Christmas in Texas State Parks

December 1st, 2015
Happy Holidays from Passport to Texas and Texas State Parks!

Happy Holidays from Passport to Texas and Texas State Parks!

This is Passport to Texas

It’s not like we have to stay indoors huddled around a fireplace to stay warm during the holidays. It’s Texas, after all. But you can warm your spirit outdoors with a trip to a state park this holiday season.

04— We have over 47 parks participating this year, with over 65 events. So, lots of opportunities happening across the state.

Thomas Wilhelm, with state parks, shares a few places where we can find seasonal fun across the state.

48—At Franklin Mountains State Park they’re having an event called Howliday Hounds Hike, dressing up animals is Santa hats and going for hikes. LBJ State Park and Historic site here in Central Texas is having its 46th Annual Christmas Tree lighting. That’s been going on for a long time and it’s a lot of fun. Stephen F. Austin State Park, out towards Houston, is having its family Breakfast with Santa. And Lake Mineral Wells State Park up towards the Dallas area is having a [Cross-Timbers] Cowboy Christmas. With Cowboy poets and storytellers coming in to sit around the campfire and tell stories. There are events happening at several of our Valley area parks. Estero Llano Grande is having—one of the birding centers—is having a Santa Bird Hike. And, Resaca de la Palma, also in the valley, is having a Jolly Night Hike. And they’ll also have crafts and live performances by local talent.

Find a complete list of holiday events in state parks at

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Land Stewardship at Lavaca Rio Ranch

November 30th, 2015

This is Passport to Texas

A group of coastal landowners in Jackson County turned their 5,000-acre ranch into what Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Doug Jobes calls “the pinnacle of what natural resource management should be.”

04—The practices that are taking place on that ranch, I’d put ‘em up against any ranch in the state.

Lavaca Rio Ranch is a 2015 Lone Star Land Steward Regional Award winner for their land management, which Brent Friedrichs oversees.

11—What’s cool about this ranch is you’ve got these big, deep sand hills, and the vegetation is awesome. We’ve got little bluestem, switch grass, gulf coast muhly—which is all good nesting sites for quail.

About 300 acres at Lavaca Rio Ranch is coastal prairie, and support rare plant communities, says Texas Parks and Wildlife botanist Jason Singhurst.

13—They’re high-quality prairies. They have a lot of plant diversity in them. And they have some plants that are very special within the state. Now we’re down to about 150 thousand acres of coastal prairie, and the fact that this ranch has about 300 plus acres of intact prairie is unique.

Know a landowner who’s doing great work preserving their property? Nominate them for a Lone Star Land Steward Award. YOu can find information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Learning to “Play the Game”

November 27th, 2015
South Texas Antelope dish

South Texas Antelope, chipotle risotto, grilled okra, espresso red wine reduction; photo courtesy Alcalde Grill, Gonzales, Texas

Scroll down to find a seasonal game recipe from Chef Austin Brown.

This is Passport to Texas

Hunters are beginning to fill their freezers with venison.

07—Most people will make stew out of it or they’ll grind up what’s left over and they’ll make sausage out of it.

Those traditional preparations are tasty, but Chef Austin Brown, owner of the Alcalde Grill in Gonzales challenges home cooks to get out of their comfort zones. And that means not using this common culinary crutch.

15— Get away from the Italian dressings and use brines. A heavily salted water with some sort of acid—maybe a little flavored vinegar in it—lemon juice, lime juices. Those things do the exact same thing as a marinade.

He says home cooks default to stews and sausages because those recipes mask the meat’s perceived gamy flavor. But Chef Brown says a properly cooked venison back strap or leg filet, for example, is sublime.

20— I would brine it in salt water and cut it into individual steaks; season it with just salt and pepper…a little bit of garlic and a little bit of butter, and grill it on the grill. Or sear it in a pan, cooking it to about medium rare and eating it that way. Some of the best deer that you can eat is just seasoned with salt and pepper and seared in a pan.

Find a recipe from Chef Austin Brown at

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.


Sea Salt Quail, Chef Austin Brown

Sea Salt Quail, Chef Austin Brown

CRISPY SEA SALT QUAIL with Roasted Red pepper aioli

For the Aioli

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 cups of oil (use a neutral oil like canola or grapeseed)
  • 1 cup of ice water
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 smashed garlic clove

Over an open flame, roast the peppers until black on all sides. Place them in a Ziploc bag for about ten minutes to steam. Remove from back and peel off burn skin, and remove seeds.

In a blender combine egg yolks, peppers, 2 tablespoons of water and the garlic clove. Blend until smooth. slowly add the oil in a fine stream until a thin mayonnaise consistency is reached. More or less of the oil can be used. Once thickened, season with salt and pepper.

For the Quail

  • 20 quail legs skin on
  • 5 cups of flour
  • Sea salt
  • Cracked pepper
  • Cilantro bunch( optional)
  • 1 quart of canola oil
  • Heavily season the flour with salt and pepper.

Wash quail to remove any leftover feathers. Pat dry with a paper towel and toss in flour to coat.

Over medium heat, heat about a 3/8 of an inch of canola oil in the bottom of a cast iron skillet.

Fry the legs turning only once to a golden brown. Be sure to not over crowd the pan, the name of the game is cooking these guys over really high heat so they are still juicy on the inside.

The hotter the oil, the crispier they turn out. Once finished place quail on a paper towel to soak up any remaining oil and season again with sea salt and cracked pepper

Serve with the red pepper aioli and garnish with cilantro.


Hunting and New World Independence

November 26th, 2015
Back in Time for Thanksgiving, image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

This is Passport to Texas

This week we commemorate the first Thanksgiving. While our turkeys come from the store, Pilgrims hunted for theirs. Did you know that prior to the Pilgrim’s arrival in 1620 few of them had ever hunted wild game?

10—The first people to come over wouldn’t have been able to hunt [in England] because the land was owned by the rich and that’s where you hunted. So, when they came to America and were able to hunt anywhere, it was actually a real expression of their new lives.

Simon Majumdar is a hunter, food writer and judge on Food Network TV competitions. He says along with being deeply rooted in the American identity, hunting puts good food on the table.

13—I’m a great believer if you hunt for food that you’re going to eat some really amazing dishes. I mean, I’ve hunted many times in the UK: deer, wild birds…rabbit. I do a lot of rabbit hunting in the United Kingdom. And I think the food often just tastes better.

Plus, he says, you know its origins. Simon Majumdar, author of Fed, White and Blue: Finding America with My Fork says despite our long history with hunting and eating wild game, some Americans remain reticent.

10—I always blame Walt Disney. Walt Disney has a lot to answer for because everyone thinks of like Bambi and Thumper. And they’re really just sources of food. So, I’m very unsentimental with it.

Be sentimental when giving thanks this season, and pass the turkey.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Putting “English” on Hunting in America

November 25th, 2015
Simon Majumdar enjoying a kabob. Image courtesy

Simon Majumdar. Image courtesy

This is Passport to Texas

Simon Majumdar is an author, food writer, and judge on Food Network TV cooking competitions. This British born food lover also hunts and eats wild game.

12—I love hunting. And hunting really speaks to the American identity, because without the first Pilgrims coming here and being taught how to hunt by the Native Americans, the Wampanoags, America wouldn’t exist.

Based on personal invitations, Majumdar traveled the US exploring regional food traditions for his latest book Fed, White and Blue: Finding America with My Fork.

11—I did actually do a little bit of hunting in Mississippi; I went out into the delta, and it was dove hunting season. We did some wild hog hunting. We didn’t catch much. I say, no animals were harmed during the making of my book.

For Majumdar, hunting is about putting meat on the table.

14—I would never go hunting just for sport. But if it’s to put food on the table… And actually, during the economic downturn, I have friends all over the country who used hunting to fill their families stomachs. And again, that proves it is part of the American identity.

I asked Food Network TV’s Simon Majumdar if he would ever hunt in Texas.

09—Well, I go wherever I’m invited. So, if people invite me, then I’ll go. I’m not claiming to be any good. But I’m safe. And I love doing it. I love the companionship of hunting.

Simon Majumdar is great company in the field and in the kitchen.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.