Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Review: Texas Cook Book


Texas Cook Book


By: Unknown

Pages: 94

Publisher: Golden West Publishers

Website: www.goldenwestpublishers.com


Texas Cook Book is a small, spiral bound compilation of recipes that is part of Golden West Publishers ‘Cooking Across America’ series. There is no author listed for the book, but there are numerous attributions for individual recipes. Although it’s not spelled out, it seems that the recipes are culled from other sources, such as reader submissions or from organizations (such as the Texas Pecan Growers Association).


There is a certain peril in assuming that this is going to be similar to other cookbooks that are written by acknowledged experts in their field. There is no uniform style here. The level of writing, themes and quality of the recipes can vary wildly. Some recipes were extremely original and innovative, and others seemed vaguely anachronistic.


There is a colloquial feel that permeates the book. Although it isn’t as refined as other cook books that delve into the same topic matter, the book leaves the impression of sharing with the reader what actual Texans eat. I would imagine that if you had a giant pot-luck dinner in the center of Texas and invited friends from throughout the state, the food offered would be a close analogue to what is found in this book. That being the case, I consider Texas Cook Book to be a success.


The book retails for $9.95 and would be a perfect fit for outlets such as tourist attractions and roadside stops in Texas. There are about 1.5 recipes per page and they run the gamut of breakfast to desserts. There is significant BBQ section. Also of particular interest to our readers would be the chili section and the various side dish recipes.


As long as you know what you are purchasing, there is value to be found here. If getting a glimpse into what the average family in another part of the country is of interest to you, this book is for you.


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Monday, April 27, 2009

Ramblings: Book Reviews

Book Reviews


Most of the book reviews on the Home of BBQ have been for large and often lavish cookbooks or books about the culture of BBQ. There is another style of book out there that deserves attention. Small ‘chapbooks’ that don’t have the same level of presentation, but have a considerably lower price point are common enough to warrant commentary.


Do these books strike a balance that makes them worthwhile? Are the potential savings worth the sacrifice of size, depth, visuals and gloss?


Although most books of limited size and expense are geared towards the novice, we are going to try to review them as objectively as possible. Our next five books reviewed will all cost under $14.00 and will be less than a hundred pages in length. Three of the five will not have a listed author and all will be currently in print. Two will be by a BBQ legend and have just been released.


The question at hand is will these be books be of use to anyone, and if they are what segment of the BBQ population will find them useful.


Look for the first review in two days.


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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ramblings: ABC's Wife Swap

Wife Swap Looking for BBQ Families


Would you be interested in appearing on ABC’s Wife Swap?


They are looking for a family that is seriously into competition BBQ to appear on an upcoming episode. The participating family will make $20,000.00 if the episode makes it to air.


Here is the official blurb:


CASTING SEARCH:

BBQ Cooking Competitors/Enthusiasts!


Casting Directors for ABC TV’s hit reality show, “Wife Swap,” are now conducting national searches for fun, dynamic, outgoing and interesting families to star on Season 5 of “Wife Swap”.


· Do you or all of your family members BBQ competitively?

· Would you like to share your passion for BBQ-ing with another family?

· Would you be excited about the chance to change the life of a deserving family or improve your own?

· Interested families must have children living at home between the ages of 7 and 17 (you can have older and younger kids but you must have at least one child in the required age range)


If you would like to apply, send me your contact info and I’ll pass it along to the producer.

You can send the information to: info@homeofbbq.com


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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que



Dinosaur Bar-B-Que:

An American Roadhouse


By: John Stage& Nancy Radke

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

192 pages


I don’t think I’ve ever read a more aptly titled book. Everything about this book screams ‘roadhouse’. The recipes are certainly BBQ-centric, but they are also eclectic. Striking a precarious balance between general recipes and those traditionally found in a BBQ cookbook, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a refreshing break from the standard tropes found in similar books.


Dinosaur Bar-B-Que avoids a common problem of just being a resource. Many books are technically excellent but offer little inspiration or amusement. This book rings true with the voice of the restaurants that are its inspiration. Spread throughout the book are the lavatorial tidbits of wisdom that have been culled from the restroom walls at the restaurant. The beautiful and lush photos of the restaurant and food are supplemented by the images of various tattoos. John Stage eloquently tells his tale of how a background in Italian cooking morphed into a becoming an established and respected pitmaster.


Cookbooks not only have to balance the recipes to ensure that they are true to the theme, but they need to employ culinary quality control. It would be a shame, but not surprising if the recipes didn’t live up to the colloquial flavor of the book. Thankfully, that’s not a problem. The recipes are rock solid and offer a variety that isn’t seen other BBQ related books of a comparable size.


This book provides a nice synergy for Stage, as it has piqued my interest in visiting the restaurant as much as it has driven me to try out some of the recipes. This book is a winner and I look forward to using it again and again.


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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Review: Old Canal Sweet & Spicy

Sweet & Spicy

Manufacturer Old Canal Smokehouse
Website www. oldcanalsmokehouse.com


Quality ** (2 out of 5)
Viscosity *** (3 out of 5) This is a measure of thickness, not quality
Aroma ** (2.5 out of 5)

Appearance *** (3 out of 5)

Packaging ** (2.5 out of 5)


Did you ever see someone that is so non-descript that they fade into invisibility? Five minutes after meeting them you couldn’t describe them? That’s this sauce in a nutshell. There is nothing seriously wrong with the sauce, but there is certainly nothing right with it either.


Let’s take a break from our standard review format, shall we?


The Good:


The sauce comes in a strong, thick, 19.5oz bottle. Certainly more than the usual bottle of sauce.


The label is accurate. The sauce is both sweet and spicy. So, a plus for accuracy.


The spice is genuinely enjoyable. It is definitely the best aspect of this sauce. There is no particular heat, but there is certainly a little ‘sizzle’ that sits just behind the experience of the flavor. If the sauce was milder, the spice would be even better.


The ingredients are of varying size, allowing for different and enjoyable textures.


The Bad:


The labeling is ok. Nothing really stands out about it, good or bad. It’s a mixture of tans and shades of brown.


The aroma is almost exactly what you would expect. Sweet, heavy ketchup overtones with a strong dash of vinegar that makes you immediately think ‘here is a store bought sauce’.


The viscosity is fine. It finds a nice medium between pooling and runny. It sticks to the meat (or poultry in this case) well, while ‘floating’ enough to coat properly.


The molasses is nice, but is overshadowed by the ketchup.


The Ugly:


Jumpin Jehosaphat, this is a sweet sauce. And not in that ‘…mmmmm…is that raspberries I detect?’ sort of way. It’s more like the ‘let’s stop at the drugstore and get a toothbrush on the way home so I can scrub this treacly sweetness out of my mouth’ sort of way.


Here is a tip for sauce manufacturers. If you are going to use corn syrup and are deciding whether you should go strong or mild on the sweetness, go mild. When you are making a bold statement with your sweetness, use quality ingredients. If you are using ketchup that is heavy in the corn syrup, cut the ketchup with tomato sauce.


Overall, this sauce is not bad and not good. I’d say it was a bit below average. Will I be using it again? Nope.


General Notes:

I do the majority of the sauce analysis on this site. I have often been assisted by Will Breakstone of Willie B’s Award Winning BBQ (pitmaster, competitor and caterer). The foods used with the sauces are usually brisket, pulled pork and chicken. On occasion, other foods will be used if recommended by the manufacturer (ex. burgers, fries, meatloaf, etc.).


Most of the food used for the reviews is cooked on a Weber Smoky Mountain or a Lang 84. The basic BBQ accoutrements (such as tool sets, chimney starters, etc.) are by Weber. Knives are by Mercer Cutlery. Fuel is either a cherry/oak mix or whatever charcoal I’m in the mood for.


www.weber.com

www.pigroast.com

www.mercercutlery.com


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Monday, April 6, 2009

Review: Smoke & Spice



Smoke & Spice


By: Cheryl and Bill Jamison

Pages: 482

Publisher: The Harvard Common Press


Smoke & Spice is sitting on the table in front of me and it is only a bit smaller than RSV Bible that occupied its place a little while ago. Don’t read anything into that. Just a commentary on the size of the book. This is a hefty book. If value for your dollar is a concern, rest assured that you are getting your money’s worth.


This is one of the ‘standards’ in the industry. Book sales for Smoke & Spice is nearing a million copies, and the reasons why are evident. Although enthusiasts of any skill level will enjoy the book, the authors take pains to ensure that they aren’t ‘talking past’ those new to the hobby. The first 15 pages are dedicated to introducing the basics of BBQ. Temperatures, equipment and fuels are all covered.


The rest of the book is divided into sections that handle everything that you would expect and a few things that you wouldn’t. Following the anticipated rubs, pork, fowl and other stand-by’s are recipes and discussions of side dishes, drinks and vegetables. The Jamison’s even devote a significant page count to (brace yourself) salads.


The style of the book ranges from the common to the decidedly uncommon. Basic rubs are found in the same book as Smoked Trout on Apple Slices. 174 pages separate hot dogs from Smoked Duck Pizza. As voluminous as this book as, there is something for everyone without the reader having to worry about a lack of depth.


Smoke & Spice avoids being a dry collection of recipes by including brief (usually under a hundred words) snippets related to the subject at hand. Whether informative in nature or more anecdotal, these side entries help to liven up the book. Also found throughout the book are brief tips, such as how to avoid burning of sauces and ingredient substitutions.


This is an excellent book that I categorize as a ‘resource’. There is a reason for its success. Regardless of where you are on your BBQ journey, Smoke & Spice is a worthy traveling companion. I’m confident that this book will become stain ridden and dog eared as I thumb through it again and again.


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