What’s the most Texas dish to celebrate Texas Independence Day?

There’s a movement afoot to change Texas’ official dish from chili to tacos.

This Missouri transplant certainly eats tacos more than chili, but I also enjoy my chili with beans and am still learning to say “fixin to” instead of “getting ready to.”

MORE: No fighting about breakfast tacos allowed in ‘Tacos of Texas’

I have, however, become super interested in food and Texas history since I moved here in 2005, including Texas Independence Day, which is today. (Here’s how/where to celebrate.)

Texas sheet cake, King Ranch chicken, Frito pie and Texas caviar are some of the state-specific foods I learned about when I arrived, and I’ve had fun profiling over Texas food history overs over the years.

K.R. Wood makes chili at his Manchaca home. KR Wood, a singing cowboy historian from Manchaca who teaches kids about Texas history through chuckwagon cooking, makes chili over a fire. 02.18. 2014 LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 022614 relish austin

KR Wood, a singing cowboy historian from Manchaca who teaches kids about Texas history through chuckwagon cooking, makes chili over a fire.
LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

There was this singing cowboy, who was probably my favorite.

Celebrating Texas Independence Day with a singing chuck wagon cook who knows his history

Last year, Jessica Dupuy published a “United Tastes of Texas” cookbook that included enough Texas recipes to keep you busy for a year.

King Ranch chicken is one of the classic Texas recipes from Jessica Dupuy's "United Tastes of Texas" cookbook. Photos from Southern Living

King Ranch chicken is one of the classic Texas recipes from Jessica Dupuy’s “United Tastes of Texas” cookbook. Photos from Southern Living

King Ranch Chicken

Hailing from an era when casseroles were king, this Tex-Mex addition reigns supreme as the staple dish for church suppers and neighborhood potlucks. Though not an invention of the famed King Ranch — it’s more likely the invention of a Junior League member — the spicy flavors of chili powder, roasted peppers and cumin never fail to please.

— Jessica Dupuy

Vegetable cooking spray
6 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped poblano peppers (about 2 medium peppers)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 lb. Smoked Chicken (recipe follows), coarsely chopped (about 5 cups)
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/4 cup canola oil
For garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute.

Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Add tomatoes and sour cream.

Stir together chicken and cilantro; stir in vegetable mixture until blended. Combine cheeses in a small bowl.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Lightly brush each tortilla on both sides with oil. Cook tortillas, in batches, in hot skillet until lightly browned and crisp on both sides.

Line bottom of prepared baking dish with 6 tortillas, overlapping slightly, to cover bottom of dish. Top with half of chicken mixture and 1/3 of cheese. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining tortillas and cheese. Lightly coat a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 12.

— From “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State” by Jessica Dupuy (Oxmoor House, $24.95)

Smoked Chicken

Piloncillo is a raw sugar made from reduced cane juice. It’s sold molded into cone shapes and is sometimes labeled panela. To measure, place the cone in a zip-top plastic freezer bag and pound it with a meat mallet to break it apart.

— Jessica Dupuy

3 to 4 oak, hickory or pecan wood chunks
1 cup firmly packed piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar), about 1 (8-oz.) cone (can substitute dark brown sugar)
1 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp. table salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 (3 3/4- to 4-lb.) whole chickens

Soak wood chunks in water to cover 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine piloncillo and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub chickens with piloncillo mixture and let stand 30 minutes.

Prepare smoker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place water pan in smoker; add water to depth of fill line. Bring internal temperature to 225 degrees to 250 degrees and maintain temperature 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain wood chunks, and place on coals. Place chickens on food cooking grate; close smoker. Smoke 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of thighs registers 165 degrees.

Remove chickens from smoker and let stand 20 minutes before slicing. Serves 12.

— From “United Tastes of Texas: Authentic Recipes from All Corners of the Lone Star State” by Jessica Dupuy (Oxmoor House, $24.95)


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