<%option explicit%> Garry's Texas Cooking

Garry's Texas Cookin'

Howard's Yummies - From Deep in the Heart of Texas

Texas flag Oh my Mama, ain't that Texas cookin' somethin'
Oh my Mama, it stops your belly and backbone from bumpin'
Oh my Mama, ain't that Texas cookin' good
Oh my Mama, I'd eat it every day if I could

------- Guy Clark, Texas singer and songwriter
Texas state seal

Texas cooking has a style all its own, influenced by its proximity to Mexico, native Americans, cowboys, and a frontier spirit. Why else would people like Guy Clark write songs about it? It was also influenced by the settlers from all over the world who came to the Lone Star state to seek their fortune and leave their culinary mark. A mention of Texas cooking brings to mind greasy enchiladas, home grown tomatoes, chicken fried steaks with milk gravy, and a long neck beer or tall iced tea to wash them down. Chili, barbeque, and Tex-Mex are classic Texas food groups, but there is also a strong traditional style of cooking with its roots in Southern cuisine but with a uniquely Texas flavor. I can't lay claim to being a true Texan since I was born across the border in Arkansas, but I lived there most of my life, and grew up eating this food as have millions of others raised in the state. If you haven't had the opportunity to experience it for yourself, I'll try to share just a little glimpse.

Introduction to Texas Food

"The very fact that I was in Texas for the sole purpose of eating contradicted my blind but resolute conviction that most food down there was, at best, some form of fodder consumed by asbestos-palated goat-ropers for no other reason than to sustain human life... Well, to suggest that I now champion the cause of Texas cookery is a triumph of understatement -- not to mention an admission of acute guilt and embarassment... I need no more convincing that the regional dishes of Texas are not only some of the most inspired in the nation but also some of the most delicious."
---- James Villas, American Taste

Most non-Texans tend to think of Mexican seasonings like comino (cumin), chili powder, and chile peppers as standard seasonings for all kinds of Texas dishes and equate these with the Texas taste. But most Texans, and most Texas dishes, are of Anglo-Saxon origin with a Southern touch. There are also Texans of Polish origin (the oldest Polish community in North America is in Texas) and Polish sauerkraut is served all over Texas; Czechoslavakian Kolaches are a favorite Texas pastry; in Dannevang many Texans still speak Danish; Elroy and Clairmont were settled by Swedes. Creoles from Louisiana settled along the Texas Gulf Coast. Two thousand Alsation French settled in Castroville. Finally, the Germans settled around New Braunfels. The German communities were still speaking almost entirely German until World War I. German dishes like sweet-sour pickles, sweet-sour sauces, and dumplings are common on Texas tables.

One common element of Texas tables is iced tea which is served with almost every meal. Texans like flavorful dishes with lots of gravy, lots of spring onions, cheese, corn, cornmeal, green peppers, chile peppers, and tomatoes along with chicken, pork, and beef. The character of Texas meals is formed by the way in which these dishes are served, when, and with what. Texas meals are friendly and informal.

Let's start with breakfast. Breakfast in Texas is not coffee and a croissant. There are hot biscuits or muffins with butter, jam, preserves, or honey. Of course you always have meat for breakfast in Texas, as well as eggs and fried potatoes. Meat means ham steaks, pork chops, sausage, or roast beef hash with a little jalapeno pepper in it. Or maybe fried steak or venison. And don't forget hot cakes, or fried grits, with syrup or honey.

The big meal of the day is usually the mid-day meal, or dinner. Typical menus might include Fried Chicken, Cream Gravy, Hot Biscuits, Buttered Rice, Green Beans, Leaf Lettuce with sliced Tomatoes or Baked Short Ribs, Baked Corn, Cornbread, Cole Slaw, Mustard Greens, and Pecan Pie or Barbecued Spareribs, Black-eyed Peas, Fried Okra, and homemade ice cream. The evening meal, or supper usually consists of left-overs from dinner and may be just a snack. A favorite Texas supper dish is "Crumblin'", a glass of sweet milk with fresh cornbread crumbled in it sprinkled with black pepper.

It's been said that Texas food is good primarily because Texans like to eat. Liking to eat, they demand food that pleases them.

Traditional Recipes

This is true down-home cookin', otherwise known as Lone Star Haute Cuisine. It is the end result of the culinary contributions of the variety of ethnic cultures I mentioned earlier.

Iced Tea - Ice Tea

Any overview of Texas food might as well get started with tea, since Texans love iced tea. Huge glasses of it are served with practically every meal. It is the universal drink in Texas. Dr. Pepper and Kool-Aid are close runners up, but can't compete with iced tea in popularity.

"In truth, there are two traditional iced teas in Texas, as different to their partisans as bourbon and milk. The only variation between them -- sugar -- may seem to outsiders like a matter of personal preference, but in Texas the choice approaches a statement on moral character. The sweetening set usually adds sugar -- a lot of it -- before serving tea, leaving you little option about how you want it, and the nonsweeteners will avert their eyes if you reach for sugar, as though you might pick your nose next."
----- "Texas Home Cooking" by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

Traditional Texas Tea The basic recipe.

Minted Iced Tea Mint is a popular addition today.

Iced Mint Tea Another way to add mint.

Beans -

"Texas is basically a meat and potatoes -oriented culture. Keeper vegetables like beans, potatoes, carrots, and onions are boiled, baked and fried into oblivion, to the horror of most vegetarians." -- Texas On The Halfshell

If there is a staple food in Texas, it has got to be beans, otherwise known as musical fruit. All Texans are raised on them. Pinto beans are the most commonly used bean. Beans are served boiled, baked, mashed, fried, and re-fried. Combined with corn bread, they make a nearly perfect food, supplying necessary proteins when meat is scarce.

Beans may appear at any kind of a meal, but are a must with barbecue and Tex-Mex. While in most other places beans will be served in lieu of other starchy vegetables, they are served in Texas side by side with potatoes or rice (or both) as though no one had ever heard of calories.

When I was a kid, dinner at least one day a week consisted of a big pot of pinto beans, fried potatoes, maybe some fried okra or corn, a skillet of cornbread and a jar of home canned tomatoes with some freshly pulled green onions on the side. My favorite way to eat the beans used to be to crumble some cornbread on top of the beans and then spoon some home canned tomatoes over the cornbread. Commercially canned tomatoes are a pale imitation of real home-grown, vine-ripened, home-canned tomatoes.

Here is a sampling from the many hundreds of Texas bean recipes:

Frijoles Basic pinto beans.

Frijoles Refritos Refried beans, an essential side dish for Tex-Mex but good with anything. They are probably the most popular and generally useful beans in Texas.

Paetzel's Pinto Pot Texas chili flavored beans.

Red Fire In many Texas bean dishes you will find a considerable quantity of cheese and a dominant seasoning of either chili powder or chopped chiles.

Cowboy Beans The way the trail hands made them.

Red's Prize Winnin' Pintos The perfect accompaniment to a bowl of Texas red chili.

Threadgill's Texas Chili Beans Another bean dish intended to be served alongside a bowl of chili. From Threadgill's restaurant in Austin.

Barbecued Baked Beans Barbecued Beans are very similar to the so-called Ranch Beans in Texas, and as you'd expect, they have the characteristic barbecue taste.

Swedish Brown Beans The various ethnic groups in Texas have all contrived dishes of their own from pinto beans. Here is one from a Swedish family.

Frijoles Borrachos Drunken beans.

Meats -

"As splendid and noble as barbecue and Tex-Mex are, both pale before the Great God Beef dish, chicken-fried steak. No single food better defines the Texas character; it has, in fact, become a kind of nutritive metaphor for the romanticized, prairie-hardened personality of Texas."
--- Jerry Flemmons, Plowboys, Cowboys and Slanted Pigs

Chicken-Fried steak could justify a web-site of its own. It is the national dish of Texas. The Texas Restaurant Association recently reported that 90 percent of its 4000 members serve chicken-fried steak. An official counted that Texans order 800,000 of the steaks a day, not counting any they eat at home.

"...a plate-size hunk of sorry beef pounded, battered, fried, and then drowned in a bucket of gooey gravy. Somehow, all that abuse heaped on a mean cut of meat produces Texas ambrosia, a golden slab of earthy perfection, the chicken-fried steak." -- Texas Home Cooking

The Best Chicken-Fried Steak South of Omaha A classic, traditional version.

Threadgill's Chicken-Fried Steak If you're ever down in Austin, don't pass up the opportunity to eat at Eddie Wilson's Threadgill's restaurant. I've had the chicken-fried steak there and it is great.

Threadgill's Meat Seasoning Threadgill's seasoning mix used in their chicken-fried steak recipe.

Braggin'-Rights Chicken-Fried Steak A spicy and crunchy version.

Daddy-O's Hot-Times Chicken-Fried Steak Texas artist Bob "Daddy-O" Wade's version of CFS marinated in pickled jalapeno juice.

Nuevo Laredo Chicken-Fried Steak This nearly nouvelle CFS features a beer bath, border seasonings, and a crust made with masa harina.

White Gravy An essential side dish for smothering chicken-fried steak.

Fried Round Steak An alternative to chicken-fried. Until I was almost an adult I hardly knew there was any kind of steak other than round steak or that there was any way to cook steak except fried.

Family Meat Loaf We usually had meatloaf once a week, always with a tomato sauce on top. Meat loaf has a peculiar position in American cuisine, for while most people feel compelled to avow dislike or contempt for the dish, you will find that secretly they are very fond of it indeed. And why not? It can be and often is delicious. Texas is the only place I know of, however, where an admiration for meat loaf is voiced publicly. Here is the basic meat loaf that you'll come across all through the state.

Beef Liver With Onions Threadgill's version of another family favorite.

Brown Gravy To go with your liver and onions.

Rocky Mountain Oysters On The Half Shell Also known as calf fries. A true Texas delicacy.

Chicken and Dumplings As popular today in Texas as it was in the nineteenth century. Here's a recipe from Burleson, TX.

East Texas Fried Chicken The perfect pan-fried chicken.

Vegetables -

"Ain't nothin in the world that I like better
than bacon and lettuce and homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin' out in the garden
get you a ripe 'un don't get a hard one
Plant 'em in the spring eat 'em in the summer
All winter without 'em's a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin and diggin
evertime I go out and pick me a big one

Home grown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes
Wha'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things money can't buy
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes"

--- Homegrown Tomatoes by Guy Clark

Texas Fried Okra Okra is a favorite Texas vegetable. A popular breakfast of the old days consisted of ham, black-eyed peas, fresh hot cornbread with a quantity of butter and okra, fried as in this recipe.

Squash and Cheese Casserole with Chiles Squash was an important Indian food when the first white settlers arrived in Texas, and it is still a Texas favorite, particularly the yellow squash. Often Texas housewives combine it with other vegetables and sometimes they combine it with another variety of squash and cheese, as in this recipe.

Fried Corn When I was growing up we used to have corn prepared this way quite frequently using what my mother referred to as field corn. It was a white, very starchy corn and not sweet at all. I haven't had this dish in years, but I still have a craving for it.

Yellow Squash & Hominy Casserole Thanks to Pat Hanneman for sending the recipe. Visit Pat's PatH in the Kitchen website.

Tex-Mex, Barbecue, Chili

These three food groups, all essential elements of Texas Cookin', are topics unto themselves. I'll be expanding these pages on the website devoted to each of these, starting with BBQ.

I'll also be adding additional recipes to this page so Check back soon!!

Download a zipped file with all the Texas Cookin' recipes in MasterCook export format.

Other Texas Websites

If you would like to learn a little more about Texas, click here for a list of other Texas Links on food, recipes, and a variety of Texas related topics.

If you are an ex-Texan or plan to travel outside the state, be sure to visit Kit Anderson's Greetings From Northeast Texas. A survival guide for Texans traveling to or living in that corner of Northeast Texas known as Yankeeland.

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