Texas Barbecue Recipes

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Joe Padilla (right) and one of his helps ministering to a Texas-sized collection of sausage. The grills are made from 50-gallon oil drums.

Joan Nathan of AMERICAN COUNTRY magazine shares the Koontz family HK Ranch Fourth of July barbecue recipes with MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers.

Texas Barbecue Recipes

When Texans say barbecue, they don’t mean cooking on a hibachi or gas grill. Cowboys like beef stew; Indian and Mexicans like spice. Tex-Mex chili is the result. Enjoy these true Texan barbecue recipes from the Koontz family of the HK Ranch in south Texas.

Joe Padilla’s Chilipetin Sauce Recipe

“For toughies only,” says Mary Sue Koontz.
1 cup green chili pequin peppers
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 green tomato
1 teaspoon flour
1 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Grind fine or chop the peppers, onion, garlic and tomato. Add the flour.

the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil. Pour over the pepper mixture and
stirring occasionally, boil, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until
it thickens slightly. Seal while hot in sterilized jars. The sauce will
be thin, but it thickens with age.

Serve as a condiment at your
next Texas barbecue with fajitas, camp bread, venison chili, pinto beans
and coleslaw. Makes 1 pint.

Calabaza con Polio Recipe (Squash with Chicken)

This is Maria Padilla’s recipe for a Tex-Mex chicken dish.

1 large fryer, cut into eighths
¼ cup oil
½ teaspoon cumin powder, or to taste
½ teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 medium zucchini, chopped into 2-inch chunks
1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 15-ounce can tomatoes
½ cup water
1 8-ounce can corn (optional)

Brown the chicken in oil in a Dutch
oven or heavy frying pan. Season with the cumin, garlic, salt and
pepper. Add the zucchini, onion, green pepper, tomatoes and water.

and simmer about 30 minutes, or until the zucchini is soft and the
chicken cooked. Just before serving, add the corn and heat until warm.
Serves 4-6.

Braised Quail, Squab or Cornish Hen Recipe

Wild doves are the favorite in the Southwest.

3 slices bacon
8 quails, 4 squabs or 4 Cornish hens
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon crumbled dried rosemary
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into eighths
¼ cup flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more as needed
1/3 cup Madeira wine or sherry
½ cup chicken stock or water, or more as needed

a casserole that has a tight-fitting lid and is large enough to hold
all the birds. In it, fry the bacon over moderate heat until crisp. When
the bacon is done, remove it, chop it fine and reserve. Pour off most
of the bacon fat in the pan, leaving a generous film.

While the
bacon is cooking, prepare the quails. Wash and dry the birds carefully.
Sprinkle the cavity of each with salt and pepper, plus a pinch of
rosemary (more for squabs and Cornish hens than for quails), and 1 or 2
segments of the onion. Secure each bird in a compact shape, either with
toothpicks or by tying with string (wrap a length of string around the
wings, trussing them behind the back; turn the bird over, bring the
string around to the legs and tie them).

Place the flour on a
plate and season it with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in the
casserole just until the foam dies down. While the butter heats, coat
the birds with the seasoned flour; shake off the excess.

Brown the
birds in the hot fat, turning them with tongs until they are browned on
all sides. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the birds to a

Pour most of the fat out of the casserole. (If it has
become too brown, you may wish to pour it all off, then replace it with
about a tablespoon of fresh butter.) Add the wine and, over high heat,
scrape up the browned bits in the pan. Add the stock or water and boil
for 1-2 minutes. Lower the heat to a simmer, return the birds to the pan
and sprinkle them with the reserved chopped bacon. If the liquid does
not come about 1/3 of the way up the birds, add a little more stock or
water. Cover the casserole tightly and simmer the birds–about 25 minutes
for quail, 45 for squab and Cornish hen–until they are tender. (You may
also do this final simmering in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven.)

the birds on a warmed platter, skim off any excess fat from the sauce,
pour the sauce over the birds and serve them at once. Serves 4.

Fajitas Recipe (Marinated and Grilled Skirt Steak)

The Koontzes prefer this dish to the more common Texas chicken-fried steak.

4 pounds fajitas (skirt steak) or, if unavailable, tenderized flank steak
Juice of 8-12 Mexican limes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, sliced
2 serrano chili peppers, minced
1 handful coriander, stems removed and leaves chopped
Mexican beer
Salt to taste

Trim off the excess fat from the meat and remove the
muscle fiber. Each fajita should be ½ to ¾ inch thick in order to cook
evenly. If using flank steak, cook it whole and slice against the grain
in narrow strips not more than ½ inch thick.

Place one layer of
fajitas in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Pour the lime juice over
it. Add some of the garlic, onion, serrano peppers and coriander. Add
another layer of meat, and continue until all ingredients have been

Pour enough beer over the fajitas to fill the pan halfway.
Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours,
basting occasionally.

Build a mesquite fire in your grill and let
it burn until the coals are extremely hot but not flaming. Lay the meat
across the grill and cover. Turn the meat only once as it cooks. When
done, remove the meat from the grill and sprinkle with salt to taste.
Serves 6-8.

Roast Filet of Venison Recipe

1 venison filet (“back strap”)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
3-4 tablespoons butter, softened Bacon strips or thin sheets of salt pork, as needed
1 thick slice of onion

Trim excess fat and all tendons from the
meat. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and rosemary. Rub with half of
the butter. Wrap slices of bacon or salt pork around the filet, covering
it completely. Tie with string in several places to hold the larding
fat on.

Cowboys like beef stew; Indians and Mexicans like spice. Tex-Mex chili is the result.

a roasting pan over 2 burners of the stove and heat the remaining
butter in it. Cook the onion over low heat for several minutes to flavor
the butter, then discard the onion. Raise the heat, put in the filet
and brown it on all sides.

Using the same pan, place the venison
in a preheated 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven and roast it for about 15 minutes, or until
the meat tests medium-rare (140 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer); at this stage
it will be slightly springy to the touch, but not yet firm. Let the meat
rest for 10 minutes. Remove the larding fat before carving, and serve
hot. Serves 3-4.

Camp Bread Recipe

This is the Texas version of traditional hoecakes. On
the range they were molded less delicately, grabbing a lump of dough at a
time, and cooked in a Dutch oven over an open fire.

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
¾ cup vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces, plus a little additional shortening for the skillet
1-¼ cups buttermilk

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the flour,
salt and baking powder. Add the shortening pieces and rub them into the
dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly and
uniform. (This step may also be done in a food processor.) Using a
spoon, mix in the buttermilk until the ingredients are blended. Do not
overmix–the dough should be just springy.

Flour a work surface
lightly and roll the dough out ¼ inch thick. Cut into 2-inch rounds,
using a cookie cutter or a glass of that diameter. Gather the scraps,
reroll them and cut more rounds until all the dough has been used.

a large, heavy skillet, then grease it lightly with vegetable
shortening. Bake the rounds over medium to medium-high heat until the
bottoms are brown, then turn and brown the other side. Total cooking
time is about 15 minutes.

Repeat until all the bread rounds have
been baked, keeping the finished camp bread hot. Serve hot, with butter
or gravy. Serves 12.

Venison Chili Recipe

Make this as hot as you
can stand it. Texans speak of “two-alarm,” “three-alarm,” or
“four-alarm” chili. If you grind seeded dried chilies instead of using
prepared chili powder, increase the quantity of cumin and add about a
teaspoon of dried oregano, well crumbled.

A dish of the prairie,
chili is basically a simple beef stew seasoned with what was available:
capsicum (chili) peppers; cumin, brought with the Moors to Mexico and
then to Texas; oregano, a Mexican herb; and onions. The word chili comes from the Aztec term for the capsicum peppers.

chili (stew) is a perfect example of culinary synthesis. The western
frontiersmen liked beef stew; the Indians and Mexicans liked hot spices.
Ergo, a Tex-Mex concoction called chili was created. Especially popular
on the frontier, it could be made one day and eaten day after day
because the tastes improve on sitting. The chili stew eaten in New
Mexico is probably closer to what was eaten in the Southwest before the
Tex-Mex combination. California chili with beans is definitely later.

2 pounds venison or chuck, coarsely ground
Vegetable oil, if necessary
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano, if needed
1-½ teaspoons salt
2 heaping tablespoons flour
1-3 tablespoons chili powder, to taste (use the lesser amount if you grind your own dried chilies)
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
1-½ cups water

In a large, heavy casserole, brown the meat in its
own fat. (If the meat is quite lean, you may wish to begin with a
spoonful of oil to prevent sticking.) Stir the meat as it cooks,
breaking up any lumps.

When the meat has browned moderately, add
the onion, garlic, cumin, oregano (if used) and salt. Cook, stirring,
for 2-3 minutes, until the onion has softened. Stir in the flour and
chili powder, blending well. Stir in the tomato sauce and water.

Bring the chili to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30
minutes or until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent
sticking. Taste and add more salt or other seasonings if needed. Serves

HK Ranch Famous Pinto Beans Recipe

2 pounds fresh pinto beans
2 ham hocks or 1 ham bone
5 bell peppers, chopped
5 large onions, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup sugar, or to taste
4 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
3 chili peppers, diced

Spread the beans on a table and look for
any small rocks. Put the beans in a sieve and run cold water over them
to wash. Then place them in a large pot and cover with cold water
overnight, or for at least 12 hours.

Add enough water to the
soaked beans to cover them. Heat in a black iron pot or heavy casserole
on top of the stove. Add all the remaining ingredients. Stir well and
simmer, uncovered, very slowly for 5-6 hours, stirring from the bottom
to prevent sticking. If the beans seem to become too dry, add a little
water. Serves 20.

Jalapeño Corn Bread Recipe

1 cup yellow cornmeal
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, grated
2 eggs
1 3-ounce can cream-style corn
¼ cup bacon drippings
1 pound American cheese, grated
2-½ large jalapeño peppers, finely chopped, or to taste

together the cornmeal, baking soda, salt, milk, garlic, onion, eggs,
corn and bacon drippings. Spread half the batter in a well-greased 8 inch
pan. Sprinkle with the cheese and peppers. Cover with the remaining
batter. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Makes 12 slices.

Joan Nathan is a freelance writer and a contributing editor to AMERICAN COUNTRY magazine.

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