UP IN SMOKE
PLANET BARBECUE! IS RELEASED
Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,
We are very pleased to announce that Steven Raichlen’s latest book, Planet Barbecue, has just been released by Workman Publishing. First-run editions are now available—just in time for summer grilling—at booksellers and select kitchen and grilling equipment suppliers nationwide. Click here for a sneak peek inside.
We’ve also got an awesome new video to celebrate the book: Watch it here!
Here is what Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio had to say when he got his advance copy of the book: “Just when you thought Steven Raichlen taught you everything there was to know about grilling, he returns with Planet Barbecue.”
Knowing that Steven is embarking on a two-month, 35-city book tour, which is likely to make him as elusive as…well…smoke, we recently invited him to sit down for a short interview about Planet Barbecue.
|Steven on the barbecue trail in Athens, Greece|
Planet Barbecue—with 638 pages, about 600 photographs, 60 country boxes and grill master profiles, and more 300 recipes featuring dishes from 60 countries—seems like your most ambitious book yet. How long did it take you to write it?
SR: The simple answer is five years—three spent traveling and researching, two spent recipe testing and writing. The fuller answer is that Planet Barbecue has been incubating since the day I started writing about barbecue in 1994.
How does it differ from other books you’ve written, such as The Barbecue Bible and How to Grill?
SR: It picks up where both books left off. Like Barbecue Bible, it explores global grilling, but whereas I visited only 25 countries to research Barbecue Bible, for Planet Barbecue, I toured 53 countries on 6 continents. As in How to Grill, I focus on grilling techniques, with step-by-step photos to show you how to make such global grilling classics as South African Piri Piri Chicken, German Spiessbraten, and Brazilian Spit-Roasted Pineapple.
In a sense, you could say that Planet Barbecue goes deeper than any of my previous books. And unique to Planet Barbecue are the history of global barbecue chapters at the start of the book and the section on grilling with a conscience.
Tell us more about these chapters. You don’t normally associate history and social conscience with a barbecue book.
SR: I became fascinated by the history of fire-making and grilling while doing research in the southwest of France. I visited the National Prehistory Museum and a Neanderthal theme park called PrehistoParc. I saw the magnificent cave paintings at the Lascaux and Pech Merle caverns. It dawned on me that barbecuing and grilling aren’t simply cooking methods—they’re hardwired into our collective consciousness and they define who we human beings are.
As for the “Grilling with a Conscience” section, well, we live in a very different world now than when I set out to write Barbecue Bible in 1994. Global warming. Overfishing. Contaminated meats. Factory farming and multi-national food supply chains. I wanted to address some of the ways we can grill and eat more healthily, while being mindful of the health of our planet.
|Nancy Loseke tests Caribbean Pineapple Baby Back Ribs (page 234)|
How did you get started in barbecue?
SR: Well, first I got a degree in French literature. Then I chose a Watson Foundation Fellowship over a Fulbright. The Fulbright was to study paleography (deciphering ancient handwriting); the Watson was to investigate medieval cooking in Europe. I chose the latter and quite by accident became a food writer.
So how does one go about writing a book like Planet Barbecue?
SR: The way I do all my books: by packing a suitcase and traveling. To some extent, all my books involve field research. For this one, I circumnavigated the globe several times. I returned to all the iconic barbecue regions—Argentina, Australia, India, Japan—but I also visited countries you don’t normally think of as grilling hotspots, like Cambodia, Colombia, Kenya, Romania, and Israel. I recorded my findings in more than 20 moleskin notebooks and took more than 5000 photographs to document what I found.
It’s been over fifteen years since you first hit the Barbecue Trail for your first grilling book, Barbecue Bible. What changes, if any, did you notice on Planet Barbecue?
SR: Well, first, some of the obvious changes brought about by globalization and technology. Barbecued ribs never used to be part of Indonesia’s grill culture, for example: Now, they turn up at grill shacks throughout Bali. (One good example of how East meets West: Nuri’s Ribs on page 239.) Fifteen years ago, most of the world’s grill masters used hand-waved straw fans to oxygenate the coals and control the fire. Today, electric fans do the work. Gas grills are turning up in places where charcoal once ruled.
But by and large, the most satisfying aspect of my travels around Planet Barbecue is how little has changed—how much meats and seafood are still spiced with the traditional seasonings and still grilled over wood or charcoal as they have been for centuries.
That’s good news! Did you discover any new techniques in your travels?
SR: Did I ever. Colombian Lomo al Trapo, which consists of roasting beef tenderloin in a salt and cotton cloth crust directly in the embers. Or German Schwenkbraten, a dish made by grilling spiced pork chops on a swinging grate (literally) over a beech wood fire. Or Eclade, a French technique that features mussels or other shellfish grilled on a bed of flaming pine needles.
Speaking of travel, how many miles do you estimate you logged researching this book? And did you travel alone, or with an entourage? Did you typically have a host or guide, particularly in countries where language was a potential barrier?
SR: I lost track of the miles logged after 200,000. For the most part, I was lucky enough to travel with my wife, Barbara, without which Planet Barbecue would have seemed like work, not pleasure. In countries where I don’t speak the language, I hired guides and interpreters. In several countries, I traveled with professional photographers—you can see their beautiful atmosphere photographs throughout the book.
Were your trips carefully planned in advance, or were you receptive to spontaneous encounters with grill masters?
SR: A combination of both. I always left with a list of objectives: grill masters to meet, restaurants to visit, must-try grilled dishes to sample. But I also tried to build in time for chance encounters—to follow my nose to the source of the smoke, as it were. That led to some pretty amazing discoveries.
Have your travels and research in the service of Planet Barbecue influenced your own grilling?
SR: Absolutely. I do a lot more caveman-style grilling now. (Grilling in which you lay the food directly on the embers.) I do a lot more grilling over wood and natural lump charcoal. I have come to use my rotisserie for foods you wouldn’t normally expect to spit-roast, like onions and pineapples (see pages 537 and 578, respectively—both specialties of Brazil).
You must have an iron stomach, Steven. Tell us about some of the stranger dishes you encountered—and ate—on Planet Barbecue.
SR: Where do I begin? In Greece, I ate kokoretsi, sheep’s brains, lungs, spleen, liver, etc. wrapped in small intestines, and roasted on a spit. (You could think of it as haggis on a spit and it tastes a lot better than it sounds—see page 281 for a description.) In Australia I sampled kangaroo (it tastes like beef) and in Africa I ate impala, kudu, ostrich, and crocodile. In the Philippines and Japan they grill every imaginable part of chickens, from the head to the feet to the skin and embryonic eggs. Latin Americans are big fans of organ meats and blood sausage.
|Steven with 12 century portrayal of Cambodian barbecue at Bayon Temple in Siem Reap.|
The stories behind the recipes are very engaging. Was there a grill master who really impressed you?
SR: Many. Victor Arguinzoniz of the restaurant Extebarri in Spain is a genius and mad scientist when it comes to grilling. South American chef and TV host Francis Mallmann takes a truly visionary approach to live-fire cooking. So do Peter Le Clercq in Belgium and Toshihiro Wada in Japan.
Is it true that you took most of the travel photos with a digital point-and-shoot camera?
SR: Believe it or not, most of the photos in Planet Barbecue are mine. However, the “beauty” shots of food, how-to shots, and many of travel shots were taken by professional photographers. I hope the difference isn’t too shocking.
For the most part, were the grill masters (and mistresses) generous in sharing recipes with you?
SR: Absolutely. Forget the stereotype of the chef who vows to take his secret sauce recipe to the grave. Most of the grill masters I met were not only happy to share their recipes—they often showed me step by step how to make them.
We have to ask: Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
SR: They’re all my children and I love them all. I must say, though, that I never fail to be bowled over by Gaucho Beef Ribs (page 167), Lomo al Trapo (page 123), Piri Piri Chicken Wings (page 20), Cambodian Coconut-Grilled Corn (page 529), and Thai Grilled Bananas (see recipe below). And of course, the Martha’s Vineyard Grilled Swordfish with Garlic-Caper Butter (see recipe below) is a mainstay at home during the summer.
The eating must have been good at the Raichlen household during the recipe development phase of Planet Barbecue. Do you test every recipe?
SR: To say that we ate “high on the hog” during the multiple testing sessions for Planet Barbecue would be an understatement. Each of the recipes was tested multiple times by a team headed up by my assistant, Nancy Loseke. Our mantra was to make the good great and the great unforgettable.
We understand you’re currently on a two-month book tour.
How can people find out if you’re coming to their area?
SR: Over the next 2 months, I’ll be visiting more than 35 cities. (My wife doesn’t even know my full schedule!) I love to meet readers and viewers when I’m on tour. To find out when I’ll be in your area, visit the Steven’s Schedule section of BarbecueBible.com.
Do you have any other books planned?
SR: After a two-year hiatus, I’m back to work on my novel. No, it doesn’t involve barbecue.
GRILLED SWORDFISH WITH GARLIC-CAPER BUTTER
Source: Planet Barbecue by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2010)
Method: Direct grilling
Advance preparation: None
Here’s a dish close to home and near to my heart, for during swordfish season, my wife Barbara and I make it at least once a week. And whenever I’m traveling Planet Barbecue, the mere thought of it makes me homesick. We’re talking quick—30 minutes max from start to finish—but the tart, salty, fried caper flavor explodes right off the plate. Note: Use the freshest swordfish you can find. And I’d rather see you substitute another fish (the preparation would be great with tuna or salmon steaks) before using swordfish that looks tired or old.
4 swordfish steaks, each 6 to 8 ounces and at least 1-inch thick
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground or cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the sauce:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons capers in brine, drained
You’ll also need: oak or other hardwood logs, chunks, or chips, unsoaked (optional)
1. Prepare the fish: Rinse the swordfish steaks and them blot dry with paper towels.. Arrange them in a nonreactive baking dish and very generously season the swordfish on both sides with salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil on both sides, rubbing it and the seasonings into the fish with your fingertips. Cut one lemon in half and squeeze it over the fish, turning to coat both sides. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 15 minutes.
2. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Ideally, you’ll grill over a wood fire. Alternatively, you can use wood chips or chunks to add a smoke flavor. If you are using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips or chunks on the coals. If you are using a gas grill, add the wood chips or chunks, if desired, to the smoker box or place them in a smoker pouch under the grate. You want a light wood flavor—that’s why you don’t soak the wood.
3. Drain the swordfish, discarding the marinade. Arrange the swordfish on the hot grate at a diagonal to the bars. Grill the fish until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. When done, the swordfish will break into firm flakes when pressed with a finger. If desired, give each swordfish steak a quarter turn after 1-1/2 minutes to create a handsome crosshatch of grill marks. Transfer the steaks to a platter and cover them loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.
4. Make the sauce (you can start it while the fish is on the grill): Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the garlic and capers and cook over high heat until the garlic begins to brown and the capers are crisp, 2 minutes. Immediately pour this mixture over the swordfish steaks and serve at once, with the lemon wedges.
THAI GRILLED BANANAS WITH COCONUT-CARAMEL SAUCE
Source: Planet Barbecue by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2010)
Method: Direct grilling
Advanced preparation: The sauce can be prepared a day ahead.
To paraphrase Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, if you grill it, they will come. Such is the case for a Bangkok grill mistress named Saisuwan. Five years ago, she scraped together enough cash to set up a pushcart on Chareunkrung Road behind the Sheraton Hotel. Her grilling skills became so legendary, guidebooks from all over the world sing her praises. Saisuwan serves just one dish—but what a dish—grilled bananas slathered with coconut-caramel sauce. You can eat them for breakfast, as a snack, or for dessert—and the moment you finish, you’ll very likely find yourself returning for seconds. And if you happen to find yourself near the Sheraton Hotel in Bangkok, you’ll recognize Saisuwan by her trademark white cap—and by sweet scent of bananas grilling over coconut shell charcoal.
For the coconut-caramel sauce:
1/2 cup palm sugar or light brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
8 apple bananas or 4 conventional bananas
You’ll also need: flat bamboo skewers (optional)
Make the coconut-caramel sauce. Combine the palm sugar and coconut milk in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Briskly simmer the mixture until thick, dark brown, and very flavorful, about 5 minutes, whisking often. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Place the sauce in a deep bowl. It can be prepared up to a day ahead and refrigerated, covered. Let the coconut-caramel sauce return to room temperature before using.
Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high.
3. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Peel the bananas and skewer them through one end, if desired. Grill the bananas until they are lightly browned and partially cooked, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Dip the bananas in the coconut-caramel sauce (That’s where the skewer comes in handy) or brush the bananas on all sides, using a basting brush, and return them to the grill. Continue grilling the bananas until they are golden browned and sizzling, 1 to 3 minutes per side longer. (Use a bamboo skewer to test for doneness; it should easily pierce the banana.)
4. Transfer the bananas to a platter or bowls. Spoon the remaining coconut-caramel sauce.
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