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BOOK REVIEW

Grill to Perfection in the backyard

By Doug Mosley
doug_mosley@hotmail.com

Ugh. I’m in the middle of the move following a job change. There’s just no way to do one of these smoothly and all my stuff is crated up in some moving company warehouse in Orlando, Fla., while I patiently wait to take possession of a new home in my new location. Of course, there will be the whole move-in process to come and I’ll still be looking for stuff six months from now that I had at arm’s reach back in the former place.

I’m in a career where moving around is practically a certainty, so you’d think I’d be accustomed to this by now. As a matter of fact, since the time I began writing for this esteemed publication, this will be the sixth address the folks in the mailing room have had to keep track of (bless their souls!). Nonetheless, it never gets easier and every moving company is always amazed that somebody has approximately 500 or so barbecue cookbooks that have to be boxed up, carried out, loaded up, driven hundreds of miles, unloaded, unboxed and put back onto the same shelves in a new place.

So anyway – new job, new town, new home to come. And another month where I have the special privilege to share these insights with you. Ring me up if you’re ever in Boca Raton and thanks for sticking with me.

Back in 2012, Andy Husbands andChris Hart (members of the iQUE competition barbecue team, emerged on the scene with their first book, Wicked Good Barbecue. The book was a hit and would ultimately be crowned the National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year Award winner. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a pair of authoring rookies. They came back in 2013 with Wicked Good Burgers which was an excellent followup. Now this pair has teamed with food writer Andrea Pyenson to release the new book, Grill to Perfection: Two Champion Pit Masters Share Recipes and Techniques for Unforgettable Backyard Grilling ($21.99, Page Street Publishing, 192 pp.).

It is obvious that the recipe that Husbands and Hart knows best is the one for success. They’ve racked up 35 KCBS grand champion awards, earned a spot in the Jack Daniel’s world championship for a dozen years in a row and found the time to crank out three books in three years time. I get the idea that there is nothing these guys do that they don’t do very very well and writing books is included in that summation. Grill to Perfection lives up to its wordy subtitle in every way, delivering a well-written book that provides creativity and challenges to backyard cooks. They divide the chapters by grilling setup - Sear It: Hot Direct Grilling, Roasting for Flavor: Medium Direct Grilling, Avoid the Burn: Low Direct Grilling, Grilling Two Ways: Hybrid Two-Zone Grilling, Grill It Low and Slow: Two-Zone Grilling. That structure is one I don't see often and to their credit, the authors make it work well here.

The one thing you won’t find are any sort of basic recipes; rather, they barrel right into the sort of show-and-tell recipes that you master for when you want to impress company. Tamari-Glazed Steak with Sweet-and-Spicy Rice, Grill-Roasted Giner Clams with Sake and Scallions, Grilled King Salmon with English Peas and Mint, Beef and Asparagus Roulade with Sesame and Scallions, Thai-Flavored Pork Belly Skewers, Jerk Ribs with Guava Glaze and Grilled Bananas and Grilled Trout Stuffed with Fresh Herb Salad are some of the examples plucked from each chapter.

These guys know how to do these books well and this one is another winner. It is well illustrated, supported by plenty of color pics. This is the book where you step up your game and if perfection is your pursuit, then this is the place where you will find it.

While my first love is barbecue, I also really enjoy a great hot dog. I’m one of those guys who will make a beeline for the Nathan’s Hot Dogs counter at 10 a.m. while changing flights in a connecting airport most anywhere. I’ve been known to wax eloquently on the great hot dogs (also Nathan’s) they have at the Sam’s Wholesale Club deli and still don’t understand why my wife was flabbergasted when I came home with a 40-pound frozen case of them one time. It’s difficult for me to bypass The Varsity when I’m travelling through Atlanta and I’m already missing the hot dogs at Skyline Chili in Cincinnati (although they do have a location in Ft. Lauderdale!).

It is with my avowed high esteem for hot dogs that I took great interest in the new book, Haute Dogs: Recipes for Delicious Hot Dogs, Buns, and Condiments by Russell Van Kraayenburg ($18.95, Quirk Books, 168 pp.). We’re in the height of the so-called hot dog season right now (Memorial Day to Labor Day), so it is appropriately timely that this book end up in your hands now. There have been other books about hot dogs that have come before this one, but none have gone to quite the level of detail that Van Kraayenburg provides in Haute Dog. Beyond just the different takes on a hot dog on a bun, this book has recipes for making your own hot dogs, hot dog buns and enough different condiments for hundreds of variations.

But let’s face it – it’s the ideas for different hot dogs makings that we want to see here and the author doesn’t disappoint. He begins with the American classic – New York style, Chicago dog, Coney Island, Red Hot, Half Smoke, Slaw Dog and Corn Dog, among others. From there, he ventures into some new ideas off those classics (i.e., Wasabi dog, Seattle style) and then goes into a couple of chapters on international hot dogs: the Campinas dog from Brazil and El Completo from Chile are in the South and Central American chapter and Czech-style sausage in roll and Thai-style fried dog are in the chapter that includes Europe and Asia.

There’s an introduction that is packed with good information and the entire book is loaded with mouth-watering pictures. With Labor Day weekend coming up, this is the book that will turn your run-of-the-mill hot dogs into something off-the-charts instead.

I was admittedly slow to catch onto the Food Network show “Chopped”. But when I saw so many of my friends professing their admiration for it, I finally made the effort to tune in and was glad I did. “Chopped” is one of those shows that slyly draws you into the plot concept and before you know it you’ve let four hours go by watching a string of episodes. While I’ve always been a big fan of the shows Alton Brown hosts, I think Ted Allen may be the best at it on the Food Network.

The show debuted in 2009 and it is currently in its 20th season. There have been variations such as Chopped Champions, Chopped All-Stars and Chopped Grill Masters, but surprisingly there was no book. That a bit of a shock because it seems like its practically compulsory that every show on the Food Network will issue a complementary book (or two or three) within weeks of it going on the air. But we do finally have The Chopped Cookbook: Use What You’ve Got to Make Something Great ($27.50, Clarkson Potter, 240 pp.).

In this case, however, it was perhaps for the better because it may have taken that long for Chopped’s mind-stumping style to develop the audience that makes a book of the same model meaningful. Just like on the show, the book presents situations of limited ingredients and then leads you through the possibilities. The chapters break down by those potentials: Pasta Night, Chicken Gone Wild, Eggs After Breakfast, Flash in the Pan, Completely Fun Way To Cook With Vegetables, All Things Ground Beyond Beef, Bid Salad: Hearty and Fresh, Fishing for Compliments, Great Grains, and Short and Sweet: Easy Desserts.

If you’re a fan of “Chopped”, then you will love this book. Think of it as game night for the cooks in your house and you’re assured pages and pages of fun.

I love the opportunity to bring to you an off-the-wall book every now and then and the one I want to tell you about this month is really cool. It’s great that readers of the NBN are incredibly creative when it comes to food and drink, so that affords me a wide leeway in the sort of books that I know will be within the boundaries of interest. That’s why I’m going to tell you about a book on crockpot cooking that features recipes from all sort of countries and cuisines across the globe.

Slow Cooker Wanderlust: 101 Adventurous and Delicious Slow Cooker Recipes from Around the World by Sally Viviani ($13.95, Visual Magic Publications, 186 pp.) is an excellent book that takes a fresh approach to a category that many might say is overdone. That’s what makes this book extra special – Viviani took an idea that was different from the rest and then she really delivered with the finished product. There are over 100 recipes that are divided by six of the seven continents (unfortunately there is no entry for Antarctica).

While the slow cooker is meant to be a tool of convenience for cooks, Viviani offers up recipes that will still be enough of a challenge to be enjoyable both to prepare and then later enjoy. Among the selections from Europe are Greek Moussaka and Lancashire Hot Pot; from Asia there is Chinese Char Sui Roast Pork and Korean Beef Ribs; from Africa there is Chicken Marrakesh and African Oxtail Stew; from South America and the Caribbean there is Brazilian Feijoada and Trinidadian Spiced Ribs; from North and Central America there is Jambalaya and Mexican Chicken Mole; and from Australia and Oceana is Island Kalua Pork and Devilled Sausages. Many of those are likely familiar to you and many would probably be the first time you’ve seen them. While there are no pictures in this book, Viviani does do a nice job of laying out each recipe in an easy-to-follow format.
If you’re looking for something to stimulate your creativity, this book will serve that need well. It’s a fun book that is well written and surely will be kept handy for your next burst of inspiration.

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