Cooking outdoors is a natural state of affairs for Fox 7 (Austin Texas) sports anchor Dave Cody. He’s a sports guy after all, and for part of the year, that means tailgating.
During tailgating season, Cody isn’t just the guy with the mike, he’s as likely to be around the grill in a huddle of 100 or more people in Lot 80 at Royal-Memorial Stadium. “You go to the party or you go to the tailgate, and some people migrate to the bar? I migrate to the grill,” he said.
Outdoor cooking is a sport unto itself in some ways, and Cody has embraced it with a recipe for cedar-plank salmon that incorporates a trio of strong flavors: garlic, ginger root and brown sugar.
Cody’s been with Fox 7 for 26 years of his 30-year television sports career. After so many years of producing a closely timed broadcast, Cody brings that discipline to his cooking as well. “I cook a lot by feel,” he said. “I think it’s because the time skills that I have. I know when things are ready.”
Cody’s ease in the kitchen has another sports connection: A shoulder injury that keeps him from playing golf has left him with time to develop his chops. His kitchen is dominated by a granite-topped island set with sunflowers and shaded by a rack of high-quality cookware set aglow by a generous skylight. His greyhound, Cleo, canvasses the area, a dog clearly accustomed to scraps from the master’s cutting board. On the back patio, a gas grill with some real muscle bears the smoky patina of regular use.
But just so you don’t think Cody’s priorities have wandered too far into the kitchen, he admitted to letting his pork chops burn a few weeks back when he got caught up in a Spurs game.
Sports are never far from Cody’s mind. His brother, Bill Cody, played football for the New Orleans Saints and blocked for Tom Dempsey when he kicked his record-setting 63-yard field goal.
For Cody, even barbecue is a team sport with its own MVPs: brisket at Iron Works, pork ribs at the Salt Lick and pulled pork at Buster’s in Lakeway. “When we did a segment last year on the Lake Travis football team, we went live with the whole team out at Buster’s BBQ out on the porch,” he said. A frequent flier, Cody buys Iron Works’ bottled barbecue sauce at the airport coming and going: on the way out of town to take to family, on the way back in for himself.
At home, his cedar-plank salmon recipe starts with the vermilion velvet of sockeye salmon, ideally. But the brown sugar and freshly ground ginger melt to a sweet-hot glaze that would elevate even less-expensive varieties. No high-tone Microplane zester for Cody’s ginger. Out comes the cowbell grater for thicker shreds of the unpeeled root.
Cody uses hammers as weights to keep his cedar planks underwater in an old Playmate cooler. The planks are cut from untreated cedar fence boards, the kind you’d buy from a home improvement warehouse. Why fence boards instead of grilling planks from a kitchen store? Simple. They’re thicker, and they’re less likely to catch fire, he said.
He puts the planks on the grill and rubs them liberally with sea salt, a move that seems to keep the salmon from sticking. When the wood starts to pop, it’s time for the fish and for patience because it’s best just to shut the cover and let the aromatic wood act as a smokehouse for about seven minutes.
Cody also makes three simple side dishes worth talking about: asparagus with olive oil and chopped garlic, grilled for a few minutes in a perforated pan; potatoes roasted with rosemary and olive oil for an hour at 400 degrees; and a salad of spring mix, green apple, feta cheese and caramelized walnuts. He makes the walnuts by browning them in a skillet with butter, letting them dry on a paper towel, then putting them in the oven to roast for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
To round out even a cookout as refined as this one, Cody brings out a family recipe for pecan pie plus a fresh pan of peach cobbler made by a neighbor named Mary , a cobbler he calls “the world’s best, no doubt.” Both cooks lean on local products for their key ingredients: Cody on pecans from Berdoll Pecan Farm in Cedar Creek, his neighbor on peaches from the Fredericksburg area, specifically Burg’s Corner in Stonewall.
Cody’s job even plays into the pie. Last month, he covered a celebrity golf event at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort, which is about a half-mile from the pecan farm. He bought a 5-pound bag.
Sockeye Salmon on Cedar Plank
1 untreated 6-foot cedar fence board from home center (get clerk to cut in 1-foot lengths)
6 4-oz. sockeye salmon filets (have butcher score them)
1 Tbsp. grated ginger root
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Submerge cedar plank sections in water for a minimum of 12 hours.
Preheat outdoor grill on high heat. Place planks on grill and sprinkle planks with coarse salt. Cover grill and heat planks 2 to 3 minutes until dry. Adjust grill to medium heat.
While the grill heats up, place salmon skin-side-down on work surface. In a bowl, mix ginger root and garlic. Wait to add brown sugar (it caramelizes). When planks start smoking, add brown sugar to bowl, stir and place glaze in the score marks on the salmon.
When the planks start popping, place salmon filets skin-side-down on planks on grill. Close grill and leave alone. It’s ready in about 7 minutes when salmon is opaque and easily flaked with a fork.
Hint: The extra thickness of cedar fencing should keep the planks from burning.
4 cloves fresh chopped garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Garlic powder
3 green onions, chopped
4 chopped serrano peppers (chop ends off and microwave for 30 seconds before chopping)
1 chopped jalapeño pepper (chop ends off and microwave for 30 seconds before chopping)
3/4 bundle fresh cilantro
1/4 red onion
Juice from 1/2 lime
3 cans (14.5-oz. size) Del Monte plain diced tomatoes
Place all ingredients except tomatoes in a blender and blend well on “chop” speed. Add tomatoes and blend again briefly on “chop” speed to stir tomatoes. Do not purée. Add more lime juice if salsa is too hot.
Hint: Del Monte plain diced tomatoes are key to this recipe.
3 extra large eggs
2/3 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup dark Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 lump of butter (size of an egg)
2 cups pecan halves, cut into quarters (Berdoll Pecan Farm’s Wichita variety is best for baking)
Homemade or store-bought pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, beat eggs, then beat in sugar, flour, salt, Karo syrup and vanilla. Melt the butter and add to the mixture along with pecans. Put water on fingers and mend cracks in pie crust. Add filling.
Place pie on lowest shelf of oven. After 30 minutes, check crust and add protector around edges or use foil.
After 15 more minutes, use a toothpick, knife or straw and see if it comes out clean. It may have to cook 15 more minutes or until done.
— From Dave Cody, Fox 7 sports anchor
Mary’s Fresh Peach Cobbler
2 cups flour
1 to 11/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening (or 1 stick of butter-flavored Crisco)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vinegar
5 to 6 cups fresh Fredericksburg peaches, peeled and sliced. (I peel them into a bowl of water into which I put 1 tsp. Fruit Fresh to prevent them from turning dark.)
3/4 to 1 cup sugar, depending on natural sweetness of peaches, plus more for sprinkling
3 Tbsp. flour (or 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. flour)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
Dash of salt
2 Tbsp. butter
For crust: Sift together flour and salt into large bowl. Cut in shortening well.
Beat egg in measuring cup, add vinegar and stir. Add enough cold water to make 3/8 cup. Pour over dry ingredients and stir with fork until it clings together.
Chill dough for 2 hours. Overnight is best. Roll out about 2/3 of dough between waxed paper which has been lightly floured. Press into a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. Reserve remainder of dough for lattice top.
Note: Dough is easier to manage using waxed paper and if it is chilled.
Filling and baking: Place peaches in a large mixing bowl. Add dry ingredients and stir well. Allow fruit mixture to stand while rolling out crust.
Pour fruit mixture into crust and arrange remaining dough in a lattice over the top. Crimp edges. Dot top with butter. Lightly sprinkle additional cinnamon and sugar over butter.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Crust should be light brown and liquid thickening and bubbly. Serve warm with homemade vanilla ice cream.
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