Food & Drink: March 2023

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

An Ode to Texas

We hoped to be living in Texas when Sophie Bess Tankersley was born in September 2004. We had been in Little Rock, Arkansas for four years, and when we found out Abby was pregnant, the search was on for a job in Texas, closer to family. I applied everywhere. If there was a writing, public relations or communications-related job open in the state, I sent in my resume. I even applied for a couple of positions in El Paso, which would have put us almost three hours further away from Waco than we were in Little Rock. But, we would have been in Texas.

It finally became evident that we would not be moving back to Texas prior to our baby’s birth, and that she would be born in Little Rock. I’m not sure how many generations one side of my family can be traced back in Texas, but it’s several, and I wasn’t OK with our first child being born elsewhere. So during the summer prior to Sophie’s birth, I asked my sister, Kara Tindell, to send us a jar of dirt from her land in Lorena. And I bought a Texas flag that had flown over the state capitol in Austin, and these two items were in our bag of essentials that we took to the hospital early the morning that Sophie was to be born. When things progressed and it was evident that Sophie would soon be making her debut, I placed the neatly folded flag on a shelf over Abby’s bed and put the jar of dirt, complete with a pink ribbon and bow, on the floor underneath. So while our daughter’s birth certificate says that she was born in Little Rock, she was actually born under the Texas flag and over Texas soil.

When our son came along a couple of years later, after we had finally moved back to Waco, we named him Brazos.

Texans love their state, obviously. According to an article titled “Why Are Texans So Proud of Texas,” from – and of course there’s a website called TexasProud – “The people, the landscapes, the sheer size: there are a whole host of reasons that Texans wear their state pride like a badge of honor. But perhaps the main reason that people from Texas are so darn proud is because of their state’s unique and deep roots within American history.”

The article, written by the site’s founder Cassidy Lackey, a graduate of Baylor University, goes on to talk a little about the history of Texas, including how it has existed under the flags of six countries, including the Republic of Texas, from 1836 until 1845, when it became the 28th state of the U.S.

Cassidy also writes about the culture of the state, from its depiction as a Wild West frontier in movies to festivals such as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest to its many native musicians like Willie Nelson – who will turn 90 years old next month – and Beyonce, both of whom won multiple Grammy awards just last month.

And then Texans have a love affair with Texas food, of course. There are dozens of food festivals across the state, celebrating crops and cuisines such as the Texas Onion Fest in Weslaco; Oysterfest in Fulton; the Luling Watermelon Thump; the Crawfish and Zydeco Festival in Kemah, and on and on. You can find a chili or barbecue cookoff nearly every weekend of the year.

Texas food was celebrated with the release of two new cookbooks last year. “Texas Monthly” magazine compiled more than 100 Texas-centric recipes in “The Big Texas Cookbook.” It includes traditional favorites such as chicken fried steak and King Ranch casserole, but also celebrates the ever-changing diversity of the state with dishes like Lao Texas chili.

Austin writer Jean E. Schuler dug deep into the collection of the LBJ Presidential Library in her research for her book “At the Table with LBJ and Lady Bird: History, Humor and True Texas Recipes.” She includes recipes President Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson served at their ranch as well as what was on the menu during their time in the White House. The longest chapter in the book is devoted to barbecue and all that goes with it. LBJ loved his barbecue, and he was the first president to host a barbecue on the grounds of the White House. Walter Jetton, who owned a catering company in Fort Worth, dug a pit in the White House lawn to smoke ribs.

For our recipes this month, we changed up the traditional klobasnek – a savory form of kolache – and stuffed it with chopped brisket instead of a sausage link. We included a recipe for LBJ’s secret barbecue sauce from Schuler’s book, and for sides to go along with the klobasnek, there are recipes for cole slaw and refrigerator pickles from “The Big Texas Cookbook.”

Here’s to Texas, y’all.

The Recipes

  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 cups warm 2% milk (110 to 115 degrees)
  • 5-3/4 to 6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 pound cooked chopped brisket
  • 1/2 cup LBJ’s Secret BBQ Sauce (recipe follows) or your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
  • Savory Posipka (recipe follows)

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm milk; let stand 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, remaining sugar, egg yolks, salt, butter and the yeast/milk mixture. Mix until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Add additional flour if necessary. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down and allow to rise again. (The dough can rise overnight in the refrigerator if needed.)
Mix the barbecue sauce into the chopped brisket.

Heat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. On a floured surface, flatten a piece of dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Place 1 ounce of barbecue into the center of the dough. Pull the corners of the dough together and pinch the dough closed. Place it seam-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces and brisket. Let sit until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Just before baking, brush the top of each klobasnek with melted butter and top with a pinch of posipka. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 16 servings.


LBJ’s Secret BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Dash of freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain. Pour the sauce into a jar and refrigerate. Makes 2 1/2 cups.


Savory Posipka

  • 2 jalapenos, seeds and stems removed; roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Place the chopped jalapenos, butter, flour and cheese into a small mixing bowl. Mash together with a fork until the mixture becomes crumbly, just like you would with a sweet streusel or crumble topping.


Cole Slaw

  • 1 medium head green cabbage, shredded (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons celery seeds
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

In a large bowl, stir the cabbage and salt to combine. Set aside.

In a saucepan set over low heat, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, mustard, celery seeds, pepper and granulated garlic. Bring just to a simmer, and remove from heat. (Do not boil.)

Add the hot dressing to the cabbage and mix well. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then add the oil and mix thoroughly. Makes about 6 to 8 servings.


Refrigerator Pickles

  • 2 pound small unwaxed pickling cucumbers
  • 1 pinch alum powder (optional, for crunchier pickles)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 hot red chile, or 1 teaspoon chile pequins
  • 1 large sprig fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup canning salt

Place the cucumbers in a large jar or container with a lid, and all the alum, if using, and the garlic, chile, dill, allspice and peppercorns.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the water, vinegar and salt until the salt is dissolved. Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers until completely submerged. Add more water if necessary.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 48 hours before serving. Makes 16 to 20 pickles.