Stephen Raichlin’s Planet Barbecue! Beats The Bible
Since The Barbecue! Bible made us grill-savvy, Steven Raichlin keeps on luring us back to the fire. Along with writing five more grilling cookbooks, he has established an empire including tv shows and food products, all without resorting to primadonna antics or shrill salesmanship. Call him the BBQ Mensch.
Planet Barbecue!, Raichlin’s newest book, is officially my favorite. I like it because of the food, and for its humanity. It is so rich in cooking, crammed with writing about cuisines, and larded with portraits and places, that it is equally enjoyable used interactively, for cooking, or viewed read-only.
Raichlin has gathered recipes from every continent, even Antarctica. Many are simple and made with familiar ingredients, like Grilled Bell Pepper and Feta Cheese Dip from Greece, a dish you can make indoors, using a gas flame or the broiler, as well as on an outdoor grill.
The 309 dishes offer many adventures that sound daring but are manageable to make and will please most tastes. Salmon Glazed with Belgian Cherry Beer, aka kreik lambic, a sophisticated brew with complex flavors, is one example.
I also want to sit around a beach fire while lamb chops sizzle on a shovel set over in the embers. A method that kicks campfire cooking up a notch, that this is how Australians cook in the bush, Raichlin explains.
Fiery food porn is also abundant, from Monkey Gland Sauce and Spit-Roasted Ham Hocks to banana leaf-wrapped Malaysian Grilled Fish Mousse and Smoked Ice Cream.
Raichlin, as expected, gives us good techniques in Planet Barbecue!, too. His new, improved method for jerk pork calls for making slits that add area for the seasoning to coat and the smoky heat of the fire to penetrate.
My primary criticism of Planet Barbecue! is pages so crammed with text, sidebars, a color pictures, and maps, that they make my eyeballs ache. It would also be better if an index devoted to the abundant non-recipe content existed.
A benefit of the floppy weight of this comprehensive tome, arguably the definitive encyclopedia for cooking with fire, is that set by the grill, it will stay put in anything short of a monsoon.
Salmon Glazed With Belgian Cherry Beer
Cherry beer, kriek lambic, has complex flavor that is grill-friendly. Here it is used to give salmon teriyaki an new twist. Besides Belgian brands, several American breweries are now brewing this tart brew, too.
1 bottle, about 1 1 /2 cups) kreik lambic beer
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin, sake , or cream sherry
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 strips orange zest, each 1/2-inch x 2-inches
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 /4-inch slice fresh ginger, smashed with side of a cleaver
1 scallion, white part smashed with side of a cleaver, green finely chopped
4 (6-8 ounce) skinless salmon filets or 1-inch thick salmon steaks, preferably wild
1. Place kriek lambic, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, zest, garlic, ginger, and scallion white in a large saucepan over high heat and boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Continue boiling until marinade is reduced by one-third and resembles maple syrup, 6-8 minutes, stirring often. Cool the marinade in the pan to room temperature.
2. Use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to pull out any pin bones in the salmon. Place salmon in non-reactive baking dish just large enough to hold the fish in one layer. Pour on the cooled marinade and marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 t0 2 hours.
3. Transfer the salmon to a plate. Strain the marinade into a saucepan and discard the solids. Boil the marinade over high heat until it is reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes, and set aside.
4. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Before cooking, oil the grill grate.
5. Set fish on the hot grate at a diagonal to the bars. Grill until the salmon is nicely browned on the outside and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes for medium. It should break into firm flakes when pressed with a finger. If desired, rotate the salmon 90 degrees after 1 1/2 to 2 minutes to create cross-hatched grill marks. Start basting the fish with the marinade glaze after 2 minutes, basking both sides.
6. Transfer the grilled salmon to a plates or a platter. Spoon any remaining marinade on top. Garnish with the scallion greens and serve immediately.
Adapted from Steven Raichlin’s Planet Barbecue!