1,001 Best Grilling (and Barbecuing) Recipes by Rick Browne

When I received a copy of Rick Browne’s new cookbook, 1,001 Best Grilling Recipes, I had a few concerns.

First, 1,001 recipes? Really, is there a need for that many recipes? I figure slow cooked pork butt, pork shoulder or whole hog pretty much covers it and saves 998 recipes.  Second, the books cover features a quote from Regis Philbin: “Rick Browne is one of America’s leading barbecue experts.” Until proven otherwise, I would assume Regis Philbin knows about as much about barbecue as Al Roker knows about 13th century Italian poetry.  Third, and most important, I noticed the word “grilling” in the title and the word “barbecue” used in Philbin’s quote.

In my opinion, grilling and barbecue are two different things, like sauteing and pan-frying: related techniques but not the same.  Whereas grilling is cooking for a relatively short time over high heat, barbecuing is cooking for a relatively long time over lower heat.  Plus, real barbecuing requires wood or charcoal, whereas you can grill over gas, electric or anything else you can dream up.  Browne takes on my holier-than-thou attitude before he even gets to page one.

In his Introduction, Browne writes, “This book is a collection of recipes I’ve gathered over ten years of roaming… an endless pursuit of the world’s best barbecue and grilling recipes–terms, by the way, that I use interchangeably, much to the chagrin of some barbecue purists.  But to me, if you cook food outdoors using wood, charcoal, natural gas, propane or just about any other combustible materials, you’re barbecuing.”  Well, I won’t concede this point, especially knowing that Browne is a Canadian by birth and therefore should be viewed with suspicion, but I give Browne credit for addressing it right off the bat.  Plus, the man knows more about barbecue (and grilling) than most anyone on the planet.

Rick Browne’s TV show, “Barbecue America”, aired on PBS for seven years.  He has published several cookbooks, including The Best Barbecue on Earth, The Barbecue America Cookbook, and Barbecue America: A Pilgrimage in Search of America’s Best Barbecue.  He has traveled to dozens of Continue reading

A Break from BBQ: Two New North Carolina Cookbooks

As the summer heat cranks up, things get interesting in North Carolina.  For one thing, Porky LeSwine starts to speak about himself in the third person and craves food beyond just barbecue.  While man could live just fine on the holy trinity of swine, slaw and hush puppies, sometimes a taste of something else is good for the soul (and the aorta).  Luckily, there are two new cookbooks from North Carolina that allow folks like Porky to get a taste of the good life beyond pork.

Andrea Reusing, newly minted James Beard award winning chef at Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant has released her first cookbook, Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal RecipesReusing is best known for the Asian-inspired, locally sourced, carefully prepared fare she and her team serve at the Lantern, but Cooking in the Moment features few Asian recipes.  Instead, it is full of fairly simple, eclectic recipes that are organized by season, well explained, beautifully photographed and, judging from the few dishes I’ve made thus far, delicious.

Cooking in the Moment is particularly enjoyable for anyone who lives in or near Durham and Orange Counties, as it includes many stories involving local farmers many of us recognize from the area’s several farmer’s markets.  But don’t get me wrong, this is a hell of a cookbook and will appeal to people who live anywhere and love good food.  So, we can forgive Ms. Reusing that she fails to include any recipes for barbecue.  Die hard pigavores will have to suffice with cider-braised pork shoulder, carnitas and the like.
Another cookbook with a similar theme and Chapel Hill ties, this one published by The University of North Carolina Press, is The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.   The title hints at what is inside: over 300 recipes organized alphabetically by vegetable/fruit ingredient–apples to zucchini, and a whole lot in between.

Rest assured that ham and plenty of other pig parts make their way into The New Southern Garden Cookbook’s recipes.  This is the “new south” but it is still the south.  I should confess that I’ve yet to read this cookbook–my copy is in the mail–but it sounds like a winner from all I’ve heard.  I’ll report back once I get a chance to test drive the recipes. Until then, happy cooking… and don’t forget to take an occasional break from all the produce for some barbecue.  It’s important to stay in shape, after all.

Porky’s Pulpit: There Oughta Be a Law

I will vote for any candidate for national office who proposes a law banning use of the word “barbecue” in contexts like this:

American Wasteland

Riddle me this, loyal readers: what do you call someone who splits his time between writing about eating barbecue and writing about not wasting food?  Confused? A hypocrite? Maybe even a hero? All three, perhaps, but I just call him The Rib Rabbi. 

My BBQJew.com co-author The Rib Rabbi moonlights as the author of Wasted Food.com, blogging under what I can only assume is a pseudonym, “Jonathan Bloom.”  His first book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), was released yesterday.  That means The Rib Rabbi, or at least his alter ego Jonathan, is now a published author.  Sure, it’s not as impressive as being a barbecue blogger, but it’s something.  

Since BBQJew.com pays even its senior staff poorly, do The Rib Rabbi a favor and buy a copy of American Wasteland.  After all, he needs some pocket change to spend on barbecue.  Oh, and don’t worry, avoiding food waste and eating copious amounts of barbecue are completely compatible… right “Jonathan”?

BBQ&A: H. Kent Craig, BBQ Blogger & Author

[Note: Follow this link-Craig BBQ&A-for an easier to read, .pdf version of the interview.]

 
For ten years North Carolina native H. Kent Craig ran the most visited website dedicated to NC barbecue, “Kent’s North Carolina-Style BBQ Page.”  In 2008, Craig moved out of state and stopped adding content to his website.  In late 2009, he shut the site down entirely, leaving a large grease-stained void in cyberspace. 
 
That’s the bad news. 
 
The good news is that Craig has compiled the information from his website, and added some new content, and recently published Kent’s Carolina Barbecue Book, available at Amazon.com.  Not long ago we “sat down” with Craig (in the very modern, virtual sense where we are not within 500 miles of each other) and discussed his book, his exile in Oklahoma, and plumbing.  Oh, and we talked barbecue too.
 
 BBQ Jew: Let’s start with a tough question.  Rumors are flying that the “H.” in your name stands for “Hog.”  Care to confirm or deny this rumor?
H. Kent Craig: The “H.” stands for “Harold” which a couple of people have been shot for addressing me as (just kidding, they were just wounded a little!). Actually, the “H.”/Harold was my father’s first name and mainly to keep from being called “Craig Jr.” or “Harry” (guaranteed death!) I started to use “Kent” as a small child as my given name and it stuck and it suits me. 

BBQ Jew: Okay, we’ve put that rumor to rest but we’ve now determined that you have three first names–Harold, Kent and Craig.  Never mind, moving on… Where were you raised?  And when and where did you first sink your teeth into North Carolina barbecue?  Was it love at first bite?
H.KC:
I was raised in what was then a small hamlet outside of Raleigh called Cary [Editor's note: population 3,400 in 1960], which has since become a much larger burg with around 130,000 residents and has the distinction of being the bedroom community for Research Triangle Park. My mother’s parents moved to Cary in the 1920′s so I somewhat proudly call myself a 3rd-generation Cary-ite. Because all of Cary’s population boom has been caused by scientists and researchers and others adjunct to all the R&D facilities immigrating to Cary from other parts of the country, it’s an old but true joke amongst the dozen or so actual natives that are left that “Cary” is an acronym for “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.”

My first memories of NC BBQ were from Johnson’s BBQ in Cary on E. Chatham St., now long gone. I remember eating there when I was just two or three and yes, they would have been given a “4 pig” best-of-the-best rating.

BBQ Jew: Wow, talking to a 3rd generation native of Cary  is a bit like talking to a brontosaurus.   Speaking of ancient history, there were few NC barbecue-focused websites around back in the dark ages of the 1990s when you debuted your site.  Why did you decide to start a website about NC barbecue?
H.KC: I decided to start my NC BBQ Page mainly because I thought, with sincere respect to Dave Lineback’s personal site where, like mine, he had an NC-BBQ-centric section within and which was a good site and Shinola’s site which was Continue reading

BBQ Book Review: Smokestack Lightning

I recently read Smokestack Lightning and strongly recommend you drop whatever you are doing to buy a copy right now.  Although this book only includes one chapter on North Carolina barbecue (and it is a chapter shared with–gasp–South Carolina), it is one of the best books on barbecue ever written.  Smokestack Lightning–the title taken from the classic Howlin’ Wolf song–is in small part a barbecue guide book, in even smaller part a cookbook and in large part a sociological treatise on American culture.  Whichever part you’re most interested in, all parts of Smokestack Lighting are well worth reading.   

Author Lolis Eric Elie, who when he set out to write the book was the road manager for the Winton Marsalis Septet, writes in the preface: “Our thesis was this. Barbecue reflects and embodies all the important themes in American history and culture–region, race, migration, immigration, religion, politics.  Yet this art, so vital to our national identity was dying or at least endangered.  We were half right…  we were also half wrong.” 

In the introduction, Elie continues to explain the underlying purpose of the book.  “We know that barbecue is a metaphor for American culture in a broad sense,” he writes, “and that it is a more appropriate metaphor than any other American food.  Barbecue alone encompasses the high- and lowbrows, the sacred and the profane, the urban and the rural, the learned and the unlettered, the blacks, the browns, the yellows, the reds, and the whites.  Barbecue, then, is a fitting barometer for the changes, good and bad, that have taken place in the country, and this book, ostensibly about that food, is really about the people and places and consistencies and changes that produce it.”

As the quotes above indicate, there are some pretty heady themes in Smokestack Lightning.  It’s a refreshing change to read a barbecue book that goes so deep into its subject–well past the hickory and mesquite smoke, well past the pork and beef, and straight into the marrow of American culture, history and race relations.  But despite all the serious themes that help carry the book forward, Smokestack Lightning stops short of being too serious for its own good and certainly is never dull.  Quite the opposite, it is full of rich storytelling and humor.  One funny anecdote has a relative of notoriously surly jazz legend Miles Davis’ trying to impress him by bringing him barbecue from his hometown of East St. Louis, where snoots are the specialty.  After traveling by plane with this carefully packaged barbecue treat for Miles, the only response the relative gets from him is, “Motherf*&ker, why you f%*k up my snoots?”

Smokestack Lightning was first published in 1996 and the second edition was printed in 2005.  It is not currently in print but it is available used on Amazon.com and other sites.  The fact that the book is a few years out of date only adds to the timeless nature of the stories, the people featured, and the splendid black and white photography by Frank Stewart.

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