Workman Publishing, 320 pp., $12.95 (paper)
The guy who wrote the Bible -- make that The Barbecue! Bible (1998) -- has struck again. Steven Raichlen, the undisputed master guru of global grilling, has recently released Barbecue! Bible: Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters & Glazes. Its importance might rank low with theologians, but with the masses of outdoor cooks who are tired of making mistakes or who need to give their humdrum barbecuing a boost, it's a godsend.
Raichlen is the author of 20 cookbooks, he's won two Julia Child Awards and two James Beard Awards, and is a renowned cooking instructor and consultant. His latest title presents an in-depth analysis of the global flavor boosters that go on the outside of grilled food to make the inside taste as good as it should.
Raichlen's theory is that any grillmeister can go to today's markets and purchase prepared external seasonings to boost the flavor of grilled items. But for the food to have complexity of character, personality and soul, and true depth of flavor, the seasoning components must be homemade. And he offers the reader over 200 recipes for what he refers to as the "foundation" (seasonings, rubs, and marinades), the "finish work" (bastes, butters, and glazes), the "paint" (sauces), and the "landscaping" (salsas, chutneys, and accompaniments).
They range from surprisingly simple to exotic and adventurous; from backcountry America to the farthest-flung corners of the globe. Raichlen has exhaustively researched and tested every recipe, and sought sage advice from the crustiest of barbecue-pit bosses to the most remote masters of the hibachi and the street vendor grills of the world. And it's all laid out for the reader in an enjoyable style that's as easy to read as it is to prepare.
Where Raichlen really shines, especially for the occasionally confused neophyte, is the extensive information he offers the reader. This is a critical element often overlooked in many cookbooks. Tips, hints, historical and background information, and prefatory introductions to each recipe are rife with everything a cook needs to know about not only the fine art of barbecuing, but every single component of the flavoring pantry as well. For example, the section on rubs begins with a primer on salt, including the role of salt in culinary history, the differences between mineral salts, sea salts, kosher salts, and (ugh) iodized table salts, and their uses and tastes. This is the sort of bonus information that propels a cookbook from utilitarian use to becoming a thoroughly enjoyable and educational read.
Armed with this information and the recipes, we set out to test some dishes. We fired up Ol' Smoky with a mix of oak and pecan and let the coals dwindle a bit before beginning our multicultural cookout based on Raichlen's newest book. We selected four recipes to sup on from all corners of the globe (South Africa, Cambodia, Panama, and Persia), and attacked the cutting board with glee.
South Africa led us to Raichlen's Monkey Gland Sauce (which contains no actual monkey parts). It is a sauce of chutney, red wine and port, and chiles that melds perfectly with grilled pork loin. Shrimp kebabs are the ideal match for his Cambodian dipping sauce, which is a sweet and sour fish sauce with mint, scallion, and cilantro. Fresh-caught speckled trout pairs well with a Panamanian sauce of herb-infused tomato with curry and wine. From Persia, we made meltingly tender lamb kebabs using Raichlen's saffron yogurt marinade and finishing with the saffron butter baste. The lamb was infused with citrus and garlic, and had the tang of yogurt and the richness of saffron. High praise for some of the best lamb we've ever eaten, and each of the sauces took less than 10 minutes to prepare.
Escape the boring banality of your backyard barbecue and grab a copy of Raichlen's new release to spice it up. Whether it's from Bangkok, Boston, Belgium, or Bogota, you'll find it here, and there's enough information surrounding the recipes to put you well on the way to earning that Ph.D. in Grillology.
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