BOOK REVIEW

Must have BBQ and grilling books by big name authors

By Doug Mosley
doug_mosley@hotmail.com

Let me confess right away that you may not even need to hear my thoughts on this first book, probably because you've very likely already heard the news of its release earlier this spring and you may already have your copy dog-eared from use. You likely went ahead and bought it because you already had this author's first book and have used it frequently. There's even a likelihood that you know this author personally or are familiar with them from the many media appearances they've made. So with all that being said right up front, I'll just go ahead and do my thing here because 1) it's my job, and 2) there is a tiny, tiny chance that you've not heard about this book, which also means you most certainly live under a rock. (Am I right?)

Melissa Cookston is widely known as the winningest woman in barbecue as a two-time Memphis in May grand champion to go along with the dozens of other competitions where she walked away with the tall trophy and big check. She followed that success with appearances on the growing variety of TV shows featuring barbecue and then in 2014 wrote her first book, Smokin' in the Boys Room, which was a finalist for the "National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year" award. And with all that, she also somehow finds time for the three barbecue restaurants that she owns.
With all that going on, Cookston has somehow found time to author a second book,Smokin' Hot in the South: New Grilling Recipes from the Winningest Woman in Barbecue ($22.99, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 192 pp.). Thank goodness she did because this book may be even better than the first. This time she takes her readers through a deep dive into the influences of Southern barbecue and is able to do so in a way that makes this book appealing to the weekend griller or the competition cooker. She shares plenty in these pages and it is well written and nicely illustrated.
So what are you waiting on? Crawl out from under that rock and go buy your copy of Cookston's new book today. You'll be glad you did.

Seeing as how we're in the middle of baseball season, I think it is a grand time to tell you about a book that comes from a baseball superstar who also happens to know his stuff about barbecue and grilling. Most of you know Frank Thomas as The Big Hurt, a slugger for the Chicago White Sox who headed straight to Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame after his stellar career. But what many of you may not know is before he was belting baseballs in the Windy City he was a star on the Auburn University baseball team and a native son of nearby Columbus, Ga. And we all know that folks from those parts of the country know 'cue.

Thomas has remained in Chicago post-baseball and open his own restaurant, Big Hurt Brewhouse, and launched his own beer brand, Big Hurt Beer. However, his new book, The Big Hurt's Guide to BBQ and Grilling ($25, Triumph Books, 176 pp.) draws not from his restaurant's menu but rather from the dishes he's been cooking in his own backyard. But his story takes a twist after recounting his childhood memories of family cookouts and the eventual realization that the foods he ate then weren't necessarily the kind that a world-class athlete should eat regularly. So using what he learned about grilling and smoking from his Dad, he adapted recipes of his own that satisfied his hunger for the food he grew up eating but also fit well with his rigorous training regimen.

I'll give Thomas extra credit for being creative in the recipes he's assembled, especially when the very first one in the book is Grand Slam Grilled Grapes. But beyond that unusual dish there are endless examples of the regional influences on his own style, such as the Chicago-Style All-Beef Char Dog, the Southern-Style Burger with Collard Greens and Green Tomatoes, Barbecue Chicken with Alabama White Sauce (he struck instant credibility with me on that one) and Grilled Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Carolina Mustard Sauce.

Sorry to all you sweet tooths — in keeping with his healthy recipes concept, there's no desserts chapter in this one! Nonetheless, baseball player turned restraunteur turned brewer has now turned into a pretty good author. I know you'll enjoy this book, even if you're a Crimson Tide fan.

Guy Fieri seems to be a polarizing figure to many; you either love what he does (I do) or hate his work (as one stuffy New York Times food reviewer famously did). Whichever way it is, you have to marvel at how Fieri went from a random contest on a Food Network contest show to being practically omnipresent on the network today. Fieri has his schtick and it gets easily lampooned by many, but somehow his shows and books have legions of fans.

Depsite that 24/7 TV presence, Fieri has found a way to release a new book and I think this is his very best. Guy on Fire: Grilling, Tailgating, Camping and More! ($14.99, William Morrow, 342 pp.) is his fifth book, all written with collaborator Ann Volkwein. As with his other books and his TV shows, it is so over-the-top but at the same time legit and informational. And this book will especially win fans of this publication with the pages he dedicates to telling the story and recipes of his Motley Que Crew competition barbecue team.

Sure, I'm a self-confessed Fieri fan, but please take my word as an unbiased barbecue book reviewer that this is a must-have. Besides, its worth 15 bucks just for his famed Donkey Sauce recipe (page 45).

Remember back in the early days of this column when each spring I would track down all the magazines that would do special issues on barbecue and list them here. I think the first time I did that there may have been four or five and then it seemed like that number would grown exponentially each successive year. However, the concept pretty much jumped the shark when some magazines would try to capitalize on barbecue's growing appeal by having a splashy cover of mouthwatering ribs or brisket with accompanying teases for stories inside, but then the content would be just a half dozen pages or so, and even then they'd start a recipe for spareribs with "Parboil with ribs."

Yeah, I just quietly dumped that concept and fortunately very few of you took me to task for it. But now I'm going to make a single exception for a special issue from the magazine Taste of Home. It is titled, Grilling: 120 Sizzling Summer Recipes ($9.99, 138 pp.). It's done in a manner similar to how the magazine is arranged and the chapters are pretty basic: Appetizers, Beef, Chicken & Turkey, Pork, Fish & Seafood, Burgers & More, Grilled Veggies & Sides, Cookout Salads & Sides, and Desserts. But there's high creativity amongst the recipes themselves – Caribbean Grilled Ribeyes, Pork with Strawberry-Port Sauce, Grilled Pistachio Lemon Pesto Shrimp and Grilled Guacamole are just a few examples.

You may find this one at the checkout stand, lined up on the magazine rack or elsewhere. Whereever you come across it, know that it is most certainly worth a look. And I can confirm I didn't find a single recipe that began with "Parboil the ribs…"

I know we're supposed to be in this renaissance age of the cocktail culture, but can I admit to you that I'm finding it hard to keep up with all these new and exotic creations to the point where I have no idea what I'm supposed to order at the bar anymore. Do I dare ask for an Old Fashioned at the risk of coming off as, dared I say it, old fashioned?
That's precisely the reason I really enjoy a book like ReMixology: Classic Cocktails, Reconsidered and Reinvented by Michael Turback and Julia Hasting-Black ($17.99, Skyhorse Publishing, 210 pp.). I love the concept under which the authors constructed this book; they begin with a traditional cocktail – Alexander, Bloody Mary, Champagne Cocktail, Daiquiri, Irish Coffee, Manhattan, Martini, Negroni, Old Fashioned, and Whiskey Sour – and then expand upon those perfect drinks for a variety of new concoctions. For instance, start with the basic Bloody Mary and tweak it to add beef broth, rim it with Old Bay seasoning and garnish with a boiled shrimp and you have a Bloody Maryland. That's just one example of dozens and with each one, the authors have included a bit of a story behind the cocktail that makes this a really fun read.

East Ridge Culinary Writer Fires Up Great American Grilling!

Fire up the Grills and Smokers! Kent "The Deck Chef" Whitaker has released his newest backyard cooking inspire book titled Great American Grilling - The Ultimate Backyard Barbecue and Tailgating Cookbook just in time for Father's Day.

Kent, former winner of the Emeril Live / Food Network Barbecue Contest, says that this book is the "funniest" culinary titles he's ever released and that Great American Grilling is a combination of several of his passions.

"Great American Grilling combines food, fun, and history! I wanted it to be different from any cookbook about grilling and barbecue out there," Whitaker said. "Everything from the recipes, the design, the pictures, graphics, to the tidbits of trivia I've included."

The book steps away from traditional cookbooks by separating categories a bit differently. For instance -there's a section dedicated solely to "Burgers!" It includes burgers made from beef, pork, poultry, veggies, and more. Another deals completely with different types of links served up on buns!

"There's more than one way to make a burger," Whitaker said with a smile. "Why put a veggie burger in the vegetable section? It deserves to be with the other burgers! And hot dogs, bratwurst, and smoked sausages deserve their own section! I've got info on everything from Grilled Chicago Dogs and Fenway Franks to my own Tennessee Pulled Pork Barbecue Covered Smoked Sausage!"

 

Each page of Great American Grilling includes vibrant colors, goofy graphics such as a jalapeno smiley face, mouth-watering food pictures, as well as interesting side bar information. Whitaker say's this design was something he'd been thinking about for a while.

"When The Tennessee Hometown Cookbook was released - I realized that there was more info that I wanted to add," stated Whitaker. "Each book in the series - Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, West Virginia, South Carolina, and then Alabama - got better and better. More festival info, more information about each state, fun stories from people that shared their recipes. That idea flowed over into Great American Grilling!"

Whitaker, an East Ridge Tennessee resident with his wife Ally and son Macee, says his love of history is a major ingredient in how the sidebar information was used. According to Kent he would work on a dish and start thinking about its origins. Soon he would have tons of pages and notes - including mental ones - all about one recipe or topic.

"I think the sidebar history information in Great American Grilling is unlike anything done in a cookbook," Whitaker said. "Say I was working on a test recipe for a hamburger - suddenly I'm thinking about history - who invented the hamburger? Why is something named this, how many United States Presidents enjoyed grilling."

The book also includes information about the history of several common grilling items including condiment packets, charcoal, and even who invented… the grill. There are also some traditional cookbook side-notes such as variations, suggestions, and grilling tips. A handy tool built into the book is that many recipes are marked "tailgate friendly" with a colorful logo.

"The food and recipes are by far the most important thing in the book," Whitaker says while flipping through pages. "I wanted Great American Grilling to mimic the fun times and conversations my family and friends have had around the grill. Cookbooks don't have to be boring - they can be funny, informative, a good read, and still packed with flavor!"

Great American Grilling includes 250 recipes ranging from grilled pound cake to grilled pizza, porterhouse steaks, perfect pork ribs, rubs, sauces, sides, and much more. They are all written in Kent's conversational and easy-to-follow recipe style.

You can purchase signed copies online at www.thedeckchef.com . The book is currently rolling out to all major bookstore chains and their websites including Amazon and can also be purchased online via Kent's publisher www.greatamericanpublishers.com . You can also order through your local book retailer with this information: Kent Whitaker • Great American Grilling • 288 pages • 7 x 10 • ISBN 978-1-934817-30-8.

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