Friday, April 15, 2016

Book Review: Diva Q's Barbecue

Diva Q’s Barbecue – 
195 Recipes for Cooking with Family, Friends, and Fire
Danielle “DivaQ” Bennett
Appetite by Random House

I pre-ordered Diva Q’s Barbecue as soon as it became available online last Thanksgiving because I knew it was going to be a great grilling/BBQ book.  After months of waiting, I finally got my grubby little hands on it and it is every bit as good as I anticipated.

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You might know Danielle “DivaQ” Bennett from her show, BBQ Crawl, which has run for the past three years.  Or you might know her from her multiple other televised appearances, from local news shows to BBQ Pitmasters.  Or you might know her from her many competition BBQ victories including a World Championship at the Jack Daniels World Championship Barbecue a few years ago.  I have had the pleasure of knowing her through the BBQ Brethren many years ago and then getting to work with her on a mutual client for the past few years.  Danielle is one of the most talented, passionate, and competitive pitmasters that I know and all of that energy is reflected in her book.

Physical Description

The book is softcover and is medium sized (8x10).  It “weighs in” at 288 pages of photos, recipes, tips, and other great information.  The format is nicely laid out making it easy to read and use.  I like that she uses “call out boxes” to bring attention to important tips throughout the book.  The organization of the book is the typical BBQ book breakouts of BBQ basics, main meats by category, sides, desserts, and a few other chapters.  It’s the content of those sections that sets the book apart.

Recipes

Diva Q’s Barbecue is loaded with 195 recipes.  The difficulty level is varied, from beginner to advanced, so that everyone can take something away from using the book.  Danielle cooks on a variety of grills and smoker so these recipes aren't central to one type of cooker.

·         Six Recipes You Need To Know – DivaQ gives you a few recipes to get you going right out of the gate.  I’m glad to see the reverse sear in there.
·         Rubs, Sauces, Slathers, and Spices – This chapter alone is worth the price of this book.  Twenty six of DivaQ’s favorite go to sauces and seasonings are shared.  It has basics like Memphis Rib Rub and Kansas City Rub to more exotic rubs like Spicy Thai Rub or Moroccan Spice Rub.  The sauce recipes are top notch as well. 
·         Fired Up Appetizers and Shareables – The chapter is the social butterfly of the book, with it’s fun “here have some of this” type of recipes.  Chipotle Devilled Eggs with Pig Candy and Cold-Smoked Cheddar-Pimento Cheese?  Yes please! She has pizzas, kale chips, salsa, and tons of one bite apps that are sure to please.
·         Praise the Pig – All about pork, this chapter shares DivaQ’s World Championship Winning Pulled Pork recipe and 21 other killer recipes for chops, cheeks, steaks, and belly.  I’m proud to have one of my recipes featured in this chapter – Pork Tenderloin with Thai Peanut Sauce.  If you really want to kick it up, use her Thai rub on that one.
·         Bacon Bonanza – Bacon delights here, DivaQ hits on classics like Pig Candy and ABT’s while delving in to sheer bacon madness with things like Grilled Poutine and Bacon, Bacon wrapped Cadbury eggs (you read that right), and Smoked Brisket Bombs.
·         Beef It Up – Diva dishes her secrets on a perfect scoring 180 Brisket.  She also gives recipes for herb crusted Prime rib, herbed beef tenderloin, shiitake chuck roast and more.
·         Fowl Play – From Smoked Crispy Duck to Brie and Spinach Stuffed Chicken, DivaQ covers it all.  Her jerk chicken sounds right up my alley and I thought the Roadside chicken was very tasty.
·         Gone Fishin’ – I’m not a big fish person, but this section still looks impressive with selections like Blackened Cajun Salmon, Mahi Mahi Sliders, and Grilled Tuna Steak Tacos.
·         Sizzling Sides – Danielle grills up some out of the ordinary sides like Smookin’ Good Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon Butter. The Grilled Artichokes with Smoked Aioli are on my list for this summer as are the Candied Smoked Carrots.
·         Salads, Slaws, and Breads – Kind of an eclectic collection but loaded with drool worthy recipes, such as; Grilled Panzanella Salad, Creamy Carrot Slaw, and the Best-Ever Buttermilk Biscuits. 
·         Sweet Smoke – Danielle excels at dessert, she is well known for killing that category in contests.  There are lots of recipes in this chapter but there’s only one that I need to know and that is the famed Death by Diva.  It has scored a perfect 180 at multiple contests.  It’s a little fruit, cheese cake, brownie and more.


Grill Dome chicken, kamado roadside chicken, raised direct grilling, raised grate, DivaQ
DivaQ's Roadside Chicken - I did mine raised direct on a kamado grill while she did hers indirect.  Both ways work, I just like my roadside chicken over the fire because that's the way they did it at my dad's company picnics when I was a kid.  

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Excellent flavor and I didn't have to wait for marinating like I do on my other favorite roadside chicken recipe.  Of course, now I want to try them together - the marinade and Danielle's baste.  That will be intense!
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I tried Danielle's Montreal seasoning recipe on a very nice ribeye steak for lunch one afternoon.

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I finally got to try Diva Q's Diablo Sauce.  The only thing I did different was I used roasted garlic in mine, just because I had it on hand.
 
Gas2Grill gas coal hybrid, steak sauce
Making the sauce outdoors on the sideburner.

sauce on back of spoon, diablo sauce
Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon like this.  We liked it smooth so I had used an immersion blender before this picture.

Char-broil, dual fuel grill, convertible grill
I did this one on my Char-Broil Gas2Coal grill and a set of GrillGrates.  It's a dual fuel grill but in this case, I used the gas assist to light the coals.

how to grill steak, how to plate steak, how to make steak sauce
This was some lunch!  The Diablo Sauce doesn't knock you over with heat, it's more on the back end, but it's definitely there.  

bbq sauce
The recipe for Kansas City style BBQ sauce is an easy and fantastic base recipe for a sweet BBQ sauce like most people enjoy.  We liked it so much that we used it on a small catering gig we did.

Photography

The photography in Danielle’s book does a good job of telling the story of her passion for BBQ.  The book is loaded with high quality, color photographs.  Ken Goodman was the main photographer but there were also contributions from Robert Jacob Lerma, Doug Barlow, and Alena Dudaeva.  The pictures of finished and plated foods gives the reader an excellent understanding of what they are shooting for.  I would have liked to see more “how to” or “step by step” pictures but considering this book is already at 195 recipes and almost 300 pages, I understand that space was an issue.

Summary

This is easily my favorite grilling/BBQ book so far this year.  Who is it for?  Just about anyone that grills. It gives newbies an arsenal of information to get them up and firing on all cylinders quickly.  When someone asks me what 1 or 2 BBQ books they should buy because they are just starting out, Diva Q’s Barbecue will be on the short list that I give them.  But even seasoned grillers will gain a lot from this book – I bought a copy for my sister who is a hard core Egger.

Then there’s the price.  I don’t know if it’s some kind of Canadian to US currency exchange issue (kidding) but $14.01 for a book of this quality and usefulness is an absolute steal!  I’d gladly pay $25 or more for this book. 

Brass tax is this:  This book needs to be a part of your grilling and BBQ arsenal. 

Ranking

5 stars – an absolute resource, will refer to frequently
4 stars – good cookbook with value added tips, photos, guides, and other content
3 stars – Good, average cookbook, glad to have it on my shelf
2 stars – a recipe collection
1 star – would give it away to someone else to get rid of it, but only if I didn't like them very much

[Standard FTC Disclaimer]  Danielle did give me a copy of the book but I also paid full price for a few copies and I did not receive any other compensation. I received the Char-Broil Grill2Coal as part of a sponsorship from Char-Broil. The opinions I have given are absolutely my own.  

5 comments:

  1. Thanks, Chris, for the great review. Really nice to know she can share her vast expertise in a way that excites and empowers a competitor like you and even the backyard BBQ enthusiasts like us. Will order this book today!

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  2. Buying the book just to get that chicken recipe! Looks incredible!

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  3. Very thorough. It makes me regret my latest grill book purchase. Maybe I have room on the shelf for one more. GREG

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  4. Looks like a great book! The steak looks beautiful with it's perfect grill marks.

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  5. I do like her Danelle's book to. She is a BBQ, the great for today. Can I say that so? Good Morning Book, a Blog Review Book

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