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BOOK REVIEW

Championship winning cooks make best BBQ cookbook authors

By Doug Mosley
doug_mosley@hotmail.com

I will readily admit that I am biased when it comes to books on barbecue. However, I think I can fairly live with this bias while I’m writing for the National Barbecue News because it is a favoritism for books written by or involving competition barbecue competitors. There are loads of great books on barbecue, but to me the books from folks who’ve had to do it in competition are just better. It’s one thing to cook for polite guests at your own place; it’s quite another to do so for hyper-critical judges at a neutral location.

So with all that in mind, let me lead off with a book from a championship-winning author, Brian Misko. His House of Q team has recorded notable finishes at the American Royal and Jack Daniels championships as well as being name the reigning Canadadian BBQ Society “Team of the Year”. His new book, Grilling with House of Q: Inspired Recipes for Backyard Barbecues ($24.95, Figure 1 Publishing, 182 pp.), has already shot off like a rocket, attaining best-seller status in Canada and most likely doing the same here the U.S. soon.

I loved how Misko starts his book off with the story of how he came into all this, which is a lot like how many of us first developed our barbecue addiction as well. He was a software company sales rep who frequented some barbecue restaurants during his work trips and developed a level of curiosity that prompted him to attend a barbecue competition nearby his home. After spending the day talking with pitmasters and sampling their wares, he was hooked. Soon thereafter he was making plans to enter a competition which would result in taking home a couple of awards and from there House of Q was born. He would ultimately leave that sales rep job and barbecue became his career.

Misko’s book is full of great stories like that (including the awesome sidebar “I’m a cook, not your doctor”), but it’s also a collection of creative and tested barbecue recipes, including a chapter dedicated solely to competition barbecue. I enjoyed his writing style, more of a narrative than instructional. Misko has written a championship book to go with his championship barbecue.

We’re going to go from one championship cook to another next. Dr. BBQ (aka Ray Lampe) has been a very familiar figure in these circles for better than two decades. I personally met him when he was operating a roadside barbecue stand out of a customized trailer in Lakeland, Fla., somewhere around the turn of the millennium. He’s certainly done well from there, notching a bunch of cookoff championships along the way while at the same time authoring five books and making countless national media appearances where he trumpets the glory of outstanding ‘cue.

Lampe’s sixth book, Flavorize: Great Marinades, Injections, Brines, Rubs, and Glazes ($22.95, Chronicle Books, 192 pp.), represents a bit of a departure from the style of his previous five. This time he is focused on adding flavor to recipes through the methods listed in the subtitle. He begins the book with the story of his grandmother – the family’s chief cook when he was growing up in Chicago – and relates how the availability of the knowledge and equipment we have today differs from the limited resources she had back then. It’s the primary reason why we enjoy such a diverse spectrum of food choices now and why cooking and food is better than it’s ever been.

I really liked how Lampe paired the flavoring recipes in this book with a finished dish recipe. For example, he offers the recipe for Korean Bulgogi Marinade and then follows that with one for Bulgogi Short Ribs. Other examples is putting Bonesmoker’s Pork Injection together with his recipes for Competition-Style Pulled Pork, Pyramid Barbecue Rub with Memphis-Style Dry and Sweet-and-Sour Grill Glaze with Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Thighs.

In his first five books, Dr. BBQ proved himself to be a leading authority on all things barbecue. As evidenced by his newest book, he’s added a couple of degrees on flavor as well. This one is another winner for an established champion.

There are tons of books on burgers and after a while so many of them seem the same. But here’s a new book that brings a unusual twist to the topic – Build Your Own Burger: More Than 60,000 Burger Combos by Vicki Smallwood ($18.95, Sellers Publishing, 96 pp.).

How do you fit over 60,000 burger combinations into a book of less than 100 pages? Well, that’s what makes this book so extraordinary. Each of the pages are split into four horizontal sections: one section for bun, another for topping, the next for burger and the last for sauce. Each section has the recipe for the item on the left-hand page and a picture on the right-hand page. For instance, the very first recipe has a sesame seed bun in the top section, a tomato, red onion and lettuce topping in the section beneath that, a beefburger in the next to bottom section and classic tomato ketchup in the bottom section (a default bun always appears in the bottom section as well). This allows you to put together the burger of your choice. Say for instance that you want something besides ketchup, you can flip through a few pages and find chili mayo. Or perhaps you’d prefer a hot and spicy chicken burger instead of the beefburger, you just flip a few pages in that section.
I’m sure I don’t do it justice by how I explain it on this page but, take my word for it that it’s pretty cool. It’s a fun format and sure to be an idea generator. No doubt it will up your game when it comes to breaking away from the same-old, same-old burgers.

Once you get a rep for serving up pretty good ‘cue, it’s just a matter of time before you’ll be approached to cook for somebody’s party. You’ll probably just up the amounts in your standard recipes and it will likely be outstanding. But at some point you might want to change it up a bit and fortunately for you I have not just one but two books that cover this situation very well.

The first is Southern Cooking for Company: More Than 200 Southern Hospitality Secrets & Show-Off Recipes by Nicki Pendleton Wood ($26.99, Nelson Books, 296 pp.). What I like about this book is that phrase “show-off” because that means you’re going to find those head-turning dishes that put the meal over the top. For instance, take pulled pork to another level with Cuban-Southern Pork Roast with Chimichurri Barbecue Sauce or how about BBQ Pork Moo Shu Style. How are those for some fusion cooking?!

The second book is The Eat Like a Man Guide to Feeding a Crowd: How to Cook for Family, Friends, and Spontaneous Parties by the Editors of Esquire Magazine ($30, Chronicle Books, 224 pp.). This book is all about how to put a lot of food on the table at once. And just to reinforce that thought, early in the pages is a detailed, chronological account of how the U.S. Military Academy feeds pancakes to 4,000 cadets all at once in a ten-minute time span. There are over 80 recipes, but what I enjoyed as much as anything was the stories that go along with them, such as the “How to Feed an Actual Army” referenced above. There’s also “The Pantry Hall of Fame” (no surprise: Bisquick, French’s French-Fried Onions, Lipton Onion Soup Mix; surprise: Jell-O, Marshmallow Fluff).

Most books on beverages are long list of cocktails recipes or something similar. And then there is School of Booze: An Insider’s Guide to Libations, Tipples & Brews by Jane Peyton ($14.99, Skyhorse Publishing, 240 pp.), which is definitely not a bunch of recipes. What it is, though, is a well-researched and detailed book of history and information about alcoholic beverages. Peyton is a noted historian and beverage writer in the UK and her skills come through in a very readable book. I’d recommend pouring yourself a very nice bourbon and settling into your favorite reading chair with this one.

Let’s change the pace here and let me tell you about three pretty cool new products that I’ve come across recently.

We’ve all seen those commercials for the sheets you can place on your grill that supposedly keep tricky foodstuffs like fish from sticking while at the same time being reusable and don’t melt or crinkle. And we’ve all heard the horror stories of many of those products that just didn’t live up to their billing. With that in mind, I was skeptical when I was asked to try the Cookina Barbecue Reusable Grilling Sheet ($12.99, Cookina.Co). I gave it the most stringent test right off the bat – skin-on salmon fillets. The Cookina Reusable Grilling Sheet’s packaging claims it is certified to 550 degrees and I was giving it every bit of that with a charcoal fire cranked up pretty hot. No issues when I put the sheet over the coals and it looked to hold up fine when I placed the salmon on top of that. The ultimate test was when it came time for the flip and to my amazement the salmon didn’t stick one bit. The salmon came off the sheet without sticking a second time and that’s when I decided to really put it to the test by leaving the sheet over the coals as the fire died down. I really thought I would come back to find a crinkled-up mess, but lo and behold it was just as perfect as it was before, just needing a wash up and it was ready to go again. I’ll admit that I haven’t been able to put on the grill marks like the product’s packaging shows, but I can definitely say the product lives up to its billing otherwise.

Cork Pops is a company that has always been a leader in the hot new barware products and their Stainless Steel Martini Glass ($23, CorkPops.com) is among their latest and greatest. The stainless steel is filled inside with a freezer gel which, after a few hours spent chilling in your freezer, aims to keep your favorite beverage ice cold without using ice. The benefit of that is you don’t dilute your drink with melting ice. I’ve tried it with lukewarm tap water and it was frosty in just a couple of minutes. It kept other beverages teeth-cracking cold for at least an hour. It’s also sleek and good looking, guaranteeing it to be a conversation starter at your next get together.

This last one is so ingenious that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before. The idea behind iFork is keeping your eating utensils raised up from surfaces that could be covered in germs and other contaminants that you don’t necessarily want to be putting into your mouth. The design of this product is simple but brilliant: A small leg on the back of the utensil raises the tines of the fork (or blade of the knife or bowl of the spoon) up just enough to clear the surface. I tried out the clear plastic set ($3.98 for a 30-piece set) and was surprised at how sturdy they were. This product seems like a no-brainer for picnics and cookouts where you don’t know just what was on that picnic table before you got there. iFork is also available in silverware sets at various prices. This product will no doubt make it big.

 

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