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How to Prepare Jackfruit

How to Prepare Jackfruit

Jackfruit at the market

Jackfruit at the market

If you’ve been in an H-E-B produce section lately, you’ve probably seen them. They look like something monstrous left over from a 1950s sci-fi flick, such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” where enormous pods threaten to take over civilization.

Strands of fresh jackfruit flesh

Strands of fresh jackfruit flesh

The sign up above says it’s something called jackfruit. But it might help if you knew what to do with it, even beyond the short list of directions at the market.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

Jackfruit is grown in Southeast Asia, and each fruit can weigh any where from 10 to 100 pounds. A single tree can bear dozens of fruit, which makes it ideal for feeding starving masses, that is, if they know what to do with it, too.

It takes an effort to work up jackfruit.

It takes an effort to work up jackfruit.

If you’re shopping for a jackfruit, look for one with no outside bruises or cuts. It should also have a fairly distinct aroma, which will become stronger when you cut into it.

If you buy a jackfruit that is too green, it will ooze a sticky latex, according to an Australian group, The Sub-Tropical Fruit Club of Qld: “The quantity of latex decreases as the fruit ripens. Try to cut a fruit that is green and you will have latex all over you. Cut into an over ripe fruit and there is almost no latex.   If you do get the sap on your hands you can easily get it off using lanoline soap, the kind they use in industry.”

There's plenty of skin, seeds and core.

There’s plenty of skin, seeds and core.

If you have time, cut a few gashes into the fruit a couple of days before you prepare it and let the latex ooze out on its own.

It has a rough skin that’s fairly solid, so you’ll need a strong knife — or machete — to break into it. Don’t use your best kitchen knife for that job. Once inside, you’ll find strands of pale yellow fruit flesh surrounding more rock-hard seeds. An equally hard core can be found at the center. So, you have to skin it, seed it and core it before you can enjoy it. Believe me, this takes a little work. And it creates no small amount of waste.

I have to confess that I didn’t buy a whole jackfruit. There was a cut piece in the refrigerated section, which still weighed about 8 pounds, which was more than enough for one person.

But I learned almost immediately that while you’re working up the jackfruit, it has an overripe, almost-fetid aroma — sort of like durian light, if you’ve ever smelled that fruity horror.

You can eat the fruit raw and some have made jerky of it, but the texture might seem a little tough for either.

Unless you’re used to it, jackfruit might be best encountered first after sauteing it. In this way,  it can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.

Jackfruit Barbecue

Jackfruit Barbecue

For savory dishes, you could try it in your favorite stir-fry as a substitute for tofu or chicken. You could also try it in a vegan barbecue dish. All you have to do is season the fruit with your favorite barbecue rub and saute it for a few minutes. Then cover the fruit with barbecue sauce and let them cook together over a medium to medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes. The end result was supposed to taste like pulled pork — at least to vegans. How many of them have been eating pulled pork lately is anybody’s guess. It certainly looks like pulled pulled in a certain light, but the end result proved to be incredibly sweet, as cooking released the fruit’s natural sugars, but it was also cloy. So, proceed with caution.

Jackfruit cooking in sugar

Jackfruit cooking in sugar

Perhaps you’d prefer to try the fruit in a sweeter context. I first tasted jackfruit back in Port Charlotte, Florida, where a local ice cream maker decided to showcase several flavors of his native land, the Philippines. His menu included a purple sweet potato called ube as well as jackfruit.

To get started on this side of the fruit’s personality, I sauteed it in sugar (4:1 ratio of fruit to sugar) for about 30 minutes. When I was ready to use it, the fruit went into a food processor where it was rendered into a thick puree. I froze most of it, but I used a cup for jackfruit ice cream.

This time, the fruit showed off its best flavors clean and strong. Even a few people who were dubious about trying the ice cream ate their fill after having a taste.

Jackfruit-Peach Ice Cream

1 cup jackfruit puree
1 cup finely chopped fresh peach
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Jackfruit-Peach Ice Cream

Jackfruit-Peach Ice Cream

To make the jackfruit puree, saute 1 cup jackfruit with 1/4 cup sugar for over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes or until soft and a syrup forms in the pan. Cool.

When ready to make the ice cream, puree the jackfruit in a food processor. Chop the peach and add to the jackfruit puree. Chill.

In a saucepan or bowl with a lid, mix coconut milk, cream and sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the jackfruit mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Freeze according to ice cream manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes a little more than 1 quart ice cream.

From John Griffin

 

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Big Red Cake. Of Course.

Big Red Cake. Of Course.

Big Red Cake

Big Red Cake

If you live in the San Antonio area long enough, you’ll come to know that Big Red has seeped into the culinary fabric of the city in a big way. It’s easy to see why. In addition to its pleasant vanilla flavor, it’s bright red color and over-the-top level of caffeine make it a genuine eye-opener on several levels.

It's a poke cake, so poke it good.

It’s a poke cake, so poke it good.

Needless to say, Big Red has been adapted for uses beyond merely drinking with barbacoa on weekend mornings.

One way is this Big Red Cake, the recipe for which I found in the 1991 “Market Trail Heritage Cookbook,” a collection from a number of cities in and around San Antonio, including Hondo, Castroville, D’Hanis, Pearsall, Devine, Somerset and more. I knew the book was a treasure when I saw this recipe from someone named Thelma Ramirez, who has combined a number of favorites, including the ever-popular poke cake, into one outrageous treat.

It’s not just a poke cake. There’s a layer of pudding on top, then it’s capped off with Cool Whip and finally fresh fruit. (That makes it healthy, right?)

I made a few variations to the original when I tried it. I made the box cake with melted butter instead of oil, milk instead of water, an added egg and a splash of vanilla, all of which helped create a more homemade richness to the cake mix. I also used blueberries instead of strawberries on top, because it’s the Fourth of July weekend and I wanted a red, white and blue cake to help celebrate.

Big Red Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1 (6-ounce) box strawberry-flavored gelatin
12 ounces Big Red, cold
1 (3.4-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) tub Cool Whip
Fresh strawberries or blueberries

Prepare cake mix as directed and bake in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Let cool.

Make the cake however you want to. I changed a few ingredients to make it denser.

Make the cake however you want to. I changed a few ingredients to make it denser.

Mix the strawberry gelatin with 1 cup of hot water and the cold Big Red. Poke holes in the cake and pour the gelatin mixture evenly over the cake. Pour the entire mixture over the top. The cake will eventually absorb all of the liquid. Let it set for at least 30 minutes.

See the air bubble? It takes time for the cake to absorb all of the Big Red-gelatin liquid.

See the air bubble? It takes time for the cake to absorb all of the Big Red-gelatin liquid.

Prepare the vanilla pudding according to the directions on the box and spread evenly over the cake. (If you are making this ahead, cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Cover it with vanilla pudding and let it set until you're ready to eat. This looks so good, I think I'm ready to eat now.

Cover it with vanilla pudding and let it set until you’re ready to eat. I’m ready now.

When you’re ready to serve, spread the Cool Whip over the top and garnish with fresh strawberries. If you want a red, white and blue look, use blueberries on top.

Cool Whip covers any imperfections below it.

Cool Whip covers any imperfections below it.

Add blueberries, strawberries or your favorite berry.

Add blueberries, strawberries or your favorite berry.

Makes 1 cake.

Adapted from Thelma Ramirez/”Market Trail Heritage Cookbook”

 

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Enjoy a Make-Ahead Salad Filled with Freshness

Enjoy a Make-Ahead Salad Filled with Freshness

tomato saladA friend recently went through a lifetime of cookbooks and gave me 11 cases to go through. Needless to say, it’s going to take some time, especially when I pause all the time to read through a recipe for this or that.

I’m not going to keep all of them, of course. After all, there are a few duplicates in there. But you never know where you’re going to find a treasure. The following recipe for Green Pepper, Olive and Tomato Salad comes from “Pantry Pleasures,” a fundraiser for the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary in Grand Rapids, Mich. The year the cookbook appeared is a mystery, though my guess would be in the early 1970s.

I was drawn to it because of the freshness of the ingredients, many of which are personal favorites. But the real appeal is that you can make this a day ahead. So, if you know you’re going to be running short on time, here’s one course that you won’t have to worry about.

It’s also easy to play around with the ingredients to suit your tastes. I added an English cucumber. Radishes and cabbage would also be good additions. (If you use red radishes, add them shortly before serving because the color of the skin will run and turn the whole salad pink.)

Green Pepper, Olive and Tomato Salad

2 green peppers, chopped in thin strips or small pieces
1 cup sliced olives (green or black or a combination of both)
3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges or bite-sized pieces
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large red onion, cut into thin half-rings
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup neutral-flavored oil, such as grapeseed or avocado
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large bowl, mix together peppers, olives, tomatoes, celery, onion, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Marinate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 12-15 servings.

Adapted from “Pantry Pleasures: Mercy Hospital Auxiliary”

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It’s Pizza Times Two

It’s Pizza Times Two

The antipasti plate at Il Forno.

The antipasti plate at Il Forno.

Everyone approaches pizza a little differently, and different is good in a world of too much uniformity. There’s the thin crust, which gets scorched on the bottom while the toppings sort of melt together in the blazing heat of the oven. Others go for a thicker crust, sturdy enough to hold a little extra in the way of toppings. And deep-dish pizza fans go for what non-fans politely call a casserole, in which each slice is stacked high with a lot of everything.

The Vegetali at Capos.

The Vegetali at Capos.

You can also go into the handmade approach to the crust, no matter how thin or thick, as well as the finest and freshest of ingredients spread out on top. And, in my book, there’s the delicate use of anchovies, which work to unify the rest into a boldly flavored whole. (Who am I kidding? Your touch with the anchovies doesn’t have to be delicate. Just make sure they’re included. And I’ll take a few on the side while you’re at it.)

Recent visits to two pizza parlors on different sides of town convinced me that all’s well in San Antonio when it comes to this favorite food.

The first was to Capos Deck Oven Pizza, 17676 Blanco Road, just inside Loop 1604. Hidden in a tiny strip mall next to the mighty fine El Jalisco Grill & Cantina, the restaurant makes no pretension when it comes to ambience. There are a few bar stools, if you want to eat your pizza by the slice on site or wait for your order to go. Instead of focusing on furnishings, owner Ricky Perna’s attention seems to be squarely on producing a Buffalo, N.Y.-style pie that will have you reaching for a second slice even before you’ve finished the first.

Capos' Calzone

Capos’ Calzone

That certainly was the case with the Capos Supremo with pepperoni, Italian sausage, black olives, roasted onions, mushrooms and, for dramatic effect, bright strips of roasted red peppers. The Vegetali was a sight to behold, with artichoke hearts, red pepper strips, spinach, red onions, mushrooms and more artfully arranged on top so that each bite brought a different fresh vegetable taste.

The crust for both was not wafer or cracker thin. In true New York style, it had a little more body, but it packed a good yeasty flavor and was sturdy enough to hold that mouthwatering array of toppings. The same dough was used to good effect in the stromboli with its pepperoni, meatballs and ocean of melted mozzarella and romano cheeses, and a meaty calzone that had more cheese than one person could handle with good meat flavor in every bite.

A solid cold Italian sub, with tangy red onions offsetting the richness of the ham, Genoa salami and cheeses,  finished out this meal with friends in style. I remember owner Ricky Perna from the days when he owned Goomba’s, which I had loved for its honest approach to Italian-American favorites. It’s great to see he hasn’t lost his touch.

The baked green tomato Caprese salad at Il Forno.

The baked green tomato Caprese salad at Il Forno.

Michael Sohocki’s Il Forno on Nogalitos is more authentic Italian or perhaps chef-driven Italian, but most every bite rated raves from the same group of friends. The interior of the restaurant is every bit as spare as Capos, though more spacious.

Watermelon Panzanella at Il Forno

Watermelon Panzanella at Il Forno

Sohocki, from Restaurant Gwendolyn, has assembled a group of cooks who stress the visual appeal of the dishes they offer as well as the blending of flavors, with the end result being art on several levels. We’ll let the pictures of the various dishes we tried — and we kept trying more and more — do most of the talking. Just remember that each dish contained some surprises that will haunt us until our next visit. Chief among them were the spicy sausage slices on the antipasti tray, the farm fresh egg on the pizza with prosciutto and sauteed parsley, the tangy croutons in the watermelon panzanella, the fresh tomatoes on the puttanesca pizza.

I’ll let the photos of the food at Il Forno tell the story. All were eye appealing, and all tasted even better than they looked.

Don’t settle for boring or chain creations when it comes to your pizza, people. People all over this town are creating soul-satisfying pies just for you, as both Capos and Il Forno ably demonstrate.

Capos Deck Oven Pizza
17676 Blanco Road
(210) 362-1901
www.capospizzasa.com

Il Forno
122 Nogalitos
(210) 616-2198www.ilfornosa.com

The puttanesca pizza at Il Forno.

The puttanesca pizza at Il Forno.

Prosciutto and a farm-fresh egg crown an Il Forno Pizza.

Prosciutto and a farm-fresh egg crown an Il Forno Pizza.

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Seguin Teen Gets a Taste of TV Cooking

Seguin Teen Gets a Taste of TV Cooking

A crowd filled Davila's BBQ in Seguin to watch hometown hero Ty Machado.

A crowd filled Davila’s BBQ in Seguin to watch hometown hero Ty Machado.

Ty Machado, 13, has braved the stressful world of culinary TV as one of the young contestants on Food Network’s “Kids BBQ Championship.” And in doing so, he brought a spotlight on his hometown of Seguin.

Ty Machado, in orange, talks with folks after his TV appearance.

Ty Machado talks with folks after his TV appearance.

Also appearing on one of the episodes with Ty was Adrian Davila of Davila’s BBQ. Davila, who served as one of the judges, hosted Ty, his family and a host of hometown friends to a viewing party this week so they could cheer on their young local hero.

The challenge of the episode called for Ty and the remaining competitors to put their grills to use in creating a dessert. Dishes ranged from lemon-blueberry cobbler and dessert pizza to dump cake and baked apples. Ty baked pina colada upside-down cakes.

SPOILER ALERT

In the end, the judges said all of the creations tasted great, though opinions varied on the presentation, which was an important part of the final score. And while they loved the pina colada flavor of Ty’s dessert, they didn’t care for how it looked. Ty admitted he had burned the cakes and did his best to salvage them, but it didn’t succeed.

You could tell that being sent home still stung, even though the show was taped in December. Ty brushed back a few tears, but he was all smiles when the crowd in Davila’s dining room broke out into a sustained round of applause.

Seguin’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presented him with a plaque for being a positive role model in the community.

Word is that Ty’s interested in continuing his cooking career. So, expect to hear more from him in the future.

Ty Machado, left, and Adrian Davila, center, show off a plaque from the Seguin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Ty Machado, left, and Adrian Davila, center, show off a plaque from the Seguin-Guadalupe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The cast of "Kids BBQ Championship." (Courtesy foodnetwork.com)

The cast of “Kids BBQ Championship.” (Courtesy foodnetwork.com)

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Treat Your 1015s Like Potatoes

Treat Your 1015s Like Potatoes

onion2

Oven-roasted onions make a low-carb substitute for a baked potato.

Baked potatoes are not on a low-carb diet. So, if you have diabetes or eating Paleo, what are you going to have for a side dish to that steak?

 

1015s in the oven

1015s in the oven

The answer is easy, according to “Hullabaloo in the Kitchen II,” a cookbook from the Dallas County Texas A&M University Mothers’ Club.

Use Texas 1015s instead.

These recipes come from former Gov. Rick Perry and use 1015 onions, which were developed by Aggies to showcase the vegetable’s natural sweetness.

The recipe is also a great way to use leftover brisket, should you have any after a barbecue. Later in the cookbook is a vegetarian version stuffed with broccoli and Parmesan cheese.

onion1Lone Star-Style Whole Roasted Onions

4 (14- to 16-ounce) Texas 1015 onions
Olive oil

Place whole, unpeeled onions in as small a baking dish as possible. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Roast uncovered at 375 degrees. Onions are done when easily pierced with a fork (soft but not mushy), about 1 hour and 15 minutes, depending on size. To serve, cut an X through the top of each onion and squeeze slightly at the bottom so it opens like a baked potato. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with sour cream and chives, or try with your favorite baked potato toppings.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Hullabaloo in the Kitchen II” from the Dallas County Texas A&M University Mothers’ Club

Texas Barbecue Beef-Stuffed Onions

4 Lone Star-Style Whole Roasted Onions without X cut, at room temperature
6 ounces lean deli roast beef or leftover brisket, cut into 1/2-inch squares
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
3 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

Cut a thin slice off the top of the cooked onions. Gently squeeze each onion from the root end (editor’s note: I did the opposite, cutting the root end off and it worked well). Remove center to leave a shell of about 1/2 inch. Finely dice the onion centers. In a medium bowl, toss diced onion with roast beef, barbecue sauce and cheese. Stuff each shell with 1/4 of the mixture or as much as will fill each onion. I sprinkled a little extra cheddar on top. Reheat at 375 degrees until hot, about 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Hullabaloo in the Kitchen II” from the Dallas County Texas A&M University Mothers’ Club

1015 Onions Stuffed with Broccoli

3 Lone Star-Style Whole Roasted Onions without X cut, at room temperature
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

Peel and cut a thick slice off the top or bottom of the cooked onions. Halve the onions. Remove centers leaving 3/4-inch edges. Chop center portions to equal about 1 cup. Set aside. Cook broccoli according to package directions. Drain. Combine chopped onions, broccoli, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Spoon into centers of onion halves. Place in a casserole dish. Melt margarine in saucepan over medium heat. Blend in flour and salt. Add milk and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and blend in cream cheese. Spoon over onion halves and bake uncovered for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from “Hullabaloo in the Kitchen II” from the Dallas County Texas A&M University Mothers’ Club

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Give Your Terrine a Texas Twist

Give Your Terrine a Texas Twist

Here’s an easy appetizer recipe that showcases the best of what Texas has to offer, which has come to include goat cheese as well as both black and green olives.

terrine1You can also adapt it to suit your tastes. If you don’t like black olives, double up on the green. Don’t want the green olives stuffed with jalapenos? Then use them with pimentos or anchovies or whatever you like — except for pits, of course.

You have to make this dish ahead of time, which frees you up to attend to other details before your party begins.

Texas Goat Cheese Terrine with Olives

15 ounces fresh goat cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream, or more, as needed
3/4 generous cup jalapeno- terrine2and garlic-stuff green olives, finely chopped
3/4 cup salt- or oil-cured black olives, pitted and finely chopped
Fresh herbs, such as thyme or chives, minced, for garnish (optional)

In a bowl, mix the goat cheese and 3/4 cup heavy cream to make a smooth, rather light spread. If it is too dense, add more cream. Evenly spread 1/4 of the mix across the bottom of an 8-inch square serving dish or bowl. Spread the green olives evenly over the surface of the cheese. Spread another 1/4 of the cheese mixture on top. Sprinkle the black olives evenly over the top. Spread another 1/4 of the cheese mixture on top and flatten it out.

terrine3Use the remaining goat cheese like frosting to spread an even white layer on top.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. You can do this a day in advance.

Before serving, bring the terrine to room temperature. Sprinkle the herbs on top, if desired.

Serve with your choice of corn chips, pita chips, crackers and celery sticks or other crudites.

Makes 10 servings.

Adapted from “Olives, Anchovies and Capers” by Georgeanne Brennan

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Jordan Corney Mixes Up the Margarita of the Year

Jordan Corney Mixes Up the Margarita of the Year

Congratulations to San Antonio mixologist Jordan Corney, who has created Patrón Tequila’s Margarita of the Year.

Rosa Picante Margarita2His winning Rosa Picante mixes Patrón Silver with ginger syrup, jalapeño oil, rose petal sea salt and, of course, lime juice to create a unique drink, perfect for Fiesta, Cinco de Mayo or any night of the week.

Rosa Picante Margarita

2 ounces Patrón Silver
.5 ounce Patrón Citrónge Lime
.75 ounce fresh lime juice
.5 ounce ginger syrup
.5 barspoon jalapeño oil
Dash of rose water
Rose petal sea salt

Combine all ingredients but rosewater and salt in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe that has been half-rimmed with rose sea salt, and top with a dash of rose water. Garnish with a rose petal, if available.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Jordan Corney/Patrón Tequila

Jordan Corney

Jordan Corney

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Francis Bogside Gets Into the Fiesta Spirit

Francis Bogside Gets Into the Fiesta Spirit

Francis Bogside

Francis Bogside in Southtown, 803 S. St. Mary’s St., is celebrating the King William Fair with a Fiesta Meat Fest at noon Saturday.

For $12, you can visit the meat carving station for your choice of  veal leg, whole local chicken, jalapeno cheddar sausage and whole halibut as well as two side dishes. A la carte items include a Fiesta dog, Fiesta fruit salad and Fiesta funnel cake.

Cocktails and beer will also be available for purchase.

For more information, call 210-998-3063.

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Rolling with the Klopse at NIOSA

Rolling with the Klopse at NIOSA

Stop by most every food booth at a Night in Old San Antonio and you can get a serving of family history alongside your favorite snack.

Allison Schmidt (left) talks with her Cowboy Klopse crew.

Allison Schmidt (left) talks with her Cowboy Klopse crew.

Take Richard and Joy Slavin for example. Their family found their way to Frontier Town in the early 1970s when they worked at the chili con queso booth. After a few years, chili con queso moved out of the neighborhood, but the Slavins decided to stay on their NIOSA block. They found themselves working at the then-new Cowboy Klopse booth, where they have volunteered ever since.

Their daughter, Allison Schmidt, and her husband, Smitty Schmidt, are now chairing the booth, and you’ll find the next generation of the family, the Schmidts’ twin daughters, Jessica and Julie, joining in the fun. Allison’s brother, Rick Slavin, also pitches in where needed.

For those not familiar with the NIOSA favorite, Cowboy Klopse is the name of a meatball that’s been coated in a jalapeno batter before being deep-fried to a dark golden perfection.

Cowboy Klopse

Cowboy Klopse

According to Allison, the recipe was created by a woman named Jane Fricke, who ran the booth for a year before deciding she’d had enough. So, she left behind her recipe, which draws thousands of hungry customers over the course of the celebration. One bite will convince you why.

Throughout the duration of NISOA, the booth expects to sell just shy of 3,000 servings, Smitty says.

He’s the one who showed me how to fry up these treats. The recipe begins with a Golden Dipt Batter mix with diced jalapeños stirred in. Then you add the meatballs and get them thoroughly coated. Using a pair of kitchen tongs, you grab a meatball out of the bowl and make sure it has a thick coating of batter around it before dropping it into a fry vat and letting the hot oil do its magic. About halfway through the frying process, you shake the balls loose from the bottom of the fry basket, so they can float to the top and finish cooking.

It’s not a complicated process, but like anything you cook, the procedure has to be followed fairly closely — and you have to do it without giving yourself a grease burn. It took no time to learn how to fry them up right, but it did take me a few baskets before I got the process right. On my very first try, I managed to get the Klopse stuck in the corner of the fry basket, so I had to a clean pair of tongs to loosen it. It took a while to develop the right method of shaking the balls loose while they cooked. And I managed to splash myself with oil once. Thankfully, it wasn’t bad.

Meatballs in jalapeno batter

Meatballs in jalapeno batter

I picked up additional technique from my fellow fryers, some of whom have worked the booth for anywhere from five to 10 years. They made me feel like an old pro in no time. One of the volunteers, Bibi Nuñez, has been making klopse since 1984. He loves the work and he loves the protection that the booth offers from the sometimes overwhelming NIOSA crowds. “It’s fun being behind here, watching the people” he says. I’ve thought the same many times.

The crew fell into their jobs as if they had been frying up meatballs last week, not last year. “Everybody really knows what they’re doing,” Allison says. “It’s really in good hands.”

The finished product

The finished product

They also began to catch up with each, swapping stories about work, about volunteering for NIOSA and the San Antonio Conservation Society, the rain rock that was supposed to ward off the thunderstorms that had been forecast, you name it. Smitty told me about Caritas Ranch BBQ, which he used to make and market. Allison talked about sweating through a hot NIOSA when she was pregnant with her twin girls. And Jessica talked about heading off to Alpine with her sister this fall for college.

In the 15 years or so that I’ve worked at NIOSA, helping out at booths as diverse as Bongo-K-bobs, fried green tomatoes, Yak-i-tori, Shypoke Eggs and bean tacos as well as the no-longer-offered Maria’s tortillas and calf fries, I can’t recall a booth where the workers loved their product quite as much as the team at Cowboy Klopse. Yes, all of the booths took deep pride in their work, but these workers delighted in it, and that made it even more fun than usual.

Of course, you can’t make it through a shift of working at the Klopse booth without hearing a few jokes about the hot balls that they’re serving up to hungry customers. After all, as Allison Schmidt says, “They’re anatomically correct. We sell them two at a time.”

Three generations of NIOSA volunteers: Richard and Joy Slavin (front) with Smitty (from left), Jessica and Allison Schmidt at the Cowboy Klopse booth.

Three generations of NIOSA volunteers: Richard and Joy Slavin (front) with Smitty (from left), Jessica and Allison Schmidt at the Cowboy Klopse booth.

The sales pitch

The sales pitch

Bibi

Bibi Nuñez has been making Cowboy Klopse since 1984.

And what's NIOSA with a party hat?

And what’s NIOSA with a party hat?

A Night in Old San Antonio, a benefit for the San Antonio Conservation Society, continues through Friday. For more information, click here.

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