Steven Raichlen, the man who wrote the Barbecue! Bible, will be in Texas this week for three events with Kent Rathbun’s restaurants. He’s promoting his new book Man Made Meals in Austin tonight, Plano tomorrow, and in the Woodlands on Friday. Each event ticket is $85 which includes a four course meal with beverage pairings and a copy of Man Made Meals.
On Man Made Meals: The book is about “adopting secrets from the pros [like Andrew Zimmern, Thomas Keller, Jose Andres, and Michael Pollan who are all profiled, among others, as “Food Dudes” throughout the book] how to multitask, prep before you start cooking, clean as you go. It’s about understanding flavor and flavor boosters, like anchovies and miso, and it’s about essentials: how to shuck an oyster, truss a chicken, and cook a steak to the desired doneness.”
Man Made Meals is written for beginners, and therefore many of the recipes don’t give men a whole lot of credit for cooking ability. A pastrami reuben that begins with a trip to the supermarket for thinly sliced pastrami was surprising coming from meat guru such as Raichlen (see below on where you can get Raichlen’s pastrami recipe). But there’s plenty here to push a beginner to become a more educated and adventurous cook. Lessons on how to purchase good olive oil, and how to find the right ingredients from oysters to potatoes is included. A guide to fresh herbs is truly useful while the encouragement to try overlooked ingredients like anchovies and beef skirt steaks is admirable. There are also a few recipes that would test even seasoned cooks like skin-on porchetta or the three versions for a good leg of lamb.
From a fictitious interview with Thomas Jefferson we learn that “nothing charms me like a well-dressed salad,” and he’d be happy that vegetables don’t get short shrift here. It would have been easy for Raichlen to throw bacon or ham hocks into all of these side dishes to comfortably fit them into manly meals category, but he mostly steers away from cheap thrills (we’ll ignore the candied bacon sundae). Instead Raichlen teaches you to build flavors by charring tomatoes or eggplant, and how to properly season to highlight the natural flavors of your ingredients.
There’s a lot of information packed in here for the beginner cook. It’s thick at over six hundred pages, but if you already know how to fry an egg or grill a steak to the proper doneness, you’ll find yourself flipping through to find something new. You’ll find it since there are still some great recipes for a seasoned vet, but you might have to search for it.
If you can’t make it to any of these events, consider a trip to Colorado Springs later this month for a more intensive course from Raichlen. BBQ University will be held at the Broadmoor Hotel starting on May 31st. I attended the three day course last year as an unpaid guest of Steven Raichlen, and the grilling creativity on display was impressive. The menu this year includes:
- Made-from-scratch bacon and pastrami
- Yucatan grilled shrimp cocktail
- Thai grilled beef salad
- Brazilian mixed grill
- Tuscan porchetta
With a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on outdoor cooking, we learned how to use a multitude of grills, rotisseries, smokers and we even learned how to cook on a shovel. There were discussions about fuels from charcoal to gas and plenty of wood cooking too. There really isn’t another place where you can find such a varied collection of smokers and grills that you can take for a test drive. It’s a playground of outdoor cooking.
You’ll also eat well at BBQ University. Even if you screw up your dish, there’s a chef on hand to cook another version for everyone to enjoy at the mostly DIY buffet lunches. The setting makes it a great vacation trip, but the instruction and detailed recipes are what you’ll take home with you.
– Full disclosure: Steven Raichlen wrote a positive blurb for the back cover of my book The Prophets of Smoked Meat.