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.

Review: Jake’s Atomic Salsa

I first heard of Jake in an article in Chile Pepper Magazine. Jake is a youngster that lives in Texas that makes his Jake’s Atomic Salsa to help pay for college. I figured, well, if nothing else I gotta give the guy major kudos for looking down the road and planning for his future. So I went online and ordered a few bottles of each heat level of Jake’s Atomic Salsa. And boy am I ever glad I did.

Jake’s salsa has a great texture to it. It reminds me of the authentic table salsa at our local Mexican restaurant. Not mega chunky, not at all. Not thick and gloppy, nope. Nice and smooth and not runny. Perfect for tortilla chip dippin’ because you don’t have to worry about the salsa running off your chip before you get it to your mouth.

This salsa is not overly tomatoey, not overly anything. Just good stuff with the right mix of everything. This is my kind of salsa. Authentic stuff, with a fresh taste and feel to it. As Jake says, it’s “straight from the grill to the mason jar” with a nice light char to it.
Jake’s Atomic Salsa comes in 4 levels of heat.

Molecular Mild is pretty darned mild, and is perfect for well, my mom or dad. They can’t handle the heat and I know they’d thoroughly enjoy the mild.

Foreshock Medium is your pretty-much-fantastic salsa for a crowd. No one is going to run out the door screaming that their mouth is on fire, but the head-lovers (like me) will still be happy.

Things start to take a turn with the Aftershock Hot salsa.Oh yes, it has a burn, but it’s a very pleasant heat. It’s a very addicting heat. All of a sudden you’re like… where did all my salsa go?

… and then there’s Nuclear Atomic. As Jake says, “Don’t say [I] didn’t warn you”. Yeah, well, it’s hot. Very hot. Get ready to sweat. A lot. If you can’t handle it, tame it down a bit by mixing in some mild or medium.

My only complaint about Jake’s Atomic Salsa is that I can’t get it here in Indianapolis. I bet that’ll change, because this is mighty good salsa. In the meantime, I’ll keep ordering it online. The salsa is reasonably priced, packaged well, shipped quickly, and rates highly on my ‘Mater Rater.

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.