by Sybil PrattJune, 2002
Playing with fire: the thrill of the grill
The grilling season has arrived and so has a great new crop of barbecue and grill cookbooks. Grillmeisters and wannabes might start the summer off with some Bible study—make that Barbecue! Bible study with Steven Raichlen, grill guru extraordinaire, who returns with Beer Can Chicken: And 74 Other Offbeat Recipes for the Grill, his kookiest contribution to grilldom yet. If you're unfamiliar with this arcane aspect of poultry prep, get ready to become an avid adherent. It's easy just perch a chicken, upright, on an open can of beer, cook it on a gas or charcoal grill, even in the oven, and in under two hours you'll have a superbly succulent bird that's crackling crisp on the outside. You can give it a rub or a roll in marinade and vary the beer base with a can of Coke, cranberry juice or peach nectar. Then raid the roost for quail, partridge, duck or turkey (this big bird takes a 32 oz. can of Foster's). Raichlen's inventive instincts don't stop there; he adds steaks cooked directly in the embers, crusted with sugar or flavored with hay, mahimahi skewered on sugar cane, barbecued tofu and a few "dumbfounding" grilled deserts. Grill jockeys mount up! We're off and running.
Dotty Griffith's new book, Celebrating Barbecue, concentrates on BBQ only slow cooking over low temperatures no grilling here, save for a finish or glaze. And she has bravely subtitled it The Ultimate Guide to America's 4 Regional Styles of 'Cue. Given the passion that regional variations can engender, "ultimate" seems a tad audacious and might be fightin' words for some. But whether it's "ultimate" or not, Dotty, dining editor and restaurant critic for The Dallas Morning News, gets into the heart, soul and sauce of it. The world of cue as she sees it is divided into Carolina barbecue, "where vinegar, tomato, and mustard factions wage taste wars" and pork reigns supreme; Memphis barbecue, where dry ribs vie with wet ribs; Texas barbecue, where you'll find the beef; and Kansas City, where barbecue traditions blend, and pork ribs and beef brisket share the smoky spotlight. She includes recipes for rubs and sauces, whole pigs and small chickens, "hot bites," sides and a few sweet endings, recommendations for regional restaurants and a source section that lists contests, classes, publications, ingredient purveyors and more.
Low and slow is not what seasoned culinary expert Norman Kolpas wants when he's cooking with fire. He wants instant grill gratification, without cogitating, marinating or waiting. In The Quick Grill Artist: Fast and Fabulous Recipes for Cooking With Fire, Kolpas show us the essential principles for getting the most flavor with the least prep. It's packed with easy-to-prepare, quick cooking, creative ideas for everything from bite-sized bundles of Feta Cheese Wrapped in Grape Leaves and pretty Prosciutto-Wrapped Lemon-Basil Scallops to grilled desserts that are more than S'mores (though his S'more "Quesadillas," made with flour tortillas, are super). Norman knows how to guide you through a recipe with directions that are ample and chatty, and each one is accompanied by a savvy sidebar with info on ingredients, tips and suggestions for quick variations. So, stoke up that grill and have a blast with the fast.
Sizzling satays, spice-scented Korean barbecues, fish wrapped in banana leaves we're still grilling, but now we're doing it with an Asian accent. You'll find recipes that use Asian flavorings in many grill books, but Su-Mei Yu's Asian Grilling: 85 Kebabs, Skewers, Satays, and Other Asian-Inspired Recipes for Your Barbecue is devoted to the tastes and techniques that make Asian grilling, in all its regional variations, so special. Su-Mei starts with those delectable morsels of meat, poultry, vegetables or seafood that are threaded on small sticks and grilled over a hot fire, from the well-known Japanese Chicken Yakitori to a more unusual combination of garlic and white pepper-marinated shrimp skewered with tart kumquats. Then we get wonderful ways to package food before and after grilling, salads made with grilled meats nested in fresh greens and topped with tangy dressings and a selection of Asian seasonings, dipping sauces, sambals and refreshing relishes all fabulous ways to take the grill beyond run-of-the-mill.
Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for many years.