Review: Let’s Grill! Best BBQ Recipes Box Set

This right here is why we signed up for Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service from Amazon that gives us access to tons, and tons of eBooks for a low monthly fee. We use the heck out of our subscription. Let’s Grill isn’t just a book, it’s a massive 6-set volume of recipes and techniques for all things grilling. Considering how little we pay monthly for Kindle Unlimited, this set pays for our subscription for months just by itself.

Let’s Grill is divided into 6 books: Texas’ Best Secret BBQ recipes, Carolinas’ Best BBQ, Tennessee’s Best BBQ, Missouri’s Best BBQ, Alabama’s Best BBQ, and Hawaii Best BBQ. Each book has page after page of recipes, from rubs and seasonings, to sauces, to salads,, to sides, to main courses, to desserts. I didn’t count the recipes, but I think it’s safe to say the total is definitely into the hundreds.

The recipes in Let’s Grill are not complicated. They’re great for everyone from the beginner to the seasoned professional. It’s full of down-home backyard good stuff, the kind where you aren’t going to have trouble finding the ingredients and most likely have a lot of them already on hand.

Every recipe is accompanied by a picture. You know exactly what you’re getting yourself into with each one. Now, they aren’t big pictures, but they are good pictures. It’s no-nonsense collection of classics and some great twists on the classics. And hey, you can’t eat pictures!

I couldn’t be happier with Let’s Grill, even if it wasn’t free! I found tons and tons of new recipes and ideas to try. That’s a win-win, so it scores high on the ‘Mater Rater!

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

Review: Denise Gee’s Southern Appetizers

I’m a big fan of all flavors Southern. That’s why I picked up Denise Gee’s Southern Appetizers: 60 Delectables for Gracious Get-Togethers. Now, truth be told, I didn’t get the book thinking about tablescapes or entertaining a crowd. Me, I’m after the food. But, that being said, this book has a lot more than just recipes. There are tips for planning for parties and being the perfect host. The book is well-written, clear, easy to follow, and packed with fantastic photos.

From there we get into the food, starting with the easy-to-eat handheld dishes. There are recipes for all of the classics, such as deviled eggs and finger sandwiches. The fanciful cheese straws looked so great that I made them that day. They came out fantastically!

Next up are spreads, including, of course, a great version of pimento cheese, Anita’s favorite. From salsas, to dips, to great spreads for crackers, this section of the book has great recipes that really are not difficult to make at all. I bookmarked a good many of the pages in the spreads!

The next part of the book is a bit more serious. It’s the grab a plate, some utensils, and sit-down-and-eat section. There is lighter fare, such as salads, tarts and soups. But then there are also (my favorites) meaty dishes. Wings, riblets, brisket, and baked ham, for example. And the peppered beef tenderloin just makes me drool. It is on my short list of dishes to make, along with the crawfish beignets

Next up: the drinks. And lots of awesome drinks. The book covers everything you need to throw a party, and that means drinks too of course.

This brings us to the last chapter, party themes. Denise Gee does all the work for you, whether you want to throw a New Year’s Eve get-together, a Mardis Gras-themed event, or just having a casual tailgating party. Every recipe you need for the party is listed, all designed to work together in a cohesive theme.

All in all I was quite happy with Southern Appetizers: 60 Delectables for Gracious Get-Togethers. I found it easy to follow, with accessible recipes and with great photos. Many of the dishes make me think of a great Sunday brunches or get-togethers in the South. My only wish is that there were more pictures because they really were fantastic.

Southern Appetizers: 60 Delectables for Gracious Get-Togethers rates high on my ‘Mater Rater.

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

Review: American Stockyard Hot Dog Relishes

The condiment and sauce section at Jungle Jim’s International Market outside of Cincinnati is a thing to behold. I have no self control when I go there. None at all. And it usually pays off. Like the last time I went and picked up one each of American Stockyard’s hot dog relishes.

Available in four different flavors, New York Style, Four Pepper, Chicago Style and All-American, American Stockyard relishes don’t come in tiny dinky jars. Nope, they’re a whopping 12 ounces each. But really, even if they were 128 ounces each they’d still disappear fast around here. We do love our hot dogs and a good relish makes for a great hot dog.

New York Style: Close your eyes and take a bit of a dog loaded up with this relish and you’ll swear that you’re eating a NYC street dog. Kraut, onions and tons of spicy brown mustard. Perfect.

Four pepper: Definitely not concocted for those who want a bland relish, this bad boy combines jalapeno, cayenne, poblano, and chile peppers. It’s bordering on being a salsa so much that hey, I’d dip some chips in it without hesitating. Great on a tired old hot dog that needs a major kick.

Chicago-style: I love Chicago-style hot dogs. This relish combines all the flavors of the classic (peppers, onions, mustard, celery powder, and of course, poppy seed). Definitely one of my favorites, and one I’d buy again and again.

All-American (not shown in the picture): The perfect classic relish, combining all of my favorite ball park flavors: pickles, onions and mustards (two different kinds!). Everyone will enjoy this relish.

American Stockyard’s relishes rate high on my ‘Mater Rater. Great flavors for a great price. You can’t beat them!

Review: Richard Blais’ So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours

It seemed like forever that I was on the library waiting list to get Richard Blais’ new cookbook, So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours. I waited and waited for the email that said the book was finally available for downloading to my Kindle or reading on my PC’s Kindle Reader.

I like Chef Blais’s style. I’ve seen him on several cooking competition shows on TV. He is always cooking dishes that look fantastic and often use techniques (in particular, liquid nitrogen) that I have no experience with.

This book isn’t about restaurant dishes. It’s about dishes Chef Blais makes at home. Most of the recipes have a short list of ingredients and also a short list of instructions. Some are recipes you may have seen before, executed perfectly. Like BBQ shrimp. Nothing fancy, but good eats, and one of my favorite dishes of all time. Now, there are a few different recipes, that’s for sure (the barbecued lamb’s head carnitas with masa comes to mind) . And there are a few that have ingredients that might be hard to find if you aren’t near a good Asian market (Amazon to the rescue!). As Chef Blais says, he’s curious about techniques, equipment and ingredients. I share that curiosity, although certainly not on the level that he does. The beauty of food and cooking, for me, is that every day you wake up you can do something new, something different. Or you can do something old and familiar. Or both.

The commentary throughout the book is light, witty, funny and insightful. You don’t have to wade thru two pages of a story to get to the recipes, either. Not that I don’t appreciate a good story now and then. This isn’t that kind of book. It’s full of dishes Chef Blais makes during his time off. You feel like you’re there at his house with him and his family on a Saturday, getting ready to make a few Juicy Lucy burgers, and for desert, homemade banana splits (an absolutely amazing recipe, everything homemade).

I’ve already made an extensive list of the dishes I will be making from the book, beginning with chicken shawarma (Update: made this last weekend and it was fantastic!). Next up, a steak coated in blue cheese to mimic dry aging, then cooked in a hot skillet to onion rings. Yes, onion rings. Chef Blais takes his onion ring batter and places it into a whip cream canister. Dispensing the air-injected batter produces a super-light coating. What a brilliant idea. Brilliant. Another is the sweet-and-sour ham hocks with mustard greens. I recently smoked my own shanks (larger than hocks, but I substitute them for hocks all of the time) and cannot wait to make Chef Blais’s recipe.

The photos in So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours are amazing. Now, me, I’m a big fan of food porn so I could’ve gone for a few more pictures, but the truth is you can’t eat pictures. What pictures there are are truly drool-worthy.

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

Review: Todd-Michael St. Pierre’s The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook

I absolutely love po’ boy sandwiches. That’s why I bought Todd-Michael St. Pierre’s The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook. So I could sit here and drool over every great po’ boy, from the classic to the fancy Vieux Carré (pecan-crusted trout with a meunierè sauce). And, in between recipes I get to read interesting stories about the history of the po’ boy and it’s importance in New Orleans’ history. And of course, there’s a recipe for homemade po’ boy bread, an absolute must if, like me, you can’t find proper po’ boy bread where you live.

Every po’ boy in The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook sounds insanely delicious. I’ve only begun my journey of making as many of them as I can, and I couldn’t be happier. Once you start making them you can’t stop, either. As an aside, if you’re in the Indianapolis area, I recommend Papa Roux, J Gumbo’s or B’s Po’ Boy for great sandwiches (if you know of other great places around Indy for po’ boys, let me know in the comment section below). And make sure you keep your po’ boy real and get a bag of Zapp’s chips to go with it.

One of my favorite things about po’ boys is the remoulade sauce. You can find many variations on the usually mayonnaise-based sauce in and around New Orleans, and you’ll also find several variations in The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook. I usually make a good-sized batch of remoulade and keep it on hand for other things, such as hamburgers or wraps.

The Southern Po’ Boy Cookbook rates high on my ‘Mater Rater, with the exception that I really, really wish it had more pictures so I could drool more. The pictures (and artwork) in the book are quite nice, though, so don’t let that minor point deter you from picking up a copy of this great cookbook.

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

Review: Ray Lampe’s Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue

Do not let the word ‘beginner’ deter you from reading Ray Lampe’s Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue. Whether you’re just contemplating low-and-slow cooking or you’ve been doing it for 30 years or more, this book is so full of great recipes and approaches that you’ll find yourself going back to it again and again. I do. I’m pretty sure that this book shattered my previous record for how many recipes I bookmarked.

The first chapter of Slow Fire concentrates on rubs and sauces. I made my own variation of Lampe’s Basic Rub #67 and it has now become my go-to rib and pork butt rub. You’ll find yourself doing the same thing. I recommend you make the rubs or sauces as Ray intended, then taste and add whatever you want to make them your own. Or you might find yourself making substitutions for something else you prefer. No matter what, the recipes in the book are fantastic starting points (and they are perfect they way they are too!).

The next chapter is all about ribs. Great ribs done tons of different ways. Including a fantastic Asian-inspired rib. Ribs are my favorite meat to smoke, and I’m always on the lookout for new variations. Slow Fire did not disappoint.

Next up, pork. Glorious pork. Butt, shoulder, chops, tenderloin, you name it. My rule when smoking pork: always make extra because it’s always good. Slow Fire has a great mix of recipes for pork.

Beef is next, including a great recipe for homemade pastrami, which is next on my to-do list. I make a cheater pastrami, which starts with an already brined brisket (corned beef). Slow Fire shows you how to make a real pastrami, beginning with a brisket.

The section on cooking poultry is next. It includes a recipe for Buffalo turkey wings, something I hadn’t even considered and will definitely make soon. You’ll find recipes for every part of a chicken (or turkey or game hen or duck) that you can want.

The book wraps up with recipes for miscellaneous dishes, like kielbasa or lamb, and a number of side dishes too, including some of the staples for a good barbecue, such as slaw or potato salad. All of the recipes are well-written, thought out and bulletproof. And good. Very good.

Ray Lampe’s Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Lip-Smacking Barbecue rates high on my ‘Mater Rater. My only complaints are I wish there were more pictures and maybe a few more recipes included, but what there is there is fantastic.

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

Review: Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice

If Kindle books had spines, my copy of Smoke & Spice would be worn out, torn, and used up. Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s book is one of those books that you must own if you have a smoker or grill. No matter if you are new at it or have been cooking for 30 years or own far too many grills like I do, you will learn something from this book and you’ll find yourself returning to it again and again.

Smoke & Spice covers everything you need for great grilling or smoking. Starting with dry rubs (I use the Southern Succor rub often) and marinades and the like, then covering various meats and ending with vegetarian dishes and appetizers (or as they are often called, cook’s snacks, since if you’re manning the grill, you’re the first to eat!). The book is also full of great anecdotes and hints and tips, but like me, you’ll find yourself bookmarking recipe after recipe. I have to admit, I also have a hardcopy of an older version of the book that has post-it notes hanging all over the place, along with annotation after annotation that I’ve made over the years.

Many of the recipes you’ll find in Smoke & Spice are great starting points for making your own variations. For example, the Southern Sop is a great mop for smoked pulled pork, but when I’m making pork on my Char-Broil Big Easy (which doesn’t infuse any smoke into the meat), I substitute smoked salt for regular salt to add a little smoke flavor. You can and will spend hours ‘tweaking’ the recipes to make them your own.

Smoke & Spice will up your game, from beginning to end, no matter what kind of grilling or smoking equipment you use. It is worth every penny and then some and is one of the most useful references there is.

Smoke & Spice scores high on the ‘Mater Rater scale.

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

Review: Elliott Moss’ Buxton Hall Barbecue’s Book of Smoke

I just finished reading and drooling my way thru Elliott Moss’ Buxton Hall Barbecue’s Book of Smoke. I checked out a copy of the book from the Indianapolis Public Library using my Kindle. There’s no more convenient way to get access to great books… for free! You can also purchase the book from Amazon.

Elliott Moss is an owner and head chef of Buxton Hall BBQ, a restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina. Of course being in the Carolinas means a concentration on whole hog cooking with vinegar or mustard-based sauces. And this book definitely walks you through that tradition along with tons of recipes from the restaurant, some traditional and some great twists of the classics. Chef Moss is, well, a chef. And he comes across as a chef in the book, providing insights into each and every recipe. It’s a great peak into a chef’s mind and the journey he took to become the chef he is. I hope some day to eat at Buxton Hall because I know that the passion you feel in the book will be in every bite of food I take. Not just passion, but also history and tradition. That’s important.

You’ll get more than just great pictures of food (you’ll swear you’re at the restaurant) you also get a sense of the history behind NC BBQ, how Chef Moss came to be at Buxton Hall (and how it got it’s name), and you’ll even meet some of his chefs.

Besides traditional BBQ dishes, like pulled pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb you’ll also learn how to make a simple stove-top smoker. I have an outdoor smoker that gets a serious workout on a regular basis, but for those without one, the section on making your own is quite helpful. There’s also a (one of my favorite) sections on how the smoker is set up at Buxton Hall and the most important part, the burn barrel. I wish I had a big block pit with a burn barrel. Maybe someday I will.

There are a lot of recipes in the book that I have tagged for my to-make list, but a few really stood out as must-make-soon. Smoked grits is one, specially since I love grits. I seriously could eat grits at every meal. Smoked cornbread is another. And smoked pimento cheese (used as a topping on a fried chicken sandwich! My oh my!). Oh, and the cider Brussels sprouts with cracklins sound not only different (instead of having the usual bacon for crunch) but also just great tasting. Making your own cracklins is actually pretty easy, but if you’re not up to the challenge check around your local BBQ joints. Some (like my favorite in Indianapolis, The North End BBQ) make their own.

And then there’s the pies. And I don’t mean just pies, I mean works of art. I wasn’t expecting a large section of the book to be on pies, from fantastic scratch crusts to fresh, locally-sourced fillings. Like Chef Moss I’m not a real big sweets guy, but wow, the pies at Buxton Hall will change that. I wonder if you can walk in and order a bite of each?

Whether you’re a hard-core BBQ person, or looking for a few new great side dishes (or some of the best pies ever), or just interested in reading a great cookbook, the Buxton Hall Barbecue’s Book of Smoke is a great book. Grab a copy (free or not) and sit back and enjoy.

Buxton Hall Barbecue’s Book Of Smoke rates high on my ‘Mater Rater.

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