Get those creative thoughts brewing for the upcoming contests with a great book
By Doug Mosley
So the calendar flips another year and here we are in 2014. I hope Santa Claus left some great barbecue books under the tree for you, but if not, now is a great time to read a book or two to get those creative thoughts brewing for the upcoming contests. Of course I’m not saying that the winter weather has halted any reader of this publication from getting out there and cooking but I will say the 10 inches of snow on the ground and temps in the teens make it just a bit more challenging. If you were like me, you had to adjust those normal cook times when you smoked your Christmas goose. Nonetheless, I’m glad you’ve checked in here so that I can tell you about some great books to get you started in 2014.
If you’ve followed this space previously, you may recall that I generally use the January review to highlight some books from other countries, particularly the southern hemisphere. Why? Well, there really aren’t many barbecue books being released right now in the northern hemisphere where it is winter. However, its summer in the southern hemisphere and everyone is outside enjoying the great weather and, of course, that makes outdoor cooking. Thus, this month I’m leading off with a book featuring an entire southern hemisphere continent.
The outdoor cooking customs and techniques of South America have previously been popular when they were the featured countries at Memphis in May. Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela have each had a year at the festival. I remember how much I enjoyed the tasty chimichurri sauce prepared by the Argentinians that visited in 2002 as well as the meats they grilled on their asado (a cross-like apparatus that suspends the meat over the fire).
South American Grill: Feasts from Peru to Argentina by Rachael Lane ($24.95, Hardie Grant Books, 210 pp.) offers up recipes, techniques and tips on outdoor cooking from our neighbors to the far south. The recipes are as authentic as you’ll find and author Lane does a great job in carefully lining out the step-by-step process in each. Admittedly, there may be some ingredients that aren’t easily found in smaller grocery stores and supermarkets, but I don’t recall anything that couldn’t be found at a Hispanic market or in the international section of a large supermarket. There are some cuts of meats that are unique to South America but it all comes from the same beef, pork, poultry, seafood and lamb categories that are ordinary here.
This was a book that I really enjoyed reading because I learned something in every chapter. Plus, I also liked the way Lane constructed suggested menus for various occasions (Lazy Summer Afternoons, Friday Nights with your Mates, Family Gatherings and Brazilian Churrasco Feast). Also, there are plenty of full-color pictures throughout that complement the recipes.
This is a book I enjoyed and I know you will as well. Shake off the wintertime blues and join your kindred spirits from South America at the grill or smoker soon.
The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, according to a back cover blurb, “buys approximately 17,000 pounds of food, performs 1,700 taste tests, and washes 77,000 dishes each year to make sure that every recipe works…”. Where can I sign up to work at this place? (Aside from washing all those dishes, that is.)
Those figures back up the boast that Good Housekeeping stamps on the front of its books: “All Recipes Triple Tested”. That’s probably why the Good Housekeeping brand has endured and it is that same insistence on quality that goes into the book, The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen Grilling Cookbook: 225 Sizzling Recipes for Every Season ($29.95, Hearst Books, 446 pp.). The book even involves many very familiar names, chief among them past The National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year Award winners Paul Kirk, Chris Lilly and Ray Lampe, along with notable barbecue authors Chris Schlesinger, Steven Raichlen, Elizabeth Karmel, Bobby Flay and Cheryl and Bill Jamison. Each were asked to include signature recipes in designated chapters (Chris Lilly’s Grilled Pork Tenderloins with Cherry Glaze is going to the top of my cook-this-soon list).
This book is ring-bound, similar to the one released in the past by Better Homes & Gardens. Many recipes are accompanies by a full-color pictures of the finished dish and the steps are laid out in a very straightforward manner. The recipes are tagged with handy icons that indicate those that can be completed in 30 minutes or less, are heart healthy, are low calorie or can be made ahead (many combine one or more of these icons).
Beyond the quality assurance of Good Housekeeping, the strength of this book is the selection of recipes. These go a bit past the norm – Seared Steak Salad with Minted Watermelon from the Starters & Salads chapter, Deviled Beef Short Ribs from the Steak & Ribs chapter, and Grilled Squid with Peppers and Arugula in the Fish & Shellfish chapter, to name a few examples. Thus, if you’re looking to put some new pizzazz in your grilling repertoire, this is the book for you.
Are you a reality TV fan? If you’re like me, you find some entertaining and some not so much. My whole family are fans of Duck Dynasty (we even bought the Christmas album!), but part of that is we lived in Monroe, La., for six years. I was a big fan of Deadliest Catch and was ready to try my hand at Alaska crab fishing until I realized you probably can’t get decent barbecue on one of those boats. It seems like there are dozens more reality shows out there, with new ones popping up every day. One that I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with was Real Housewives of New Jersey and one of its stars, Teresa Giudice. But after a quick Google search, I now understand that Giudice is quite a lightning rod of a character on the show and her notoriety even extends beyond the camera to a series of incidents that have the likes of CNN’s Nancy Grace scolding Giudice on her show. So with all of this going on, I find it a bit amazing that Giudice somehow found the time to co-write a pretty good book (with Heather Maclean), Fabulicious! On the Grill: Teresa’s Smoking Hot Backyard Recipes ($20, Running Press, 208 pp.).
Giudice had previously written cookbooks with Maclean under a series titled “Fabulicious!”, but this is the first one where she focused on outdoor cooking. Those of you who know the show know that Giudice’s heritage is Italian, so the majority of the recipes in the book have an Italian flair. One of the book’s cover blurbs even sums it up as “Fire it up – Italian style!”. Grilled Vegetable Lasagna, Ziti with Grilled Meatballs and Tomato Sauce, Italian Spareribs and Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Artichokes and Fontina are just a sampling of the recipes available.
If you are a regular viewer of the show, this is certainly a book that you will enjoy. But even if you’re like me and not at all familiar with it, there’s still plenty here to ensure you’ll have fun with this one. And who knows, you may end up the next fan of Real Housewives of New Jersey?
I’m a big fan of sandwiches and I’ll guess that you probably are as well. I’m like Bubba from Forrest Gump, but instead of all the ways you can prepare shrimp, I can name all the different barbecue sandwiches that can be made – pulled pork sandwich, rib sandwich, smoked baloney sandwich, pulled chicken sandwich, smoked sausage sandwich…..and so on. I could do this for days.
It was my love for sandwiches that led me to The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread by Susan Russo ($18.95, Quirk Books, 320 pp.). Let me first acknowledge that author Russo is one very brave person, because there is no way you’re going to squeeze in every sandwich on the globe in a mere 300 pages. I’m not just talking about simple variations of the same sandwich, I mean EVERY sandwich known to mankind. It would have been tough to do it in 1,000 pages. Now I don’t point this out to warn you off this book; rather, I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I just don’t want someone to pick up this book, turn to the index and then cast it aside just because there is no entry for smoked brisket sandwich because there is plenty, plenty more.
There’s somewhere around 250 sandwiches included in this book. I approximate because Russo strives to include notes on variation, styles and alternate names. Almost every sandwich includes a recipe and a full-color picture. There’s definitely enough here to keep the sandwich selection that you pack for lunch non-repeating for quite some time. So thanks to Russo for having the bravery to tackle this exhaustive subject. It’s all the better for those of us who will use this book as a checklist.
Let me give you a quick plug for a book to help you with your Super Bowl party. This year the big game will be on the first Sunday in February, which will also beGroundhog Day. Thus, when your running outside to check on whatever you’ve got on the smoker, look to see if you’re casting a shadow or not. One way or another, it means we will either have six more months of winter or spring will start the next day (I can never remember exactly which way it is). The perfect book to help your plan that Super Bowl menu is Cooking for the Man Cave: What to Eat When You’re Kicking Back with Family and Friends edited by Paul McGahren ($14.99, Fox Chapel Publishing, 128 pp.). As if the title of the book weren’t enough to tell you this is a great book for your party food, check out the chapter title names: Lord of the Fryer, King of the Grill and Man of the Kitchen. The recipes are all grouped to those locations where they would appropriately be prepared. Everything you think that would be in a book like this is there and plenty more. Your biggest challenge will be narrowing down all the great ideas.
Just the other day I was wondering whatever became of Rick Browne. I’d not heard anything from him in some time and I was hoping that I’d cross his path somewhere again much sooner than later. When I did cross that path, it was through his new book, A Century of Restaurants: Stories and Recipes from 100 of America’s Most Historic and Successful Restaurants ($40, Andrews McMeel, 400 pp.).
Let me start off by saying this book is absolutely stunning. It took over three years to put together and required travelling nearly 50,000. (No wonder I’d not heard from Rick!) The premise of the book is to tell the story of outstanding restaurants that have been open over 100 years. Browne claims his research identified more than 240 of what he calls centenarian restaurants, which he culled down to 100. As I read his introduction explaining all this, I found myself literally excited to read this book.
Browne’s roots are in photography and his pictures in this book are remarkable, but I’ve always really liked how he tells stories. In A Century of Restaurants, Browne is at his best recollecting the tales behind each place. He converses with the reader in such an easy-going manner, almost as if you were along with him on this quest. Browne includes a recipe for every restaurant but these are like dessert at the end of an epic meal. You’ve already experienced the best part by reading the story and viewing the pics.
Browne is a past National Barbecue News Barbecue Book of the Year Award winner for his 2008 book, The Best Barbecue on Earth, but I think this book is even better than that one. Three years of hard work, and I’m sure he enjoyed every mile of it.
When I first saw the idea behind this book, I thought it was ingenious. Full of Flavor: How to Create Like a Chef by Maria Elia ($27.95, Kyle Books, 240 pp.) was written practically like your standing next to a working chef, learning from them on the fly. You get to see how things go together, what works with what else and how you adapt one to make another. I loved the concept and enjoyed the book thoroughly. Its chapters are divided by the ingredients by which each one features and the recipes literally are written as if the chef were telling it to you themselves. This one is a departure from the norm and I think you’ll likely enjoy it as much as I did.
Let’s finish this month’s column with a nightcap, shall we? I’ve really enjoyed Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers and Cocktail Party Snacks by Maria del Mar Sacasa ($22.95, Quirk Books, 160 pp.). The author and photographer Tara Striano set out to cover a narrow topic but did so in such a broad way. From the first page to the last, this book stands out for its detail that really defines what it isn’t: This is not just a book of selected recipes.
The book opens with a great introduction that includes information on the basic items to have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator, what makes a well-stocked bar, and the necessary tools and techniques to bring this all together. The techniques are covered with step-by-step full-color pictures, a real bonus. After that, the drink recipes begin and the majority of them are complemented by yet more pictures. The book closes with about 20 pages devoted to snacks.
These winter nights can be long and cold. There’s no better place to turn to for ideas on the perfect cocktail to warm you up than this book. Cheers!
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