Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Fire and Smoke - A Pitmaster's Secrets by Chris Lilly

The Big Bob Gibson team did it once again this weekend.  Chris Lilly, Don McLemore, Ken Hess, and the crew from Decatur, Alabama won the World Championship BBQ Cookoff at Memphis In May, making them the first team to win 4 of these coveted World Championships. 

Pitmaster, Chris Lilly, makes his smooth as glass presentation to one of the three onsite judges at Memphis In May this past Saturday morning.

Chris Lilly and Don McClemore serving up their World Championship pork shoulder.
How would you like a peek at this World Championship pitmaster's grilling secrets?  Well you're in luck.  Just before Memphis In May, Chris released his second book...Fire and Smoke: A Pitmaster's Secrets

Chris Lilly

One of the best things I ate last year was the Southwestern Smoked Brisket Hash from this book.  Last Spring, I was lucky enough to help out at the photo shoot for this book and Ken Hess made a batch of this for the photo but made eggs to order for everyone too.  It was easily the best breakfast I have had in 10 years and I knew right then, that this was going to be another special book from Chris Lilly. 

Chris Lilly

Physical description
Fire and Smoke is a soft cover, medium sized (9 3/4" by 7 3/4") book with just over 250 pages.  Chris starts off with an intro covering 18 types of grills that the reader might use and summarizes them, including the fuel used, convenience, ideal use, indirect and direct set ups, and cost.  The book is organized into 11 sections broken out into
  1. Grilled Cocktails
  2. Appetizers
  3. Salads and Sandwiches
  4. Grilled Pizza
  5. Bellies and Bacon
  6. Steaks
  7. Mains
  8. Barbecue Leftovers (my favorite section)
  9. Side Dishes
  10. Grilled Desserts
  11. Sauces and Dry Rubs

In my opinion, Fire and Smoke is the companion piece to Chris' first book, Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue Book.  Fire and Smoke complements Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue Book, it's the yin to it's yang.   While BBG was heavy on the BBQ side (multiple rib, brisket, and whole hog recipes), Fire and Smoke is more about pairing the convenience of everyday backyard grilling with the smoky flavors of traditional barbecue.  Together these books make a great pair.  

Fire and Smoke has 100 original recipes that while having complex flavors, they are simple enough that anyone can follow the instructions and recreate them on their grill. 

The first thing I made was a brisket version of the Overstuffed Pulled Pork Potato.  Nothing against pulled pork but I had just smoked a few briskets on my competition pit, aka "the Warthog". 

bbq, barbecue pit, barebecue trailer

I love my kamado grills but smoking using only wood on my pit is a notch better.
The briskets were both over 15 lbs.  I injected them with my NMT Beef Injection, seasoned them with my NMT Beef Rub, and smoked them a bit hot at 275°F until they were done. 

barbecue brisket
If you don't want to smoke your own, most BBQ restaurants sell brisket by the pound.  In Knoxville, Dead End BBQ has the best brisket.
The recipe didn't call for BBQ sauce but a BBQ place here adds it to theirs so I did.  I used Albukirky's new Duke City Sweet which turned out to be perfect for this, it rocked with the brisket.  This was fantastic but huge, I ended up splitting one with Alexis.

bbq beef stuffed baked potato

We also made the Seasoned Mustard Drumsticks with Peach Glaze.  I should have followed the recipe because we made them a little too spicy by adding ancho chile to the rub and used  peach jalapeno preserves for the sauce. 
grilled chicken, bbq chicken
Simple and quick recipe, like most in this book.

These fell out of the flavor tree and hit every branch on the way down.

grilled chicken legs
We did half in the molasses peach jalapeno glaze...

chicken legs
and half with traditional bbq sauce.  Both were excellent.

kamado grilled chicken legs
Cooked on the kamado grill, indirect with a platesetter. 

Fantastic chicken legs!
My neighbor, John, made the Barbecue Chicken Thighs and shared some with us.  He used boneless, skinless thighs using the muffin pan technique but they were still excellent.  That sauce would also be good on grilled pork tenderloin, I think.  He ran into a bit of a problem with the pizza dough recipe but we haven't tried it yet.

My sister also bought Fire and Smoke.  Her favorite so far is the Iron Skillet Macaroni and Cheese, in fact her exact words were "The mac and cheese is out of this world."   Her son said it is the best thing she has made on her Big Green Egg!  That is high praise.

Grilled Mango Mojito - perfect for sipping during those humid summer happy hours
Grilled Lemonade - had it at Kingsford University a few years ago, excellent way to beat the dog days of summer
Flank Steak and Shitake Roll Yakitori - had a version of it at Kingsford University, tender and full of flavor

Grilled Watermelon and Tomato Salad - surprisingly good, I didn't think I'd like it and ended up going back for more.  It's light and refreshing.  It could be a side dish but stands on its own as a lunch meal too.
Food Stylist, Pam Lolley, setting up the shot found on page 75.
Perfect Burger - it's about the grind, not the toppings.  I've had it twice.  First time it was slightly overcooked (not cooked by Chris L or me) and it was just okay.  But the ones he or Ken did for the shoot were excellent. 
Chris Lilly's the perfect burger, grilling
Whether picking raw ingredients or choosing a burger for the shot, Chris is a selective dude.
I'm not a big seafood eater unless I'm within 2 miles of an ocean, but the Barbecue Paella with Chicken, Shrimp, and Chorizo that Ken made was a big hit with me.
Nice kamado grill, right?  These run about $3,000 last time I checked. 
Peppered Ahi Tuna with Cantaloupe and Pineapple Salsa being photographed late in the afternoon during the photoshoot.  We were constantly having to move around to get the best lighting, I learned a LOT from Pam and Ben. 

Chris preparing the Charcoal Seared Trout Fillet with Sun Dried Tomato Brown Butter.

Chris Lilly using a kamado grill
Chris checking to see if the salmon is done.
Bacon Crusted Cedar Plan Salmon - It was hard keeping this recipe under my hat for a year until the book came out.  I'm not a fish eater, especially not first thing in the morning when this was shot.  But to hear the moans of pleasure emitted by everyone eating this (straight off of the plank...on top of a cold smoker...with plastic forks, no plates) was unmistakable - this dish ROCKS.  Seriously, they sounded like a bunch of zombies....happy zombies. 

I've also had several other dishes from the book and they have all been phenomenal.  I have 43 others tabbed in the book for trying later.  Yeah, Chris hit another one out of the park with this book. 

Fire and Smoke is full of exceptional color photos.  Whether the pictures were for step by step instructions or for setting the story, Photographer, Ben Fink, delivered in a huge way.  No surprise there, though.  He is the photographer to the food stars.  Name a big food star, and Ben has probably shot for them.  Bobby Flay?  Yep.  Jacques Pepin?  You betcha.  Ina Garten?  Uh-huh.  Michael Symon?  Sure.  He also has worked with just about every major food brand as well.
Ben Fink shooting The Perfect Burger.
Fire and Smoke is the ideal book for the backyard griller, whether you are a beginner or an advanced grill master.  Chris Lilly does a masterful job including recipes that will fill your grill with big time tastes.   Father's Day is just around the corner and I can't think of a better present for Dad than a copy of this book (and Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue Book, if he doesn't have it already). 

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 Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post and I paid full price for the book.