Friday, November 28, 2008

Interviews: Chef Richard McPeake

Chef Richard McPeake is the author of 'Backyard BBQ: The Art of Smokeology' and the creator of the Rib Stars series of BBQ rubs. He is also an avid BBQ competitor with his rubs winning numerous prestigious contests. In addition to his other concerns, Chef McPeake conducts over 90 Smoking and Grilling seminars a year.

Chef McPeake was kind enough to agree to be interviewed for the Home of BBQ.

When did you first become interested in cooking?

I started in the restaurant business when I was 14 in Wisconsin. Started cooking almost immediately (after I mastered pot washing)

What inspired that interest?

Actually needed to get a job, and I just liked cooking. My mother was a chef in a restaurant I used to hang out in the kitchen.

Who has been your biggest influence on your cooking?

My mom and a Gentleman named Dan Durick, Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America.

How did your interest in cooking become more specialized and move into BBQ?

Actually, we had a chain of BBQ restaurants at Gilbert Robinson (KC based company) during the 80's called Sam Wilson' meat market, they were huge BBQ restaurant with awesome food. Bradley Ogden was a cook at one of them.

When did you decide that a hobby would become a business venture?

I didn't it just happened. Today, I own a Rib Line (3 each), have three cookbooks and 16 different classes, besides my current chef job. I have traveled all over promoting BBQ.

What separates RibStars rubs from the other products on the market?

I did a different flavor profile for each meat and they are one of the first is not the frist to be MSG free. I also use my bottled rubs in BBQ contest as is. They are also lower in sodium than most, which I thing is important.

Can you discuss the process of writing 'Backyard BBQ'?

I author and publish my books, which allows me to control what I want to achieve. I did a lot of testing on the recipes. A lot of the recipes are from some of my classes. The biggest thing I am proud of is that ALL the recipes are my own, I do not use anyone else's recipes. I have self tested each one. I hired a printing company in Michigan and a local graphic artist for my new covers.

Without the internet and some very good friends in the book business I would not have been able to get my books done.

Backyard BBQ, was a BIG labor of love, and currently has been on the Best Seller list of for BBQ books for the past 28 months, which has just been unbelievable.
It takes up a lot of my time, since I ship out all the books on my own. I am coming out with a NEW fourth book in early 09, which will be a combination BBQ book on grilling and smoking, with all the info and recipes from all 16 different classes and new info I have been doing over the past four years.

What is it about BBQ that has captured your imagination and driven your passion?

I like the fact that it gets me away front he stress of work and I meet all kinds of new people and friends from all over the country. Teaching has been my love for a long time, I learn as much from the students as I do teaching them new things. Teaching some new about how to improve their BBQ and then having them tell me later how great their BBQ is now, is the best reward of all.

If you were speaking with someone from a completely different culture, what would you want them to know about BBQ?

That it is about a passion of love for food, I am proud that BBQ has become a known cuisine of America. I also, would tell how BBQ is one the one of the cooking process that people can really create their unique own flavors.

You are involved in different aspects of BBQ. Through discussions with the public and your book 'Backyard BBQ', you are an ambassador for the hobby. With your rubs, you provide assistance to those trying to make the best 'Q possible. You engage in competition where you pit your 'Q against your peers. What aspect of BBQ appeals to you the most?

I love to teach and promote BBQ. The competition part is we me mostly about seeing old friends and relaxing. I love the fact that through all our hard work (BBQers and the American Culinary Federation, we have achieve BBQ as a American food all around the world. There are Chefs from all over the world wanting to learn from us how to do good and proper BBQ. That is why at the Central Region Culinary Conference we featured it in Kansas City and did the whole three conference on KC BBQ, with a contest, tastings and demos.

Do you have a traditional or favorite meal? Something that you have on regular, special occasions such as a birthday or Fourth of July?

I love to do Cedar Planked whole sides of Salmon, topped with a Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, with a little bit of my Hot Rib Rub! (Needed to get that one in, lol!)

What is your favorite BBQ side dish?

Cheesey Potato Casserole and Creamed Cheddar Corn

Do you have any hobbies outside of BBQ? Have those hobbies influenced your BBQ?

I spend time with my camera shooting images of bugs, specially spiders, I also, check out the planets with my telescope as much as I can. Yes, they have made me appreciate the quiet, dark nights of BBQ when I am at a contest. There is a lot to see on a perfect night.

What is your favorite drink?

Dr. Pepper

If you were stranded on a deserted island and you could have any four books and one grill or smoker with you, what would you choose?

Cuban Cooking Cookbook, Island Cooking Hawaiian Style, Rachael Ray's 30 minute Meals Cook Book and any book by Cat Cora. (I already know by heart what is in mine! lol) I would only want a Good-One smoker, since you can smoke, roast, grill and bake on or in it.

What would you like our readers to know about you personally?

That I love to promote and teach people how to make better BBQ whether it be smoked or grilled. That is why I was awarded the American Culinary Federations President's Gold Medal Award for teaching and promoting BBQ. Let's all remember to love and enjoy what we do and always pay your knowledge forward.

We appreciate Chef McPeake taking the time away from his busy schedule to speak with us. Backyard BBQ: The Art of Smokeology can be purchased from, Hawgeye BBQ, Smoke N Fire (web site and store), Culinary Center of Kansas City and the Backyard Bash BBQ Store in Parkville, MO.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Review: Smoky Mtn. Sweet and Spicy

Smoky Mountain Beef Jerky

Manufacturer: Magnolia Jerky

Flavor: Sweet and Spicy

Weight: Four Ounces


Flavor: 4

Aroma: 4

Texture: 3.5

Appearance: 3.5

Packaging: 3

Ratings range from 1 to 5

It seems that Magnolia Jerky makes both the Smoky Mountain and Jay’s Jerky brands of jerky. I have only tried the Smoky Mountain version. The jerky comes in a transparent plastic bag that is roughly 6” by 4”. The label on the bag has a basic, rustic appeal Although the bag lacks the sleek and dynamic coloring of large, corporate jerky products, it allows you to actually see the product that you will be purchasing and eating.

Repeated from our review of their Cajun flavor

This is our third review of a Smoky Mountain Jerky product. One thing has become abundantly clear, they believe in truth in advertising. Each of the names for the specific flavors are very accurate descriptors. The Cajun offers hints of Louisiana and the Sweet and Spicy hits and scores on both accounts.

It should be noted that the heat is fairly intense. For me, it’s fantastic. For some relatives and friends, it would be near inedible (or at the least, they would need to enjoy the jerky in extreme moderation).

The aroma is very pleasing and is strong enough to be enjoyed without being overpowering. Hints of the heat are more prevalent than those of the sweetness.

The jerky strikes a precarious balance between the heat and the spice. Neither outweighs the other. The flavors are enjoyable when you attempt to isolate them but they also work extremely well together. The ‘Flavor’ score above would have been higher if the intensity of the sweetness and the heat allowed more of the natural flavor of the meat to shine through.

This jerky is another winner and I highly recommend it.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Recipes: Cornbread Jalapeno Stuffing

We hope that everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

For those of you out there that like a bit of a kick in your food, here is a recipe for a jacked up stuffing.

Jalapeño Cornbread Stuffing

8 cups of broken up cornbread

3 links garlic sausage (removed from skin)

1 cup onion, chopped fine

1 cup celery, chopped

4 jalapeno peppers (seeded and chopped)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ancho pepper

1 cup craisins

1 egg (beaten)

2 cups chicken broth

Break up and brown sausage.

Drain and add onions and jalapeño. Cook for roughly five minutes or until onions are translucent.

Add celery, cook for another three minutes.

Place cornbread in a large bowl. Add sausage/onion/celery/pepper mix. Add spices. Add egg. Add craisins. Mix thoroughly. Add enough broth to keep moist.

Place in greased baking dish. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until a crust has formed and stuffing is fully cooked.


Use Meyer’s Elgin Garlic Sausage. (delicious)

Mix in a sugary corn based cereal to add sweetness.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Review: Smoky Mt. Cracked Black Pepper Jerky

Smoky Mountain Beef Jerky

Manufacturer: Magnolia Jerky

Flavor: Cracked Black Pepper

Weight: Four Ounces


Flavor: 4.5

Aroma: 3

Texture: 4

Appearance: 3.5

Packaging: 3

Ratings range from 1 to 5

It seems that Magnolia Jerky makes both the Smoky Mountain and Jay’s Jerky brands of jerky. I have only tried the Smoky Mountain version. The jerky comes in a transparent plastic bag that is roughly 6” by 4”. The label on the bag has a basic, rustic appeal Although the bag lacks the sleek and dynamic coloring of large, corporate jerky products, it allows you to actually see the product that you will be purchasing and eating.

Repeated from our review of their Cajun flavor

The aroma is significantly less pronounced than that of the Cajun and Sweet and Spicy versions. The soy sauce and Worcestershire seem to dominate, with just a few hints of the black pepper. Although it is enjoyable, the aroma is more subdued than I was expecting.

Of the Smoky Mountain Jerky’s that I have tried so far, the Cracked Black Pepper variant offers the most distinct and ‘clean’ flavor. The predominant flavors are the soy that seems to permeate the meat and the pepper that seems to be layered on top of the meat. The pepper is almost used as a rub or dusting and practically sizzles when eaten. The heat is considerably less then that in their spicier versions, but it is a more separated flavor that isn’t integrated into the whole of the jerky. And oddly, that’s a good thing.

I keep waiting for the Smoky Mountain product that disappoints. There are very, very few product lines that maintain quality levels across the board. Grandville’s Gourmet Sauces is one. It looks like Smoky Mountain may be another.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review: Arizona Honey Raspberry Habenero

Chef Matt’s Arizona Honey Habanero Raspberry

Manufacturer Chef Matt LLC

Quality *** (3.5 out of 5)
Aroma **** (4 out of 5)

Appearance **** (4 out of 5)

Packaging **** (4 out of 5)

Viscosity *** (3 out 5) ‘Viscosity’ is NOT a measure of quality. It is how thick the sauce is (1 watery, 5 very thick).

Is merely being different a positive? When I started these reviews I didn’t think so. My opinion continues to sway, inch by inch, with every new review. So many sauces out there offer such slight variations to the standard KC style that I have almost become grateful when I find something new and original to try. It becomes increasingly difficult to not give special consideration and a bit of an extra boost in the ‘quality’ area of the review for sauces that are a bit out of the mainstream when 9 out of 10 sauces are so close to being identical that they could be made by the same manufacturer.

I sat and pondered that for a while when I was tasting this sauce. I think that I may have developed another problem in that I have given them a 3.5 in quality when a 4 may be more reasonable. Am I now guarding against subjectivity due to personal taste too fiercely? More importantly, why am I putting this much thought into BBQ sauce?

Let’s leave it at this; Chef Matt’s sauce is at least a 3.5.

A thin bottle (but with thick glass) holds 14 oz of this very original sauce. The label has a yellow background with a caricature of a bee flying around holding a habanera pepper. The label is a bit folksy, but it works.

Putting the sauce up to your nose the first thing that you pick up is the beer. The aroma mixes well with the ketchup and spices. Getting the sauce from the bottle isn’t a problem. It pours easily and finds a middle ground between too thick and watery. Holding the sauce on the meat isn’t a problem. It adheres well while sliding just enough to coat the medium.

The sauce is a light red with black specks. It’s an attractive looking sauce that helps to separate it visually from other sauces on the market. This isn’t a product that touts itself as being all natural, but it shares some of the same quality of those sauces. The flavor lacks artificiality and the coloring doesn’t have the unnatural red vibrancy that you see all too often.

The flavor of the sauce is much more mild than what I was expecting. With a word like habanero in the title I expected significantly more kick in the sauce. While I was surprised, I wasn’t disappointed. The raspberry, beer, honey and habenero make for a potent combination. The flavors blend well and provide a pretty unique profile. This is the sauce that should have been made instead of the recent spate of products that license a major brewery’s name and then proceed to make a tasteless and lifeless sauce.

This sauce would go well with pretty much any meat and is mild enough to be enjoyed on fowl.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Ramblings: KCBS Election Questions

The Kansas City BBQ Society is currently holding its annual elections for the Board of Directors. The nominees are asked to fill out a standard questionnaire that the KCBS uses to provide its membership with some background on the candidates.

The Home of BBQ would be happy to make space available for any of the candidates that are interested in making the public aware of their platforms.

On December 12th we will be announcing who we endorse for the KCBS Board of Directors.

The following are the questions from the KCBS and the answers from candidate Merl Whitebook.

1. Please describe the skills you possess (which you believe are stronger than the other candidates) which would make you an asset as a board member, in dealing with the challenges facing KCBS, and give an example of how those skills would serve the KCBS board of Directors and its membership.

I have had the privilege of serving the membership of KCBS as a member of the Board of Directors of Kansas City Barbeque Society for the past three years. Some of the most important accomplishments of my term have been:

1. Open Board meeting where members may attend

2. Providing the members of KCBS with an opportunity to address the Board on issues of


3. Posting of the agenda for the Board of Director meetings.

4. Quick notes from the Board Room.

5. Created definitions on Judging Slips which has improved judging consistency.

6. Initiated trail program of the Cook’s Comment Cards.

I have practiced Law for the past thirty years and served on many non profit boards. I bring my skills, expertise and experiences to the new opportunities which are presented to the KCBS Board of Directors. In addition, during the past three years, I have had the opportunity to assist in the revisions of most of the written materials KCBS utilizes in sanctioning contest. Working with other members of the Board of Directors, our mutual expertise has established KCBS as America’s BBQ Experts.

2. If you are a Cook, Judge, Rep or Backyard Cook, please identify the major KCBS issues concerning, one of areas in which you are involved. Describe the major issue, your strategies to correct or improve the issue, and what you see as the biggest challenge to the success of your plan.

Carol and I cook together as Team Potentially Hazardous BBQ, I am a Contest Representative, a CBJ Instructor and a CBJ. I believe there are major issues facing each of these positions. I believe the most important is training in order to provide consistent, contest administration and judging. KCBS began continuing Contest Rep training, which has improved contest administration. But we cannot have DQ’s for reasons which do not exist. The acronym KCBS Contest Rep needs to be synonymous with customer service.

The use of the Judging Slips with definitions has narrowed the issue of inconsistent judging. We must take the next step of instituting continuing education for CBJ’s through on-line information and training for our CBJ’s. I believe I have the skills to make these statements a reality.

3. Identify your major short term goal and the major long term goal, if elected to the Board of KCBS and your plan to implement change or improvement in order to carry out each of these goals.

My short term goal is member communication and member benefit. KCBS must extend communications with the members. I am proud that we now produce Quick Notes from the Board Room and publish detailed minutes in the Bullsheet. We must insist that a “member only” section be provided on the KCBS web site with useful and up to date materials including the publishing of the KBCS By-Laws through our web site. KCBS needs to become transparent.

Our economic times will require us to be more proactive in training and insuring successful events. Two years ago we promised Organizer materials and packets, which include guide, ideas, press packets and materials to assist the organizer. The board must continue to work with the Marketing Committee to make this a reality for every organizer. We must become supportive and help insure the success of every contest, old and new.

My long term goals are to expand competitive opportunities; Provide access to members to participate or monitor Board meeting by telephone, (not only in person in Kansas City) and to provide a binding budget to operate KCBS.

First, we should expand our expertise to provide competitive opportunities for all types of BBQ Contests from our 4 meat contests, grilling contests, to iron chef and beyond. We should explore the opportunity to conduct all kinds of contests which will allow our cooks and judges to use their best creative and culinary skills to achieve excellence.

Second, I will once again try to establish a method to allow our Members to call in to Board meeting. Almost every national organization has this capability. Our conference system will allow this. We must change the mindset of our current Board and become a transparent organization to our membership.

Third, as an organization, KCBS has been blessed with great economic return. However we are spending more cash than we earned. We must establish a binding budget and operate under budgetary controls and constraints. We must be prepared for the future economic times. (In addition our financial position should be published in the Bullsheet, at least semi annually.)

4. If elected please explain “you level of commitment, time and energy” for committee projects and monthly reports, board meetings and attendance, as well as representing KCBS to the public and being responsive to our members.

I would not ask for your vote, if I was not prepared to continue to give my best efforts. In the past three years, I have prepared written reports as to my committee assignment progress each month. I have traveled to Kansas City approximately 7 or 8 times each year for important meetings and have not missed a Board of Directors meeting. The minutes of KCBS do not have my name with a “no report” next to it. I am proud to have established the publishing of the Board agenda, and the Quick Notes from the Board Room in order to bring a quick update of the business of KCBS within 48 hours of the Board meetings. The Minutes now allow the members to truly understand the issues and business of KCBS. Our next objective. Raise the bar for all forms of BBQ competition.

At every contest, meeting or BBQ event, I make a great effort to meet every cook team and their members, CBJ or BBQ enthusiast, not only to provide customer service, but to gain new friendships, relationship with the public and the KCBS family and to hear and address their concerns.

Serving on the Board of Directors required a great deal of time each month. Each candidate must be prepared to make this commitment I was truly surprised at the level of commitment required when you elected me three years ago.

5. Please describe your participation in KCBS activities and years of experience.

I have been a member of the Board of Directors for the previous three years. I have tried to be responsive to every member of KCBS. I am a Contest Representative, where, I have been in a position to provide customer service to the participating cook teams, and help improve the quality of the competitions by working with organizers. I am a CBJ instructor, where we strive to provide the best training possible of new contest judges. While I love all the opportunities provided to me by my experiences with KCBS, the highlight has to be when we created our own competition cooking team: “Team Potentially Hazardous BBQ.”

6. Please explain why you want to be a member of the KCBS Board.

I have a great desire to use my skills to facilitate the Board of Directors to lead this incredible organization. My experiences and training allow me to make a difference, in an organization with great opportunities as well as a great history.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ramblings: Battle of the BBQ Brethren pt 2

Here is part two of the video for the Battle of the BBQ Brethren, a NY State Championship. The video is mostly from day two (Grilling). The event was presented by the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce.

I would like to extend my personal thanks to Devan Saber for the creation of the video and for the assistance of Allison Saber, Ashton Saber and Taylor Keenan.

The awards ceremony shown was for the Grilling. The BBQ awards were presented on the main stage, but unfortunately were not taped.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

REVIEW: Smoky Mountain Cajun Jerky

Smoky Mountain Beef Jerky

Manufacturer: Magnolia Jerky

Flavor: Cajun

Weight: Four Ounces


Flavor: 4.5

Aroma: 5

Texture: 3.5

Appearance: 3.5

Packaging: 3

Ratings range from 1 to 5

This is our first review of a beef jerky. Until recently, jerky was something that I would eat once a year at most. My experience to date has been almost exclusively with commercial, mass produced jerky. I believe that this fostered an expectation that was a bit misleading. Trying what I call ‘small batch’ jerky has been a revelation. The aroma and flavoring so far has been vastly superior to that of the large manufacturers.

It seems that Magnolia Jerky makes both the Smoky Mountain and Jay’s Jerky brands of jerky. I have only tried the Smoky Mountain version. The jerky comes in a transparent plastic bag that is roughly 6” by 4”. The label on the bag has a basic, rustic appeal Although the bag lacks the sleek and dynamic coloring of large, corporate jerky products, it allows you to actually see the product that you will be purchasing and eating.

I’m not sure if Smoky Mountain jerky is available in stores, but you can visit their website and order from there. While visiting the site, you will notice the huge variety of flavors. There is some overlapping, such as the Jay’s Jerky Teriyaki flavor on the same page as the Teriyaki for Smoky Mountain and I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

Now that we’ve discussed what I’m not sure of, let’s go into what is rock solid. This jerky kicks butt. The aroma isn’t overpowering, but if you take the time to smell the jerky, you will pick up hints of everything that is to come in the taste. The spices, the meat, the sweet and the savory all combine to offer a wonderful bouquet.

The texture is a bit rough, but we are talking about jerky here. This beef in this particular flavor was sliced fairly thin, which made the meat easier to render. I could imagine that the texture might be a small problem if the jerky were thicker. Regardless, any difficulties in chewing or ripping apart the jerky would be minimized by the delicious flavor.

It seems that one of the benefits of the process in which jerky is made is that the flavor is redolent in every bit. Smoky Mountain’s Cajun flavor offers a nice heat that doesn’t subdue the spices, such as soy, garlic, onion and pepper. The heat lingers for quite a bit while the other flavors recede. There is no MSG in the product, in spite of the soy flavoring and there is no strong salt presence that is predominant in some mass produced jerky.

If you are looking for a flavorful snack this is the product for you. It would be especially recommended for those looking for snacks that are low in carbs.

(image pictured is of the jalapeño variety)


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Monday, November 10, 2008

Interview: Linda Mullane - KCBS Election

Linda Mullane is on the Board of Directors for the Kansas City BBQ Society. With the impending KCBS elections, we thought that we should ask Linda how the process works. She was kind enough to supply us with answers to our questions.

As a side note, Linda is NOT up for reelection this year and is therefore not running.

Q. If I’m a prospective member of the KCBS, when would I need to join by in order to be able to vote?

A. December 16th, by 11:59 PM.

Q. How are members notified who the candidates are?

A. The candidates are listed on the KCBS.US website

Q. How many candidates are there and how many positions are open?

A. We currently have 6 candidates with 4 positions.

Q. How many of the candidates are people who are running for reelection?

A. 3 of the candidates are running for re-election, Don Harwell, Wayne Lohman and Merl Whitebook. Troy Black has elected not to seek re-election

Q. What is the process for casting votes for the candidates?

A. Voting will be done online as it was in the past, Members will receive an email on Jan

2 with instructions on voting. Paper ballots are also available through the KCBS office.

Q. How can the membership find out what the positions of a candidate are?

A. The questionnaire that was sent to all of the candidates will be posted on the KCBS website and in the Bullsheet in December.

Q. If a member would like to contact a candidate for clarification of their positions, how would they go about it?

A. Most of the questionnaires I have seen have contact information on them. Any of the current board members can be contacted through the KCBS emails listed on the KCBS website.

Q. Once the ballots are cast, when will the winners be announced?

A. Online voting begins Jan 2nd and runs until Midnight Jan 16th. The results will be announced LIVE at the Annual Banquet in Nashville TN on Jan 24th.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Recipe: Jerky

Making Jerky

Smoked jerky can be a surprisingly versatile snack and a great way to make use of your smoker. Depending on rubs and marinades (mostly the marinades) used, you can impart flavors such as sweet and sour, teriyaki, Hawaiian fruit, chipotle and smoke (obviously).

The basics are to set your smoker to 150 and prepare to keep it at the temperature for a long time. The aromatics that you use are important, but only for the first few hours. Cherry and other fairly mild fruit woods are recommended, as mesquite will often be too harsh for the meat.

Lean meats are needed for making jerky and even those should be trimmed as much as possible. Lean beef, bison and venison make the best jerky. After cutting the meat into ¼ inch strips, marinate it in your favorite flavor base for up to 24 hours.

The time for smoking will vary depending on the type of meat used and the humidity. A minimum of 12 hours would be a reasonable expectation and 24 hours isn’t unheard of. Like most new ventures, experimentation is the best guide.

There are plenty of excellent sources offering guidelines on the net. Check them out for suggestions on marinades, meat selection and smoking time frames.

Suggested Resources:

Derrick Riches, BBQ guru of

A site with numerous recipes

Venison Jerky resource:

If a 24 hour time investment in jerky isn’t your thing, the Home of BBQ will be reviewing a number of commercial Jerky’s in the upcoming weeks. All will be available via mail order


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ramblings: Behind the Scenes with Ray Lampe

We have been fortunate enough to interview Ray 'Dr. BBQ' Lampe in the past (click here for interview). Ray is a competitor, lecturer, teacher, author and pitmaster for Southern Hospitality in Manhattan.

We have reviewed a number of Ray's books and I'm sure that we will review more as they are published.

Ray was the subject of a video on Cooking Up A Story entitled: Living Life as Dr. BBQ

I hope that you enjoy the 5 minute glimpse into the life of a BBQ professional.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Review: Take This Dish and Twist It

Take This Dish and Twist It

Author: George Duran

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pop Cuisine Publishing

MSRP: $19.95

They say that there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Take This Dish and Twist It goes a long way towards furthering that belief. This book is replete with examples of a completely insane recipe being followed almost immediately by one that is pure ingenuity. The scary thing is that both the insane and ingenious look like they work. Both the bizarre and the original appear to be ‘doable’ for the average home cook and well worth the effort.

Half the time you are thinking ‘what crazed mind came up with this’ and the rest of the time you are enjoying the culinary twists and turns that seem to stem from a superior knowledge base that has met a strong creative influence. In the example of George Duran’s cookbook, insanity and genius are not mutually exclusive and they are both delicious.

If you are a fan of George’s show Ham on the Street on the Food Network, you will be pleased to hear that this book captures the same joi de vivre that was evident there. The whimsy paired with a true culinary passion makes for a potent combination. You can sit down and read this book cover to cover and be entertained all the way through. You will hopefully learn something about cooking (including out of the box flavor pairings) and you will certainly learn about George (this is a man that truly loves bacon).

We have reviewed a number of books here that were quality efforts, but presented themselves as something other than what they were. Their review suffered because of that. You have no need to fear that Take This Dish and Twist It offers a similar problem. Looking at the cover and reading the title tells you exactly what you need to know. If you are looking for creative takes on old standards and just some plain bizarreness that would have never entered your mind, this is the book for you.

I have a slight problem with the recipe for the Rosemary-Lemon Baby Back Ribs. They are not advertised as BBQ, so I can’t complain too much, but a brief discussion about banking coals or a smoke pouch would have ameliorated the queasiness of BBQ fans reading about grilled ribs. I have to admit that I’m also having a hard time getting over the broccoli in the chili recipe. With those two minor caveats, this book is a clear winner. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed Take This Dish and Twist It far more than most of the pure BBQ cookbooks I have reviewed, and those are clearly in my wheelhouse.

A few of my favorites:

Honey banana breakfast cereal pops

Pepperoni pizza soup

Coffee marshmallow crispy treats

Bleu cheese bacon burgers

Granny apple salsa

and the entire grilling section

The book features beautiful pictures that capture both the aesthetics of the food and the character of the book. Most recipes offer a suggested list of things that can be added on or substituted. You will also find tips from George on cool gadgets (I love the brownie pan with extra corners so everyone gets a brownie from the edge) and techniques.

I know that it may seem anachronistic, but my sister hosts an annual holiday caroling party. Along with the obligatory hot chocolate, there are appetizers, desserts, and main dishes. I usually prepare a few things for the party. This year I’m thinking about going whole hog and preparing ‘DuranaPallooza’, using all recipes from Take This Dish and Twist It.

And let’s face it, how can I not recommend a cookbook that has a section devoted to hotdogs?

You can find sample recipes and more at