Maybe you’ve broadened your backyard cooking repertoire beyond slow-smoked pork butts and quick-seared fillets to include fish and vegetables — and perhaps pizza. But, when was the last time you fired up the grill to make soup, pasta, a cocktail, or a batch of cookies? Never, you say?
Spend some time with Paula Disbrowe’s “Thank You for Smoking,” and, chances are, your curiosity will be stoked to consider those possibilities, and more.
While giving her grill daily workouts for her last book, “Any Night Grilling,” for Food52, the prolific Austin, Texas-based food writer began exploring new ways to take advantage of all that excess smoke. Those fragrant whiffs, she discovered, added unexpectedly seductive layers of flavor to practically anything, even dried legumes and desserts.
She paired these ingredients with fresh, bright elements that would balance the smokiness. The result is a collection of innovative smoke-scented recipes that sound so appealing, I was compelled to invite myself over to a friend’s house to give some of them a try.
Sadly, my condo doesn’t allow grills. But I do have a stovetop smoker, which Disbrowe includes in her Smoking 101 section, as an option for grill-deprived folks like me — along with a detailed rundown of other smokers, smoke sources, essential tools, and tips for harnessing the right amount of heat to get the taste you’re after.
Some menu contenders: burnt orange margaritas; pimento cheese with smoked pecans; grilled herbed chicken breasts with radicchio; scallop spaghetti with charred lemons and crème fraiche; berry galette with smoked pink peppercorn crust; and burnt marshmallow Krispies.
While the coals are still smoldering, I’m going to propose that we follow her suggestion to have a “bulk” smoking session for spices, herbs, chiles, nuts, grains, olives, and other shelf-stable ingredients we can have at the ready for future meals. Smoky granola with chocolate and cherries doesn’t sound like a bad way to start the day.
MORE NEW BARBECUE BOOKS:
There may be no food that better represents the American South, or that is more passionately debated, than barbecue. No wonder, then, that every spring comes with a new crop of barbecue books to poke the embers of that ongoing conversation. Here are a handful of new titles to look out for this season:
“Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue With Recipes From Skylight Inn and Sam Jones BBQ” by Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn (Ten Speed, $29.99): The third-generation pitmaster of Sam Jones BBQ and the legendary, much-lauded Skylight Inn in Ayden, North Carolina, joins forces with the country’s first barbecue editor to tell the story of North Carolina pulled pork.
“Weber’s Ultimate Grilling: A Step-By-Step Guide to Barbecue Genius” by Jamie Purviance (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.99): Weber’s longtime master griller and teacher offers an extensive primer, with helpful charts on mastering the “four T’s” — temperature, time, techniques and tools — followed by creative takes on recipes, from starter to dessert.
“Franklin Steak: Dry-Aged. Live-Fired. Pure Beef” by Aaron Franklin and Jordan MacKay (Ten Speed, $29.99): As a follow-up to his best-selling “Franklin Barbecue,” the renowned Austin pitmaster and brisket king dives deep into the art, science and story of America’s most prized beef cut.
“The Brisket Chronicles: How to Barbecue, Braise, Smoke, and Cure the World’s Most Epic Cut of Meat” by Steven Raichlen (Workman, $19.95): A best-selling author, TV host and world-traveling barbecue expert turns his attention to this beloved beef cut, with innovative recipes for both outdoors and indoors.
“BBQ&A With Myron Mixon: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Barbecue” by Myron Mixon (Abrams, $20.99): The four-time world barbecue champion, best-selling author and TV personality from Unadilla gives answers to the questions he’s most often asked, along with recipes, visuals and tips to support them.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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