New barbecue cookbooks sizzle with ideas

June 24, 2009|By AMANDA GOLD / San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO - We don't need the changing of seasons or the smell of smoldering coals to alert us that barbecue season is near -- the influx of new barbecue books is always the first sign.

With a growing trend toward comfort food and traditional recipes, and the economy pushing cooks back into the kitchen, these tomes are as popular as ever.

From barbecue reference volumes to restaurant companion cookbooks, here's a sampling of this season's crop:

o "America's Best BBQ," by Ardie A. Davis and chef Paul Kirk (Andrews McMeel Publishing; 224 pages; $19.99). Cross the nation's barbecue joints with this entertaining -- and kitschy -- look at down-home restaurants from Washington state to North Carolina. Photos and descriptions tell the back-stories behind these popular establishments.

In addition to more traditional recipes, such as barbecue pork butt, readers will find fun appetizers and desserts; there's even a half-scratch root beer cake that, despite its far-from-gourmet ingredient list, we couldn't get enough of.


o "Barbecue," by Thomas Feller (Hamlyn Books; 160 pages; $24.99). A novelty item that would make a fun gift for any barbecue fanatic, this spiral-bound book slips into a sleeve that resembles a box of matches.

It's cutesy, to be sure, but readers will find interesting recipes like monkfish and Parma ham kebabs, steak panang, and potatoes baked in the embers with cottage cheese.

Recipes are clear and concise, and evocative photos will have even the most timid cook firing up the grill.

o "Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book," by Chris Lilly (Clarkson Potter; 256 pages; $24.95). "No list, no clock, no thermometer can tell you how to cook barbecue," Chris Lilly writes in a sentiment echoed by most 'cue aficionados. But in "Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book" -- named after a Lilly family Alabama restaurant -- ingredients lists and instructions do a pretty good job, all things considered.

Look for Lilly's pitmaster's tips, useful nuggets of info that will instruct readers how to ensure uniform doneness or even stick an apple into the mouth of a pig. Recipes such as loaf-pan chicken might be less intimidating than the cowboy pig cooked over an open spit, but, regardless, it's a fun account that's historically rich.

o "Grillin' With Gas," by Fred Thompson (Taunton Press; 305 pages; $19.95). The latest book from "Barbecue Nation" author Thompson focuses exclusively on using the ever-more-popular gas grill. The author provides clear guidelines on smoking, temperature and direct versus indirect cooking.

Thompson's recipes include originals such as grill-roasted salmon with tomato jam, and contributions from friends, like Robin Kline's Surprising Pork Tenderloin. Comprehensive sections on vegetable entrees and grilled fruit desserts are welcome additions.

o "Low & Slow," by Gary Wiviott, with Colleen Rush (Running Press; 256 pages; $19.95). No glossy photos, few bells and whistles here; this instructional book -- aptly nicknamed "barbecue boot camp" -- provides five lessons for mastering the grill. Each one, from baby back ribs to brined chicken, comes complete with diagrams, timelines and sauces and takes readers all the way through the cooking process.

o "Weber's Way to Grill," by Jamie Purviance (Sunset Books; 320 pages; $24.95). One of this year's best and most comprehensive reference books is also chock-full of recipes that will entice even the most seasoned griller.

Step-by-step instructions are shown both as colorful photographs and written descriptions and guide readers through everything from skewering shrimp for the Juicy Shrimp with Roasted Chile and Avocado Sauce to cutting drumettes for the smoky and addicting Hickory Drumettes with Bourbon-Molasses Glaze.


Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer

From "Weber's Way to Grill," by Jamie Purviance (Sunset Books, $24.95)


1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili
20 chicken wing drumettes, about 3 pounds


2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon unsulfured (light) molasses
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 handfuls hickory wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

In a large bowl, mix smoked paprika, mustard, salt, garlic, onion and chipotle chili. Add the drumettes and toss to coat them evenly.

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat.

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the soy sauce, bourbon, molasses and butter to a boil over high heat and cook just until the butter melts. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.

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