Review: John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day

John Currence's Big Bad BreakfastThe Amazon Kindle has a great bookmark feature. You just tap the upper right corner of the screen to ‘dog ear’ a page for future reference. You can tell when I really, really like a cookbook by how many bookmarks I make. In the case of John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day, I bookmarked almost every single page in the book. Page after page, I kept finding recipes I am going to make, and make soon.

Even though I rarely eat a real breakfast in the morning, I often make a big breakfast for dinner, and this book definitely gave me tons of new recipes and ideas for better and bigger breakfasts. Big Bad Breakfast is wonderfully written, and it’s even quite funny in places. Actually, it’s very funny and it’s a great read. Even though there are tons of recipes, it’s almost like a novel in ways.

In case you’re not up on these things, Chef John Currence is a James Beard-winning chef that has been on tons of TV shows and in lots of magazines. Big Bad Breakfast (the book) is a result of Chef John’s years of owning Big Bad Breakfast (the restaurant) in Oxford, Mississippi. Oxford remains on my bucket list to visit because of it’s fantastic restaurant scene. BBB is another great example.

Big Bad Breakfast (back to the book) covers every aspect of breakfast, starting with breads and muffins (lots of great sweets), proceeding to eggs (with a fantastic detailed lesson on how to cook eggs the various ways), omelets and frittatas, pancakes (the Silver Dollar pancakes are #1 on my list for this week), cereals (homemade Frosted Flakes!!!), sandwiches, sides, and drinks. See? Everything you could ever want for a great big breakfast.

John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day is packed with tons and tons of great breakfast recipes and a few great stories and tidbits and advice to boot. It’s well worth the price, and then some. I scored the book high on the ‘Mater Rater.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Dave Anderson’s Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook

The first few times I saw Famous Dave Anderson on TV he was competing on BBQ cooking shows. He didn’t always win, but he always made food that looked amazing and just as important, he always came across as genuinely nice. I thought what a welcome change from the sometimes-a-bit-too-much-over-the-top folks you see compete in food contests.

At the time there weren’t any Famous Dave’s restaurants near us. And in fact, I wasn’t particularly sold on the idea of chain BBQ, but when a restaurant finally opened in Indianapolis I went with an open mind and empty stomach. I came away thinking to myself “shame on me for thinking that some corporate chain couldn’t turn out BBQ just as good as our local joints”. And I came away thinking that I’d just had some of the best side dishes I’d ever had from anywhere, be it BBQ or fine dining.

Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is packed with great dishes, perfect for your next outdoor cookout. Don’t expect copycat recipes from the restaurant. Instead, you’ll find a wide range of recipes, from simple dipping sauces (the Cajun mustard is perfect for dipping chicken nuggets or just slather some on a hot dog bun) to a cooling avocado potato salad to Tex-Mex fajitas.

One thing I really, really enjoy about Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is that there’s nothing ‘weird’ in it. I have just about everything I need on-hand to make most of the recipes in the book. And although most of the dishes are ‘normal’, they are all super-flavorful versions of things you may have had before. Like cocktail weenies. Dave’s BBQ Smoky Porkies take them to a new level, adding pickles (yes!), bacon and cheese, served with a fantastic apricot BBQ sauce for dipping. Take that, ‘normal’ cocktail weenies!

Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is packed with tons and tons of recipes and a few great stories and tidbits and advice to boot. It’s well worth the price, and then some. I scored the book high on the ‘Mater Rater.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke

I’m a huge fan of Steven Raichlen. From his various PBS shows (I’ve seen them all) to his many cookbooks (I have them all), I’m intrigued by everything he cooks, from the familiar to the very new. Steven Raichlen’s latest TV series and book, Project Smoke, is as amazing as anything else he’s ever done. The Project Smoke cookbook (it’s really more than ‘just’ a cookbook) is packed with 336 pages of amazing recipes, stories, tips and tricks.

The first part of Project Smoke is great for beginners, describing the equipment and techniques you’ll need no matter what kind of smoking (from cold to hot) that you are going to do. The next section contains appetizers and, as with any Raichlen book, there’s an incredible attention not only to detail but also the history behind dishes and approaches. you’ll know exactly what tools you’ll need and how long each step of the process will take. there’s no guessing here, Raichlen has thought it all out for you.

The photography in the Project Smoke (just like on any of Raichlen’s PBS TV shows) is incredible. The picture of the smoked planked Camembert with jalapeno pepper jelly is worthy of printing and framing, and so are many others. All of the recipes in the book are awesome, and some are completely new to me. For example, smoked bread. I’d never considered smoking flour to make a loaf of bread. After you form the flour into a dough and let it rise, you bake it over charcoal until done, serving with smoked butter or smoked honey. that just may be one of the coolest (no pun intended) smoking ideas I’ve ever seen.

Project Smoke continues with smoking beef, with much detail on smoking briskets including the required pros/cons of wrapping. Raichlen also discusses one of my absolute favorite things to make on my smoker: pastrami. If you haven’t made your own pastrami, you should. It’s amazing

Next up is pork. Even if you’ve smoked 100s of racks of ribs like I have you’ll find Project Smoke informative and full of interesting twists on the ‘usual’ way of doing things or the ‘usual’ ingredients.

Lamb is next, and I have to say, I have never smoked lamb, so i found this section of Project Smoke to be very interesting, though short. Raichlen definitely has convinced me that i need to smoke lamb this year.

Burgers, sausages, poultry and seafood are covered next. Like the previous sections, these are again filled with great recipes, techniques and photos. The smoked shrimp cocktail with chipotle-orange cocktail sauce instantly went to the top of my to-smoke list.

Next up are sides and the like, including smoked slaw. If your guests are tired of your (still very good) mayonnaise- and vinegar-based slaw, smoke the vegetables in an aluminum pan before making the salad. Raichlen’s approach is perfect, and interestingly different.

Project Smoke finishes with desserts and cocktails, both of which are often over-looked in books about smoking. there’s not a lot of different recipes in these sections, but like with everything else in the book, the desserts and cocktails are also fantastic.

Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke rates high on my ‘Mater Rater.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: John Besh’s Besh Big Easy 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes

I can’t recall the first time I saw Chef John Besh on TV. Perhaps it was on Top Chef Master, or on his really, really great PBS show. Or maybe it was competing on The Next Iron Chef. But, it really doesn’t matter where it was, because the result was the same. I could tell instantly that Chef Besh was real. I could trust him. I could believe his stories. I could fall in love with his food. Nothing about the chef was over-the-top or staged. He was sincere about his passion for food, and that’s very, very important to me. I think that passion comes across in every dish. You know, like when your grandma says “this was made with love”. Same sort of thing.

So of course when Chef Besh’s new cookbook (his fourth so far), Besh Big Easy 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes came out for the Kindle I grabbed up a digital copy, and like the dishes I’d end up making from the cookbook, I devoured ever word.

There are so many great recipes in Besh Big Easy 101 that I can’t even begin to describe them. Many are rooted in tradition. Recipes from friends or family or traditional recipes that you’d associate with the Gulf region. Most contain ingredients that I can find here in Indianapolis, so I don’t have to worry about the cookbook sitting on my shelf (or in my Kindle) gathering dust. I reference it often.

Each recipe starts out with a hint, or saying, or some relevant passage about the dish. Such as “whenever we’re lucky enough to have a crawfish boil, one of the added benefits is the potato salad that we make the next day from the small red potatoes that were boiled in all those delicious spices.”. You feel more connected to Chef Besh and his food, and hey, the tips are great too! Besh Big Easy 101 is a great read and a great reference.

Besh Big Easy 101 scores high on the ‘Mater Rater scale.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots

I have been watching A Chef’s Life on PBS since it first aired in 2013. It is a fantastic show centering around Chef Vivian Howard from Deep Run, North Carolina and her restaurants in Kinston, NC, Chef & the Farmer and the Boiler Room. But A Chef’s Life isn’t a cooking show, it’s a show about life in the south, life around food, and food history. It doesn’t matter to me how many times I’ve seen an episode, I always watch when it comes on. Che Howard’s book, Deep Run Roots, does the show justice and then some.

Reading Deep Rut Roots will making you feel just like I feel when I watch the show. You hang on every word. You can smell the food, taste it and feel it as Chef Howard talks about everything from grits to beets. You sense her unending desire to learn and stay connected to her food past.. You want to put Velveeta and crumbled Jimmy Dean sausage on rice as she did as a kid. You want to pick blueberries. You want to make squash and onions not because you’re a fan of squash, but because her mom made it. And you’ll flash back to your childhood as you read Chef Howard recall about how as a kid it was so hard to eat a watermelon while avoiding the seeds.

At the end of the book you’ll know Chef Howard better than you know most of the people in your life, and your head will be full of fantastic recipes and visions of food and places. And you’ll learn. A lot.

Deep Run Roots is full of over 200 recipes and stories to go with them. I found that the recipes aren’t intimidating nor are they complicated and they don’t contain items that are obscure. You’ll make the dishes in this book because they’re easy and they sound and are fantastic. I should say that I am biased. I lived in the south for over 10 years, and I love southern cooking. I’m biased for a reason though. It’s good food!

Deep Run Roots scores high on the ‘Mater Rater scale.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.