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The Ultimate Book of Barbecue

By Doug Mosley

Here comes spring, or for our friends in the northeast, a season where they’ll possibly see the snow melt down far enough to see the tops of their grills and cookers. Everyone tells me it has been a brutal winter, and I have to agree – it actually got down into the 40’s here in South Florida! Nonetheless, that didn’t prevent us from trying out some new books to tell you about this month, so let’s get started.

I’ve read many books that claimed to be the ultimate guide to this or that and some live up to that lofty boast and others not quite. However, The Ultimate Book of Barbecue: A Delicious Collection of Barbecue Recipes ($14.99, Parragon Books, 224 pp.) does not shy away from taking a swing at that high standard. In the end, it may just have succeeded.

The book is smartly illustrated with an attractive graphic layout and plenty of full-color pictures. It is laid out sensibly and succinctly, with no-nonsense chapter titles (i.e., Rubs & Marinades, Beef, Pork & Lamb, Chicken & Turkey, and so on). There also a rather straightforward introduction before diving into nine chapters of just under a hundred recipes.

For most recipes, it’s a side-by-side layout with the left-hand page for the text of the recipe and the right-hand page for a full-color finished dish. The photos are very well done, enough so that they sell you on the recipe before you’ve even read it. What’s interesting, though, is the selection of the recipes that make up the book. With the sort of title it carries, you’d blindly expect something that included all the basics and then worked up from there into more complex dishes or perhaps something a bit exotic. But in the case of this book, the recipes jump right past the basic and get into some that are more challenging or those that even feature a specific ingredient pairing. Brisket Philly Cheesesteak, Jerk Pork Tenderloin, Buttermilk BBQ Chicken, Turkey Drumsticks with Mexican Spice Rub, Whole Grilled Shrimp in Maple & Sriracha Butter – see what I mean? There’s a great selection of recipes here, just not what I’d expected from the cover. And you know what they say (…can’t judge a book by its….).

So that brings us to this point where I’m going to tell you this is a really good, fun book. But I’m going to include a caveat – don’t necessarily look for it to be the ultimate in the sort of regard of which you may have seen other books that are giant volumes that attempt to cover every conceivable topic around the subject.  I even suspect this book may have been tagged with this title after others were considered. To support this thought, even its listing on Amazon has the book titled The Best Ever Barbecue Book, which is still a pretty stout brag but certainly one it is able to attain to. Either way, it is no doubt worth the $15 investment and I know you’ll enjoy it.

I always use the May column to feature books about Mexican foods since that month includes Cinco de Mayo, the most widely recognized significant date of Mexican history. But many had pointed out to me that by the time they receive their monthly edition of the National Barbecue News, it is already May 5 or past it. So I’m acknowledging that this is a valid point and thus will include such a book in the April column rather than May. Thank you, kind readers, for pointing out this gaffe.

Like it is with barbecue, there are literally dozens of really great books on Mexican cooking. I’ve had the privilege to tell you about many of them in this space. There is so much creativity and experimentation in great Mexican cooking that the possibilities seem limitless. The reason for that, as it is as well with barbecue, is because the original cuisine is pretty darn good. It’s hard to beat the traditional dishes, whether its tacos or pulled pork.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look (at a back-to-the-basics book that is really outstanding – Authentic Mexican Cooking: 80 Delicious Traditional Recipes for Tacos, Burritos, Tamales, and Much More by Scott Myers and Gabriele Gugetzer $17.95, Skyhorse Publishing, 176 pp.). Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro at Mexican cooking, this is a book in which you will find a lot of value. For the beginner, it’s a one-stop introduction; for the more experienced cook, it’s a return to the fundamentals. The book is well illustrated with step-by-step photos for many techniques and helpful tips included for most recipes. I know you’ll enjoy the chapter titled On the Grill which doesn’t focus solely on meats but also includes recipes for vegetables and sauces as well.

Along with On the Grill, the chapters also cover Refreshers (Drink and Cocktails), Long Live the Mexican Salsa (Dips and Chips), Getting Started (Snacks and Appetizers), Traditions (Classic Dishes), Jewels of the Sea (Fish and Seafood), and Mexican Kisses (Desserts and Sweets). Before the chapters of recipes, there’s a very useful  opening that is a trove of information and instruction.

So as you gear up for your annual May 5 celebration, I know this book will be valuable to you to keep your skills sharp. I have a feeling you will keep “Authentic Mexican Cooking” in an easy-to-reach spot on your bookshelf.

If you were to ask what foodstuffs were most prevalent at a barbecue cooking competition, the barbecue itself would naturally be first in quantity and after that it would certainly be beer, right? Although my first personal preference as a liquid accompaniment is sweet tea, there’s no argument that an ice cold beer goes just as well with a plate of ‘cue. And while I enjoy a glass of wine (or two or three) and understand the basics of what kind of wine pairs well with what sort of food, I had no idea that there is an appropriate pairing of beer styles to food as well. But now I know better after reading the recent release, The Foodie’s Beer Book: The Art of Pairing and Cooking with Beer for Any Occasion by Brooke and Luther Fedora ($24.95, Skyhorse Publishing, 294 pp.).

I feel confident in saying that this book was written by someone who really loves great beer. There are dozens of different beers picked to be in the pairings, so many that it is impressive that the authors’ beer acknowledge is this broad. This is also a great concept – developing full menus with almost every recipe including beer in its preparing and then listing the beers to drink with each course. As an example, the meal titled Smokin’ Barbeque Menu is served buffet style with a paired beer at each station. In the second station, the recipe is for Ribs and Rings (spareribs and onion rings), with the beer involved in the batter for the onion rings and the paired beer being Terrapin Hopsecutioner (from Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Company).

There are 20 different meal plans in the book, ranging from New Year’s Eve to Mardi Gras Buffet to The Beer Wedding to Oktoberfest Party. I give high marks to the authors for their creativity and details and also credit the publisher for making the type of investment in this book that really puts it over the top with great illustrations of the dishes as well as full-color pics of each beer. Really the only fault I could find with it is I’d wished the authors would’ve provided some alternatives for the chosen beer pairings. However, that’s a very minor gripe considering that they’ve gone to lengths in their descriptions and if you weren’t able to find a selected beer you could likely identify something very similar. I love the concept of this book and I’m sure if you’re a fan of great beers, you’ll love this book as well.



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