Ribs, Rubs, Pornburgers, Fish, and Mason Jar Cocktails
By Doug Mosley
Jamie Purviance and Weber are practically as ubiquitous as peanut butter and jelly. The two have paired for (by my count) 18 books, including one in French and one in German. Since 1999's Weber's Art of the Grill, there's been a new release about every other year or so (there were five in 2010, including the two foreign language books). And it seems like every time the latest book is so well-written and covers the topic in such a complete way that you wonder what is left to write about next. Then two years later – boom! – another remarkable new book. So here we are in 2016, which must be the appropriate time for the latest Purviance release, Weber's New American Barbecue: A Modern Spin on the Classics ($24.99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 304 pp.).
It is my observation that the way Purviance has been able to continually crank out relevant books is because he has stayed in touch with the incremental changes in barbecue while not feeling beholden to recapping all of the basics in every new book. Hear me out on this – I actually pulled out all of his previous works and did a comparison to figure out just how he does this. Purviance manages to offer new content in each book primarily because he's not constrained by including every time 40 or 50 pages that are practically the same for every other book. Part of that is the commitment he enjoys from the publisher of producing a book that is graphically laid out in a way that tells as much of the story in pictures and figures.
In Weber's New American Barbecue, Purviance has done well to include as many of the emerging influences that our favorite cuisine is undergoing at the moment. For instance, in his opening chapter he has a special feature on Korean barbecue. In the next there is a compelling piece titled, "Barbecuing without boundaries in New York City," telling of the growth of barbecue in that melting pot metropolis. Another is "Staging a comeback with lamb and bison" and then there's another that if you know my background you'll realize this to be one of my favorites - "New Orleans' seafood barbecue". There's also these great technical pieces titled "Lessons from the Legends" and Purviance shares the techniques of notable experts. For brisket he enlisted Aaron Franklin, pulled pork is Chris Lilly, Mike Mills offers up on spare ribs, and the Danish National BBQ team is tapped for chicken thighs. All of these and more like them are thoughtfully written and make this so much more than a book of recipes.
Speaking of recipes, I'd be remiss if I didn't share with you a few of the 120-plus that are offered up in these pages, simply because they'll further reflect the cutting-edge theme of this book. There is Smoked Scallops with White Wine Butter Sauce and Smoked Louisiana Chicken Wings with Cajun Rub in the chapter on Starters, Barbecued Char Siu and Pork Loin Spiedies in the chapter on Pork, and Korean Short Rib Tacos with Kogi Sauce and Pickled Cucumbers and American Kobe Brisket with Burnt Ends in the chapter that covers beef.
You may already have a bookshelf loaded down with books from Purviance and Weber, but I assure you it would be well worth the space to make room for this one. It will likely provide you with plenty of new stuff to try out until their next book surely comes out in a year or so.
When it comes to new books on rubs, I always peer through the pages with a very skeptical eye. More than once I've been presented with a book full of rub recipes that really aren't that much different than the dozens I've seen before it. So when I happen upon one that is different from the rest, offering new and creative recipes that don't seem to be copied from all the others, I take note of that. And the book of note that I'll tell you about here is simply titled Rubs: Over 100 Recipes for the Perfect Sauces, Marinades and Seasonings by John Whalen III ($18.95, Cider Mill Press, 304 pp.).
First off, if a book is taking more than 300 pages to cover a little over 100 rub recipes, you know it's definitely different from the ones that cram 12 recipes to a page with very few pictures and no accompanying content. In this case, nearly every recipe comes with a picture, either of the rub in a finished dish, a view of the ingredients or a pic of the finished rub itself.
Beyond the pictures, I also really liked how the book is organized. For each section, it begins with the chapter of recipes for the rubs, marinades or sauces and then is followed by the respective chapter of cooking with each. As an example, the first chapter is Rubs and then the second chapter is Cooking with Rubs. Further, one each recipe page for a rub/marinade/sauce, there are a couple of lines that help to put them together with the food they work best with – check box choices are red meat, pork, poultry and seafood – and then again for flavor – check box choices for spicy, sweet, tangy, savory and salty. Obviously many recipes will have the box checked for more than one food category and more than one flavor profile.
It all sums up into a really well-made book and one I'm sure you'll enjoy.
I was honestly a bit self-conscious about this next book sitting on my desk due to the title, so much so that I put it on the floor behind my desk where no one could see it but me. The title? (Furtively looks from one side to the other, then whispers…) Pornburger: Hot Buns and Juicy Beefcakes by Mathew Ramsey ($27.99, HarperCollins, 298 pp.).
OK, maybe I was a bit over anxious about having this book around, especially when you open the cover and see what's contained on these pages. Trust me when I say there is nothing to appeal to anyone's…ahem…prurient interests. Nonetheless, this book is definitely edgy, and I mean like way out there edgy. If you like things a bit on the wild side, or perhaps a whole lot on the wild side, then this book is for you.
Author Ramsey is at his best with all of his talents on display here: he is a California Culinary Academy-trained chef, a food stylist, and a photographer. What he does in "Pornburger" is create 36 over-the-top burger ideas, take photos of them in a mouth-watering setting, and write about it in a whole tongue-in-cheek way. Among his creations is the Bill U Murray Me?, the Cheeseburger Pop Tart, the Wake'N Bacon, the Willem Dafoe-nut, the Mac Daddy Burger, and many more.
Sorry, no, I refuse to tell you what went into the names of those dishes because it would spoil the wicked surprise. Just get this book and find out one your own. Perhaps cover it in your own plain brown paper wrap if you're a bit on the squeamish side.
I live in a place now where fresh seafood is just about swimming up to my doorstep, so books on cooking seafood well are of great interest. I came upon one from a familiar author, Jennifer Trainer Thompson, who'd previously appeared in this space for her excellent book Hot Sauce!. Thompson's newest book is Fresh Fish: A Fearless Guide to Grilling, Shucking, Roasting, Poaching, and Sauteing Seafood ($29.95, Storey Publishing, 352 pp.).
I had to admire Thompson for acknowledging the 900 lb. gorilla topic on seafood by stating: "Grilling fish can be intimidating: it sticks, and once it sticks, it tears apart. And how do you know when it's done?". That's a remorse I've heard time and time again from cooks who are hesitant to take $30 per pound sea bass and put it on their grill. But Thompson kindly walks through the tells on successfully grilling fish and offers up many flavorful ways to cook it (beyond just sprinkling on some Old Bay and hoping for the best – am I right?).
Fresh Fish goes well beyond just the foodstuffs with fins, covering shellfish as well. There's also great pieces on techniques - I really loved the step-by-step tutorial on doing a clambake - and there is plenty more to discover beyond that. Dive in!
I thought I'd seen it all when it came to ways to make books on cocktails different and unique from the ones that came before them, but this next one is like no other I've ever seen. For the first time, I've found a book that is written for cocktails prepared in a very specific container – a Mason jar.
The Mason Jar Cocktail Companion: Over 125 Drink Recipes Perfect for Every Season by Shane Carley ($18.95, Cider Mill Press, 240 pp.) seems like it was written specifically for what is in my drinkware cabinet. For you see, while I may be able to appreciate a crystal champagne flute or a sleek stemmed martini glass, most likely you'll find mismatched Mason jars when you open those cabinet doors. I'm just as liable to commit a cocktail faux pas by mistakenly serving a highball in a Collins glass or vice versa, so a book that tells me it's OK to just serve them all up in a Mason jar is great by me!
The chapters are divided by spirits (i.e., Vodka-based Cocktails, Rum-based Cocktails, Whiskey-based Cocktails and so on) and also include a chapter on Mocktails (Shirley Temple, Roy Rogers). There are recipes for many of the tried-and-true cocktails (Mojito, White Russian, Mint Julep, Tom Collins) and quite a few that may be new to you. So break out those Mason jars proudly and let's get to mixing up some cocktails.
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