Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Review: Planet Barbecue!

Steven Raichlen has done it again with his new release Planet Barbecue! I received a copy from his publisher this week for review and I couldn’t be more impressed. [Standard Disclaimer]

Normally when I get a new cookbook, I read through it and tab the recipes I want to try. With Planet Barbecue!, I just quit tabbing after page 41 because I was literally tabbing every page. But to call Planet Barbecue! a “cookbook” doesn’t do it justice. Sure it has 309 recipes from 60 countries, but Steven brings so much more to the plate with information about the cuisine, interesting back stories, and useful tips. No, this isn’t just a cook book, it is a barbecue and grilling resource.

I like his format for each recipe that includes “The Scoop”, a side panel giving the quick Where, What, How, and Just The Facts.

I found his summaries of countries and their cuisines interesting. For each he provides a narrative of the food and culture. Then he gives a bulleted breakdown of The Grills, The Fuel, The Flavorings, Must Try Dishes, The Condiments, How To Eat It, etc etc. You actually learn about the food, you aren't just copying a recipe.

He doesn’t assume you know how to grill. If he uses a term, he is careful to refer to techniques, concepts and tips that explain it in other parts of the book.

Then there are the recipes. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sometimes when someone does a collection of recipes from around the world, they either stick to boring classics from those countries or go the opposite end of the spectrum and try to pick the most outlandish recipe with unobtainable ingredients.

But Raichlen nailed the selection of recipes, in my opinion. They are appetizing and doable. He presents the authentic method and ingredients but will also give alternative substitutions. His Puerto Rican Grilled Pork Chops are a perfect case in point.

The chops are rubbed with a simple but effective Spanish/Caribbean rub (salt, oregano, garlic, pepper, sage)

Then they are glazed with annatto oil while cooking. He does a great job explaining what annatto seeds are, where you might get them, but also advises you can substitute a blend of turmeric and sweet paprika which is what I did. As you can see, it is a bright, colorful oil.

I grilled them on the Big Green Egg for a total of 8 minutes (flipped in 2 minute intervals) at a temp of 375f.

Raichlen is right, they are so good that they really didn’t need the Sparkling Barbecue Sauce (7-Up doctored BBQ sauce).

But since I had already prepared it, I did a quick drizzle anyway and served them with my black beans and rice.

These chops were spectacular. These will definitely be made again and I can’t wait to try the same rub and glaze on a spiral cut pork loin.

There are so many recipes that I can't wait to try. Australian lamb cooked on a shovel? I have to try that. The South American selections are particularly enticing.

So if you are looking for something different than the usual grill fare this summer, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Planet Barbecue! It would also be a great gift for the griller in your family. (Steven's book signing schedule.)

UPDATE: Steve will be doing a book signing at the Williams Sonoma store at the Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin, TN (near Nashville) on June 26th from 3-5pm. Swing by, pick up a copy and get it signed by the grill master himself!