', then saddle up and head on out and rope you a copy of "Texas Home Cooking" by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison (Harvard Common Press, $14.95).

This hefty, 594-page volume celebrates "down-home American eats," the authors write. The melting-pot heritage of Texans has created "a delightful culinary legacy that's still as lively as a fiddle tune and as lingering as a slow dance at the prom."

"Texas Home Cooking," with its more than 400 recipes and its colorful tales (not all of them "tall"), is a delight. The easy-to-read recipes are not at all difficult to duplicate; most are quite short, as a matter of fact. A list of mail-order sources is provided for a few not-so-common ingredients, and there is a list of Texas and related cookbooks.

Another Texas cookbook recently published is "Potluck on the Pedernales: Second Helping," compiled by the Community Garden Club of Johnson City, Texas (Eakin Press, $16.95). It is a sequel to the club's award-winning 1991 effort "Potluck on the Pedernales" (pronounced "purr-de-nal-less).

When the club became a regional winner of the Tabasco Community Cookbook Award, it decided to assemble the second volume. The 310-page hardback contains more than 600 recipes.

None of the recipes is taxing, given that so many of them require just a can of this and a bottle of that. Household hints in "Potluck" are also recipes of sorts; here's a sampling:

* To clean stuffed toys, use dry cornstarch. Rub it in, wait about five minutes and brush it off.

* To clean varnished floors or woodwork, rub with cold tea.

* To open a stubborn jar, pour a handful of salt into a bowl. Turn the jar upside down into the salt to immerse the lid, allowing the grains to slip between the lid and the threads of the jar. Turn right side up, twist, and the jar opens.

* Chili is the official Texas state dish. The next recipe was a favorite of President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, whose LBJ Ranch is in Johnson City on the Pedernales River. Many books have reprinted it, including "The Texas Cookbook" by Mary Faulk Koock (Little, Brown, 1965) and "San Antonio Cookbook II" by the Symphony Society of San Antonio (1976), but curiously, I could not find it in either of the "Potluck" books.

Pedernales River chili

Makes 5 to 6 servings

4 pounds chili-grind beef chuck or venison

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

2 tablespoons chili powder, or more, to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt to taste

2 to 6 dashes Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce

2 cups hot water

1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes with juice

Place the meat, onion and garlic in a large, heavy frying pan or Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until the meat is lightly browned.

Add the oregano, chili powder, cumin, salt and hot-pepper sauce. Pour in the water and tomatoes, and bring the chili to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1 hour. Skim off any fat during the cooking.

Serve the chili hot.

* The black-eyed pea, the "Texas Home Cooking" authors say, is the "most-loved legume" in Texas. I've always known them to be eaten on New Year's Day for good luck. Also, as the authors note, black-eyed peas are often linked to Southern backwoods fare. "In truth, they are a global delicacy, first cultivated in Asia eons ago. African slaves brought seeds to the New World in 1674."

From "Potluck" comes this unusual black-eyed pea recipe, contributed without comment by Daisy Cox. Using one or both of the jalapeno peppers is optional.

Black-eyed pea corn bread

Makes 10 servings

1 pound ground beef

1 cup canned black-eyed peas, drained

1 cup onion, chopped

3/4 cup cream-style corn

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup flour

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup cooking oil

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated

Brown the meat and drain well. Break into small pieces. Add other ingredients in order given above. Mix well. Place in a 13- by 9- by 2-inch pan that has been well-greased. Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until done.

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