If you know anything about me, you know that I love Texas. I love that I was born here. I love that I was raised here. I love that I am raising my family here. The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll die here. (Or Montana, but that’s a post for another day).
It’s not a hard argument to make.
We currently have an unemployment rate of just over 5%, and the Eagle Ford Shale drilling project is expected to add several hundred thousand more jobs to the already robust Texas economy over the coming decade. That’s as close to a political rant as you’re gonna get from me on the matter, but do with it as you will.
Aside from THAT, we are blessed with vast, wide open spaces, and just about every type of environment you could wish for.
Want to live beach front? We have over 600 miles of coastline.
Do you prefer lakeside living? No problem. Texas boasts over 6,600 lakes and 5,000 square miles of fresh water.
Grassy Plains? Check.
Fertile river valleys? Check.
Deserts? Check. Check
Like giant urban sprawl? You can have Houston. No, really, I’d love for you to take it….far away. I prefer clean air and clear skies.
Stars? We can see ‘em. And they’re vaster than all the sand in the Sahara.
And the state is so big, it can’t help but be culturally diverse. Mexican, German, Czech, French/Cajun, Creole….Whatever you are looking for, you are likely to find it.
Plus, I know Texas is best because all the songs say so….Consider:
Gary P Nunn sang in “London Homesick Blues”……we’ve got ”the friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen”
Gene Autry sung about the stars at night being big and bright Deep In The Heart Of Texas, and Ernest Tubb suggested a Waltz Across Texas…Although, to be fair, that would be a LOT of dancing.
Tanya Tucker begged…..“When I die I may not go to heaven. I don’t know if they let cowboys in. If they don’t just let me go to Texas, Boy! Texas is as close as I’ve been”
That’s not a boast. It’s only a boast when it’s an exaggeration.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Texas is NOT perfect. It would be, except for one thing…..The heat.
In Texas, we have two seasons. They are called “What The Hell?” and “Hey, Did You Feel A Breeze Just Then?”
Unless you live on the coast, in which case you have one season. It is called “Oh My God, Who Turned The Sauna All The Way Up?”
Praise God for air conditioning and sweet tea!!
Oh, we also have mosquitos that can carry away small children. I guess that’s two things, but other than those, the state is pretty awesome.
But even then, there is a silver lining or two. The temperate weather is great for crops and personal gardens—and the blackberries that grow wild on the hillside by our lake…..AND, it’s ALWAYS a good time for a cookout.
Taking advantage of the season, here are some cool new favorites…….
Pico de Pollo Smoked Chicken
- 2 split chickens (4 chicken halves)—OR—
- 8 chicken quarters
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning
- 2 T smoked paprika
- ½ cup lemon pepper seasoning
- ¼ cup pourable brown sugar
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup beer, in a spray bottle (dollar store)
Salt and pepper chicken on both sides. Place in a smoker at 275*, bone side down, and smoke for 3 hours. Combine all of the dry spices in a small bowl.
When chicken is done, place on a large platter and sprinkle both sides, liberally, with spice mixture. Cover with foil and let sit for ten minutes. Remove foil. If spice mixture appears dry on chicken, spray lightly with beer. Serve right away.
Blackberry Cobbler Cheesecake
If you take a New York cheesecake, and bake chunks of Texas blackberry cobbler into it, is it still a New York cheesecake? Discuss amongst yourselves………….
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
- 1 t salt
- 1 ½ sticks (12 oz) butter, cut into 1” chunks
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon water
- 3 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups fresh blackberries
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 5 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- zest of one lemon
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla
- 5 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
For the pastry:
Place the sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse for 5 seconds. Add the butter, egg yolks, water, and vanilla and pulse until the mixture is the size of peas. Add the flour and blitz 20 or so times, until the mixture comes almost together into a ball. You will need to stop once and scrape down the sides of the processor bowl.
Without kneading the dough, press it into a large disk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour.
Place oven rack in lower third of oven and heat to 400*. Remove dough from refrigerator and remove two-thirds of it. Keep remaining one-third covered.
Spray a ten-inch spring form pan with baking spray. Press the two-thirds portion of dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake until just starting to turn golden, about 8 minutes.
For the filling:
Preheat oven to 525*
Place berries, ½ cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon flour into a large bowl. Use a large spoon to stir and mash the mixture, smashing the berries slightly. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the remaining sugar, flour, salt, zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time, only until combined. Turn the beater to low, and gently beat in the heavy cream. Set aside.
Remove remaining dough from plastic, and break into grape sized clumps over the berry mixture. Stir gently, so as not to break up the clumps.
Scrape 1/3 of the cheese mixture into the pan. Drop spoonfuls of berry mixture over it. Repeat with remaining cheese mixture and berries.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for 1 hour longer; the top will be golden brown.
Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover loosely and refrigerate overnight.