For the Traveler
America’s Best BBQ
By Ardie A. Davis and Paul Kirk
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99)
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Whether you’re a fan of cooking your own barbecue using recipes or one who likes to know where to try new ’cue, this book has you covered. It’s full of recipes from across the country and includes background information on each spot that gives up its cooking secrets. It should come as no surprise that Texas spots are in heavy rotation, with everything from the brisket recipe at Franklin to the pinto bean recipe at Black’s in Lockhart. Also included in this revised edition are the authors’ favorite barbecue spots. One of them has three Texas spots in the top 10, and the other has four.
For the Worldly
Mallmann on Fire
By Francis Mallmann (Artisan Books, $40)
Apparently, barbecue exists outside the United States. This is as much a picture book and travel guide as it is a book full of 100 recipes. Written by an Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, the book boasts recipes from around the world that can be prepared “simply and beautifully.” While all the pictures look beautiful, “simply” may be a bit of an overstatement. Veal rib chops and French green beans a la Plancha with a romaine-watercress salad? At least the author goes into detailed instructions on how to cook everything, and that makes it simpler to understand.
For Those Who Like To Slather
The Barbecue Lover’s Big Book of BBQ Sauces
By Cheryl and Bill Jamison
(Harvard Common Press, $18.95)
If you’re a fan of all things saucy, tangy or tart, then this volume of 225 sauces, rubs, marinades, mops, bastes, pates and salsas has you covered. As much as this book is for those looking for recipes, it’s also a guide. Just below the name of each recipe is a suggestion for how it should be used. Some are for traditional barbecues and grilled dishes, while others are simply for one or the other. And some would be considered foreign to most traditional barbecue fans. Anyone ever try basting their chicken with chai splash? Then there’s Northern Alabama White Lightning, which sounds like it should have booze in it but instead goes heavy on mayonnaise.
For the Ceramic Fan
Smoke It Like a Pro on the Big Green Egg & Other Ceramic Cookers
By Eric Mitchell (Page Street Publishing Co., $21.99)
One of the most popular trends among recreational barbecuers is the Big Green Egg. This book is designed for the Egg heads as well as those who prefer to cook on a ceramic cooker. And while some swear by the Big Green Egg for cooking their barbecue, the book gives you options for branching out if you’re into more than meats. It has recipes for everything from Smokin’ Aces Pizza and Maple Crème Brulee to Blueberry Scones. It’s also a how-to for Egg novices with ideas on curing everything from bacon to cheese and even making crab cakes. The book features 60 color photos and more than 100 recipes.
For Those Who Want More Flavor
By Ray Lampe (Chronicle Books, $22.95)
There are traditionalists who think all you need for good barbecue is meat, heat and some smoke. This isn’t the book for them. Flavorize is for those who prefer to spice up the meat with marinades, injections, brines, rubs and glazes. The 120 recipes in the book range from upscale options (see sesame-ginger marinade) to recipes an everyday Texan can embrace. The jalapeño-buttermilk marinade sounds like a perfect kind of Texas recipe. And the book does a huge service for readers by pairing the recipes for the different sauces, marinades and such with recipes for how to use them. The jalapeño fried chicken breast sounds like it should be a summer staple.
For the Adventurous
Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ
By the Editors of Southern Living (Oxmoor House, $24.95)
There aren’t many barbecue restaurants in Texas where you can find hot bacon caprese salad. But this book has a recipe for that side, as well as one for grilled watermelon with blue cheese and prosciutto in its section on sides. The book is wonderfully illustrated and has plenty of details in the 200-plus recipes. There are chapters on cooking low and slow and hot and fast. And as much as it is a cookbook, it’s also a how-to guide. How do you start a fire? It’s in there. How to pick the right pork product? It’s in there, too. The book also includes snippets from the best pitmasters around the country, including Tim Byres, who opened Smoke in Dallas.
We have fond memories of the 12-ounce rib-eye steak on the former menu at Louie Mueller Barbecue. It was slow-smoked to medium-well instead of grilled hot and fast like a steakhouse steak. We’re fans of the latter style as well, but there was something special about Louie Mueller’s smoked rib-eye seasoned with a simple mix of pepper and salt. It was good enough to make a vegetarian go into a temporary relapse. If Wayne Mueller ever returns it to the menu, treat yourself to one. Meanwhile, try our home-style version, but remember that there’s no duplicating the atmosphere, aromas, and flavors on location at the ’cue hot spot.
• 4 12-ounce bone-in rib-eye steaks
• Coarsely ground black pepper
Set up your smoker with post oak or oak wood to cook indirectly at 375 degrees. Season the steaks all over with salt and pepper to taste. Place in the smoker and cook 45 to 60 minutes or to the doneness you desire. Enjoy — this is a classic.
Red Wine-Braised Spareribs with Red Cabbage and Carrot Slaw
• 6 pounds spareribs or country-style ribs
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 bottle full-bodied red wine, such as Malbec, plus more
• 3 cups Rich Brown Pork Stock, plus more if needed
• 2 heads garlic, halved horizontally
• 3 bay leaves
• 6 fresh thyme sprigs
• 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
• Red Cabbage and Carrot Slaw (recipe follows)
1. If starting the ribs outdoors, prepare a medium fire in a charcoal grill. Trim the excess fat from the ribs and season well with salt and pepper. Grill the ribs, turning often, for about 30 minutes, until crisp and brown on both sides. (Alternatively, working in batches to avoid crowding, season the ribs, lay them fat-side down in a large, heavy pot, and slowly brown them over medium heat, turning them as they darken and crisp on both sides. Spoon or pour off the fat.)
2. Meanwhile, heat an horno (adobe outdoor oven) or the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the grilled ribs to a large, heavy pot. Pour the wine over the ribs and add enough stock to almost cover them. Add the garlic and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then set in the oven and braise for about 2 1⁄2 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Every half-hour or so, skim off the fat, turn the meat and add more stock or wine, if necessary. Eventually the liquid should reduce to a deep, burnished-mahogany syrup.
3. When the ribs are done, transfer them to a large, deep serving platter or bowl and cover with foil. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and skim as much fat off the top as you can. (At this point, the sauce can be chilled, which will make it easier to remove the fat, and the ribs refrigerated to serve the next day; reheat the ribs in the sauce before serving.) Adjust the seasoning.
4. To serve, spoon a generous amount of sauce over the ribs to moisten and glaze them. Serve with the cabbage slaw and the rest of the sauce on the side.
Rich Brown Pork Stock
• 4 pounds meaty pork bones and trimmings
• One 1-pound beef shin, with marrow
• 2 medium onions, quartered
• 2 heads garlic, cut horizontally in half
• 2 large leeks, split, thoroughly washed, and cut into
• 6 celery stalks with leaves, cut into chunks
• 3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into chunks
• 4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
• 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
• 12 black peppercorns
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 cups medium-bodied red wine, such as Uruguayan
• About 6 quarts water
1. Heat an horno or the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine the bones, beef shin, vegetables, herbs, and peppercorns in one or two large roasting pans and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning the bones and vegetables occasionally, until well browned.
3. Transfer the contents of the roasting pan to a large stockpot. Pour off any fat from the roasting pan, set over medium-low heat, and deglaze with the red wine, scraping up all the browned flavorful bits stuck to the bottom (or do this with both pans). Add this liquid to the stockpot, along with enough water to cover the solids by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming off the foam as it rises to the top. When foam no longer rises, reduce the heat, add 1 tablespoon salt, and simmer gently for 3 hours, or until most of the meat has fallen off the bones and the liquid is very flavorful. Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.
4. When the bones are cool enough to handle, remove them from the pot. Pull off any remaining attached meat and return it to the stock. Set a large fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the stock through in batches, pressing down hard on the vegetables and meat with a wooden spoon to extract all the flavor. Taste for seasoning and refrigerate. When the stock is cool, skim off the fat. Refrigerate for several days or freeze for up to 2 months.
Red Cabbage and Carrot Slaw
For the vinaigrette:
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• Coarse salt and freshly ground
For the slaw:
• 1 pound carrots
• 1 pound red cabbage, cut into
large wedges and cored
1. Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Grate the carrots and then the cabbage on the coarse side of an old-fashioned box grater into a bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss well to combine. Check the seasoning and serve.
Northern Alabama White Lightning
• 2 cups mayonnaise
• 1 cup white vinegar
• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt or coarse sea
• 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon ground cayenne
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a medium-size bowl. Serve the sauce warm or chilled with poultry. Refrigerate any remaining sauce in a covered container for up to 3 weeks.
Variation: The sauce can be used as the basis of a White Lightning mop, too. Double the quantity of vinegar in that case and add a little water to thin the mixture. Heat the mop before you plan to use it initially and keep it warm over low heat between bastes.
Grilled Mexican Corn on the Cob
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 1 tablespoon lime juice
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 6 ears fresh corn, husks intact
• 1 cup crumbled queso fresco or Cotija cheese
1. For the spread, mix the mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder and salt together. Set aside. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
2. Set the Egg for 450 degrees direct. With the top and bottom vents wide open, light the fire and close the Egg. When the dome temperature gets up to about 250 degrees (about 10 minutes), close the bottom screen. When the dome temperature approaches 450 degrees (about 10 minutes), slide the top of the daisy wheel, leaving it halfway open.
3. Unlike in other corn on the cob recipes, do not open the ear or remove the silk; just cut the exposed silk off the tip of the ear. It isn’t necessary to soak the ears, either; just place them on the grill. Let them cook with the dome closed until the husks are charred, turning frequently, for 7 to 10 minutes. The kernels should give a little when squeezed. Remove from the Egg and let rest for 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Peel back the husks. The silk should release easily. Paint each ear with spiked mayonnaise spread, sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Jalapeño Fried Chicken
Makes 4 servings
Buttermilk marinade is the secret to fried chicken that’s tender and juicy. I’ve suggested boneless breasts here, but don’t hesitate to use any boneless or bone-in chicken parts. At my house, fried chicken always gets served with mashed potatoes and gravy.
• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
about 2 pounds total
• 1 recipe Jalapeño-Buttermilk
Marinade (recipe follows)
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 2 teaspoons Morton’s Kosher Salt
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
• Vegetable oil for frying
1. Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and pound them gently with a meat mallet just until they are an even thickness. Place the breasts in a large, heavy-duty zip-top bag. Pour the marinade over them. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Move the breasts around within the bag so they are well coated with the marinade. Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, occasionally moving the breasts around in the bag to make sure they remain well coated.
2. On a large flat plate, combine the flour, bread crumbs, cornstarch, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and granulated onion. Remove the breasts one at a time from the marinade, shaking off any excess. Dredge the breasts in the flour mixture, coating them well on all sides. Lay each breast on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to rest. Let them rest for 15 minutes.
3. Add enough vegetable oil to a large skillet to reach a depth of a half-inch. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to a temperature of 325 degrees. Two at a time, add the chicken to the hot oil. Cook the chicken for 6 to 7 minutes, until it is golden brown on the bottom. Flip the breasts over and cook them for another 6 to 7 minutes, until they’re golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Transfer them to a clean wire rack to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve the chicken family-style, allowing for one whole breast per person.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 small yellow onion, chopped
• 4 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 2 cups buttermilk
• 2 teaspoons Morton’s Kosher Salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring often until soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a plate to cool.
2. In the pitcher of a blender, combine the buttermilk, salt, pepper and jalapeño mixture. Blend them on high speed for 30 seconds, until well-blended. This may be made up to 12 hours ahead of serving and kept covered in the refrigerator.
Pulled Pork Nachos
If you prefer grated cheese to queso, spread out your chips on a baking sheet, sprinkle with cheese (try pepper jack for a little extra kick), and bake at 350 degrees just until the cheese melts. Then finish with remaining toppings.
• Tortilla chips
• 1 1⁄2 (15 ounces) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
• 2 cups smoked pork, without sauce, warmed (See note)
• 1 cup fresh salsa
• 2⁄3 cup chopped tomatoes
• 2⁄3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• 1⁄2 cup sliced black olives
• 1⁄2 cup minced red onion
• 2 thinly sliced jalapeño peppers
• 1 (12-oz.) container refrigerated queso, warmed
• 4 lime wedges
Layer tortilla chips on a platter; top with beans, warmed pork, salsa, tomatoes, cilantro, olives, onion and jalapeño peppers. Serve with warmed queso and lime wedges.
Note: Instructions for Smoked Pork Butt, recommended for use in this recipe, appear in Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ.