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A layman's guide to better barbecue
Raichlen's new book targets master grillers, weekend chefs, even the grill-less
Barbecue! Bible -- Sauces, Rubs and Marinades
In this story:
'You can grill on anything'
Raichlen's message: Suit yourself
There's the rub
Don't miss out on chutneys and sambals
RELATED STORIES, SITES
(CNN) -- Steven Raichlen has himself an ambitious goal: "to chronicle the world of wildfire cooking." That's past, present and future.
To that end he produced "The Barbecue! Bible," the encyclopedic 500 recipe, James Beard Award winning guide to grilling just about everything. Upcoming will be a book tentatively entitled "How to Grill," a picture book that gives step-by-step instruction on handling items on the grill. Following that will be "America on Fire," chronicling the state of grilling and barbecuing in America.
Raichlen's current offering, "Barbecue! Bible Sauces, Rubs and Marinades," is, like "The Barbecue! Bible" itself, aimed at a broad audience -- including the people you'd think would be interested in this kind of guide and some you might not expect.
This latter group includes people who don't own a grill and, because they live in apartments or condos, might have little prospect for getting one.
And what does Raichlen think of so-called "indoor grilling"?
"It's not barbecue, but I'm not going to knock it," he said.
Raichlen is pretty tolerant, too, of super deluxe grills that cost between $3,000 and $5,000.
"You can grill on anything," says Raichlen. "When I was traveling around the world researching 'The Barbecue! Bible,' I saw people grilling in hubcaps, and the barbecue was great."
"A lot of the people who barbecue are guys and guys like toys, so I say anything that helps people grill is okay."
Raichlen's open philosophy encompasses what this book is all about. If you are any of the following, this is your book:
In the chapter on American Barbecue Sauces, Raichlen discusses the wide variety of sauces to be found in different areas of the country - mustard-based sauce in South Carolina, vinegar-based in North Carolina, and from peppery to sweet in Kansas City.
He then gives a guide to building your own sauce -- the sweeteners, the sour agents, the seasonings, the ingredients that add heat, the aromatics, etc. These lists are followed by how to put them together: "Simply put the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Then stir enough to keep it from burning," he says. "That's the beauty of barbecue sauce: You can't curdle it, scramble it, or break it."
There are sauces here from winners of competitions like the Kansas City Royal and the Jack Daniel's Invitational as well as from famed barbecue places like B.B.'s Lawnside in Kansas City.
The offerings range from a thick, sweet ketchup-based sauce from the Kansas City Barbecue Society to a bourbon-based sauce based on Jack Daniel's whiskey, ketchup and brown sugar, to an innovative sauce based on Coca-Cola.
Raichlen has also made the rounds of famous chefs. Included is a steak sauce from Daniel Boulud of Daniel in New York, based on Dijon mustard and ketchup mixed with two commonly found sauces -- A1 Steak Sauce and Worcestershire. Marcus Samuelsson from Aquavit in New York offers a sauce based on coffee, and Charlie Trotter from Trotter's in Chicago contributes an upscale sauce made with truffles and porcini mushrooms.
Raichlen's message is to figure out the flavors you like, then build your own sauce. "The goal of any good sauce is to bring the contrasting elements - sweet, sour, salty, aromatic, hot - into equilibrium," he says. Master the building blocks and you'll become "a sauce maker extraordinaire."
Perhaps the greatest value of this book is to help eaters who like flavors to understand what rubs and marinades are and how to use them.
What is a rub? It's a dry spice mixture that imparts flavors to the item being grilled or barbecued. They may be as simple as lemon pepper, made from lemon zest (the skin of the lemon) and black peppercorns. Or, a more exotic rub made of star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, and Sichuan peppercorns.
A rub sure to be a favorite is Tuscan Rosemary Rub based on a mixture of rosemary, oregano, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. "Use on veal, pork, beef, chicken, or even fish," advises Raichlen. Start by coating the meat with olive oil, apply the rub, and then spritz a little lemon juice over the rub. Marinate for 30 to 60 minutes and then grill.
A marinade is a seasoned liquid that imparts its flavors to the food through a soak prior to grilling. Marinades, says Raichlen, are made of three components -- acids, oils, and aromatics. The acids tenderize, the oils coat and help keep meat moist over a live fire, and aromatics impart flavor.
While examples range from a sesame oil-based marinade for beef to a yogurt-based marinade for lamb, Raichlen includes a gift for any busy cook, which he titles, "The Only Marinade You'll Ever Need." This Mediterranean-style marinade is based on lemon, garlic and herbs. It's excellent for giving chicken (remember that tasteless chicken breast) some real flavor. It's also good for grilled fish, and if the mixture includes a lot of dry oregano, provides an interesting flavor to a steak, such as a fillet that has no marbling or fat.
While the rubs, marinades, and barbecue sauces will likely draw most of the attention for readers of this book, the sections on butters, relishes, and condiments like sambals and chutneys shouldn't be ignored.
Another way to add flavor to that beef fillet or moisture to that grilled pork chop is to add a medallion of herbed butter to the meat just as it comes sizzling off the grill. A good example is a butter made of tarragon, minced garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Another is a butter based on toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese. The ingredients are mixed with the softened butter and the butter is rolled into a log and chilled.
Chutneys, which were invented in India to accompany curries, have been adapted to be contrasting flavors for all sorts of grilled meats. Raichlen says Peach-Pecan Chutney "goes great with Southern fare such as grilled chicken, turkey, and pork." This mixture is based on ripe peaches with spices like ginger, allspice, and cloves, and laced with dried cranberries, rice wine vinegar, and brown sugar. It's a complex taste that also compliments and contrasts with meats like grilled duck breast or medallions of venison tenderloin.
While this book is about sauces, Raichlen also includes a refresher course on barbecuing and grilling. His recommended technique: Use a rub or marinade before grilling and then add the barbecue sauce at the end or after the meat comes off the fire.
What's the mistake made most frequently by grillers? Adding a sweet barbecue sauce too soon in the grilling says Raichlen. The sugars in a sweet sauce will burn quickly, he says, leaving grillers with meat that is black but still undercooked.
But Raichlen says not to despair if you make a mistake. "Remember," he says, "barbecue isn't brain surgery." Follow the recipes to the letter, he says, or let them simply be an inspiration to point you in a new direction.
For Raichlen, the world of barbecuing and grilling is full of never ending possibilities and becoming more and more popular. (At the drop of a grilling fork, Raichlen will launch into his belief that our ancient ancestors became human the day they first cooked meat over a fire.)
"Grilling is growth industry," he says confidently. Look for Americans to do more grilling because it combines two things Americans love. "It's theater. It's a way to show off as well as feed people," says Raichlen. "Plus, we live in a time of intense flavors -- that's barbecue."
'Summertime' barbecue cook-off
July 5, 2000
The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen
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