LOW & SLOW; the art and technique of braising, BBQ, and slow roasting (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 246 pages, ISNM 978-1-118-10591-7, $19.99 US hard covers) is by Robert Briggs (professor) and the Culinary Institute of America. The basic principles here concern low heat and slow cooking times for prepping tough but flavourful cuts of meat. It tells one how to make the most of every cut of meat, any time of the year. There are chapters on homemade rubs and sauces, plus some accompanying sides to prepare. It is arranged by the three techniques, and each chapter begins with a master recipe, with all the techniques fully illustrated and explained. Under braising, there are two recipes for each prep, one using a slow cooker, the other a stovetop or oven braise. Under BBQ, there are extensive notes on prepping and regional styles. The emphasis throughout is on international cuisine influences. It is a good thorough book, with plenty of techniques illustrated and good suggestions for sides. Just under 100 preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: beginning cooks, and men.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: braised pulled pork BBQ sandwiches; Korean-style braised short ribs; beef braised in beer and onions; braised oxtail; Moroccan chicken tagine; Eastern North Carolina BBQ pork butt; spit-roasted garlic and lime chicken.
The downside to this book: could have had more recipes.
The upside to this book: very compact.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
8.SOUTHWEST DUTCH OVEN (Gibbs Smith, 2014, 128 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3635-9, $15.99 US spiral bound) is by George and Carolyn Dumler, both seasoned Dutch oven cooks preparing food for large crowds. They have qualified for the World Championships every year since 2009. Indeed, some of these preps here are reprinted from cookbooks of the 2010-2012 World Championship Cook-Off Dutch Oven Recipes. There's a primer, and then the book is arranged by course or ingredient such as chiles, sauces, sides, mains, breads, and desserts. There is also a menu for a big Southwestern Thanksgiving, with nine recipes. This must be the tenth book published this year on Dutch ovens: a really popular item?
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: Dutch oven users.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: mashed potatoes; turkey with chile garlic marinade; turkey breast with chipotle gravy; chorizo and pistachio stuffing; corn pudding; cheddar jalapeno twists; tequila cranberry compote; pumpkin pinon bread; and pecan chile pie.
The downside to this book: ripped out pages are easy (spiral binding)
The upside to this book: spiral bound, lies flat.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
12.MARINADES; the quick-fix way to turn everyday food into exceptional fare, with 400 recipes (Harvard Common Press, 2014; dist. T.Allen, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-55832-827-3, $17.95 US paper covers) is by Lucy Vaserfirer, recipe developer and cookbook author. This is a great idea for a book, as an alternative to a slow-cooker. With the right marinade, you can dress up meats or veggies in the morning, put the food in the fridge for the day, and finish off the plate at night with a broil, grill, microwave, or saute. Of course, for meat like beef, this only works on the softer textured cuts. The heavy duty stewing meats may be a tad too tough for quick cooking. The 200 marinades here are vinegar-based, oil-based, fruit-based, milk-based, and alcohol-based. There is certainly something for every day; each marinade comes with a recipe that shows one way to use it. More than half the "suggested use" recipes are for grilled dishes and BBQs, but they can be adapted for indoor use. She opens with the marinades, in separate chapters for herbs, spices, citrus, tomato and the like. Then she moves on to different cuisines, such as southwestern marinades, South American marinades, European, Chines-Japanese-Korean, Southeast Asia, Indian, African, Caribbean, and even "sweet" dessert marinades.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those willing to experiment or looking for more jazzy flavours.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Buffalo wing marinade; balsamic-soy marinade; grilled portobellos; cranberry-cider marinade; teriyaki marinade.
The downside to this book: I just wish that there was something that can be done for the bully beef and the mutton, and other tough cuts of meat, that can happen within the 12 hour spread of AM and PM in the fridge.
The upside to this book: there are two indexes, one to the marinades and another to "suggested use".
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
14.FIRE & SMOKE (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-7704-3438-0, $24.99 US soft covers) is by Chris Lilly, executive chef and partner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q. Their competition cooking team has won 10 World BBQ Championships, six other world titles, and other competitions. Lilly has also written Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book. It is just one of many new BBQ books unleashed this season (see below for others), by competition champion celebrities and cookbook authors. Each, of course, has pitmaster secrets and also reflects as a Good Ol' Boy. Lilly combines the speed of grilling with smoky flavours of low-and-slow BBQ. No special equipment required: just the hot grill of smoldering coals and a rack or pan. There are 100 preps here, covering BBQ oysters, lamb ribs, grilled pizza, smoked pork belly confit, and cowboy ribeye. Sides, apps, salads, desserts, and cocktails are also here. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Profusely illustrated. Quality/price rating: 87.
15.VIRGIL'S BARBECUE ROAD TRIP COOKBOOK; the best barbecue from around the country without ever leaving your backyard (St. Martin's Press, 2014, 335 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-04109-8, $29.99 US hard covers) is by Neal Corman, executive chef of Alicart Restaurant Group, with freelancer Chris Peterson as the focusing food writer. Virgil's has been doing BBQ since 1994 in New York City, with ideas from US BBQ country of Texas, North Carolina, Kansas City and Memphis. Here there are preps for beef (Texas brisket, chicken fried steak, burnt ends), pork (baby ribs, pulled pork, slow ham), and chicken (pulled, fried, jerked). No lamb. It's arranged by course, from apps to desserts, with suggested menus (social gatherings, game day, afternoon grill fest, fish fry, Sunday brunch – 7 in all). There are also beer notes. These are recipes modified for home use from the restaurants which use 1400 pound smokers. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
16.WILEY'S CHAMPIONSHIP BBQ (Gibbs Smith, 2014, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3631-1, $19.99 US spiral bound) is by Wiley McCrary, a former Atlanta BBQ caterer, now a BBQ pitmaster champion and owner of Wiley's Championship BBQ restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. He's a co-author here with his wife Janet and Amy Paige Condon, associate editor of Savannah magazine and food writer (she's also co-authored The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook). It is all done with the engaging subtitle "secrets that old men take to the grave". It is thorough and comprehensive, with pix of techniques. The spiral binding in a plus, for the recipes can lie flat on the counter or by the BBQ. There's the primer on smoking and BBQ, calculating, sauces (he also has a line he sells), and a section on how to use this cookbook, including getting a notebook for your own revisions. He's got a beef tri-tip, a smoked leg of lamb, pulled pork, deep-fried turkey, smoked and stuffed chicken breasts, and even a seafood casserole. Sides and accompaniments include fried pickles, black-eyed pea hummus, grilled peaches, and a bread pudding with bourbon. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents on the inside back cover.
Quality/price rating: 88.
25.MAN MADE MEALS; the essential cookbook for guys (Workman Publishing, 2014; distr. T. Allen, 631 pages, ISBN 978-0-7611-6644-3, $24.95 US paper covers) is by Steven Raichlen, author of seven grilling books (one of which is the award-winning Barbecue! Bible which I reviewed in 1998, with its 500 BBQ recipes) and host of the PBS series Barbecue University and Primal Grill. The book concentrates on guy food: heavy, substantial flavours, lots of protein and starches. Veggies are mainly chiles, beans, corn, potatoes, mushrooms, kale, cauliflower, and collard greens, although he does have a (downplayed) salad chapter. The 300 preps here stress that knowledge is power and that all men have an inner chef who loves showing off that power. Like in the wine world, Raichlen advises kicking butt (in the introduction)-- whatever sells the book which is being billed as a cookbook, textbook, and guidebook to male cooking. He also manages to pull in material from Thomas Keller, Michael Pollan, and Mark Bittman, among others. The 17 food chapters embrace courses and meals, such as breakfast, sandwiches, pizza, breads, ribs, chili, soups, and a short sweet chapter (rum and coke float, affogato, bourbon brown cow, Mexican chocolate pudding, bananas Foster). There are lots of lists and tables (male things) scattered throughout, plus an opening primer. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there are tables of metric equivalents. I found some inconsistencies in the index, such as the matter of corn-flour-taco-tortilla. Quality/price rating: 89.
28.THE TEXAS FOOD BIBLE; from legendary dishes to new classics (Grand Central Life & Style, 2013, 2014; distr. Hachette, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-7430-8, $30 US hard covers) is by Dean Fearing, former chef at the Mansion on Turtle Creek and now at Fearing's. He's been a fave chef of mine for years; maybe it's his first name. Here he offers a history of Texas food through culinary experiences. He expands it all to the southwestern regional experience through such as Navajo fry bread, sweet potato spoonbread, enchiladas, and BBQ. It is a guide to regional grilling-smoking-braising, with additional recipes from other chefs. There is also material about local suppliers. He begins with a pantry, and moves through the courses of breakfast, brunch, apps, salads, mains, sides – with other chapters on the grill and BBQ. Good boldfacing of ingredient lists, as well as a list of sources. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Try poblano-mango-carmelized onion quesadillas with cilantro-lime-sour cream, or molasses-tabasco duck with smoked veggie dressing, or even smoked salmon tartare with roast jalapeno cream and roasted garlic. Innovative stuff. Quality/price rating: 89.
29.THE NOLAN RYAN BEEF & BARBECUE COOKBOOK; recipes from a Texas kitchen (Little Brown and Co., 2014; distr. Hachette, 172 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-24826-6, $25 US hard covers) is by baseball great Nolan Ryan and three others: JP Rosenthal (food and baseball writer), Cristobal Vazquez (executive chef at Texas Rangers Ballpark), and Charlie Bradbury (CEO of Nolan Ryan Beef). Texas BBQ is all about beef, so here it is: hamburgers, hot dogs, T-bones, rib-eyes, strip steaks, tenderloins, sirloin, roasts, ribs, brisket, flank steak, flat iron steak – plus some salads and sides and desserts. It is not Dean Fearing, but it is Texas and it is beef. The idea too is to pitch Texas beef, specifically Beefmaster cattle (half Brahman, quarter Hereford, quarter Shorthorn). So you can order it, at least in the USA, and try it out on the BBQ grill. He's got easy T-bone with soy and pineapple, slow-roasted prime rib with natural jus, beer-braised country ribs, and grilled balsamic flank steak. It is a good introduction to Texas beef, with many compelling recipes. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
30.SAUSAGE MAKING (Chronicle Books, 2014, 207 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-0178-1, $35 US hard covers) is by Ryan Farr, author of Whole Beast Butchery, and owner of 4505 Meats, an artisanal meat company where he teaches butchery classes and makes sausages. Jessica Battilana is the focusing food writer. It is a basic book for home cooks, with the techniques skills and equipment needed for cooking/curing/smoking every type of sausage. The arrangement is by texture, with a section on coarse (chorizo, merguez, Italian), firm (linguica, Polish, bratwurst), soft (boudin noir, scrapple), smooth (bierwurst, bologna, wieners), and combination (duck confit and cherry terrine, headcheese). There is a major discussion of selecting meats and fats (including frog), techniques of grinding-mixing-stuffing-twisting, and cooking styles – most with photos. Typical preps of the 38 sausages here include those for goat sausage with peppers, turkey-apple-campari sausage, guinea hen and kimchee links, smoked trout and pork sausage, and the veal-sweetbread-morels en croute combo. Other recipes cover condiments and breads. There is a resources list and a picture of a side view of each sausage. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both US and metric measurements, along with ratio tables. Quality/price rating: 89.
34.TRUE FOOD; season, sustainable, simple, pure (Little,
Brown, 2012, 2104, 255 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-12940-4, $19 US
paper covers) is by Andrew Weil and Sam Fox, with Michael
Stebner. Weil is well-known for his books and columns on
alternative health practices and issue (including many food
recipes). He is partner with Sam Fox in the True Food
Kitchen chain. Stebner is the executive chef of these
restaurants. The work comes heavily endowed with log
rollers Alice Waters and Marion Nestle. This is the 2014
paperback reprint. It's a book based
on SLOFE principles (seasonal, local, organic, fast, and
easy); there are about 150 recipes adapted from the six
restaurant chain. The important thing you need to know
about Andrew Weil is that the guy is completely
trustworthy: he has impressed me for over 20 years. Other
than that, this is good food with plenty of explanations
from Weil and a pantry to start up. You cannot go wrong
here. There are good illustrations and sufficient white
space in the book's layout. The chapters follow a daily
meal, with breakfast, appetizers, salads, soups, mains,
pasta, veggies, desserts and drinks (only a few with
alcohol). This is a good book for the struggling dieter –
you will get your appetite sated. Dishes include chocolate-
banana tart, stir-fried long beans with citrus-sesame
sauce, bibimbap, bison umami burger, and halibut with
fingerling potatoes. There are no tables of nutritional
sources. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric
equivalents, which is a shame for international sales.
Quality/price rating: 88.