Thanks to the food network and the rise in cooking awareness in general in America the days of the food media using the tired cliché about “going beyond burgers and hot dogs” when describing grilling books are far behind us. People are grilling everything imaginable these days and there seems to be a new grilling cookbook on the shelves every month.
One name that has become synonymous with grilling over the past decade is Steven Raichlen, cookbook author and host of the incredible PBS Series “Primal Grill” and “Barbecue University” Raichlen has authored several great books on grilling and barbecue, including “BBQ USA,” “The Barbeque Bible,” and “How To Grill,” which I would argue is probably the single best book for outdoor cooks, whether just starting out with their first grill or with years of grilling under their belt. The book covers just about every grilling and bbq technique, from low and slow barbecue to high heat searing, Raichlen simplifies techniques yet manages to have recipes that will excite even the most experienced griller’s palate. Of all the cookbooks I have given as gifts over the years, “How To Grill” is the one I have given away the most.
Steven Raichlen’s latest (and maybe best) book is called “Planet BBQ” and it is part travel guide, part history lesson, and part cookbook. It is also a must for anyone who wants to experience the world’s cuisines in their own backyard. The book starts out with an extensive, anthropological look at how barbecue and live fire cooking has shaped cultures across the globe. It then goes into traditional cookbook format with different sections on appetizers, breads, meats, seafood, and even dessert. However in each of these sections Raichlen will profile cooks and live-fire traditions from around the globe as a preface to several of the recipes. Some will seem familiar such as chicken grilled under bricks but others, such as mussels cooked over pine needles are a bit out-of-the-ordinary. The recipes are presented in a straightforward manner, making this book accessible to anyone.
There are similarities to Raichlen’s Barbecue Bible, which was released over a decade ago, which also documents outdoor cooking around the world, but this book is bigger, more comprehensive, and has hundreds of photographs of Raichlen’s travels, techniques, and recipes.
After spending a few days reading through the book I decided to take it for a test drive. I fired up my gas grill and made his fish tacos, using some Tilapia I had on hand. It’s a very simple recipe in which you marinade the fish in either sour orange juice or a 50-50 mixture of orange juice and lime juice for 30 minutes, throw it on a grill (i’d use a grill grate since Tilapia tends to flake apart easily) and baste with Raichlen’s compound butter loaded with garlic and cilantro. Then you break apart the fish and serve it on tortillas with shredded cabbage, sour cream, queso fresco, and one of his salsa recipes or your own favorite (I used a mango salsa recipe from Raichlen’s How To Grill). The tacos were spectacular.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Its one of the most adventurous, comprehensive, and interesting grilling books in recent memory. If you buy one grilling book this season make it Planet Barbecue (last year it was Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue) and you won’t be disappointed.
If you want to taste the food without grilling the recipes yourself, Steven Raichlen will be making a Milwaukee stop on his book tour on Wednesday May 26 at Mr. B’s Steakhouse, 18380 W. Capitol Dr., Brookfield. There will be a lunch and book signing. The event starts at 11:30 AM