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The Big-Flavor Grill: No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes for Delicious Steaks, Chicken, Ribs, Chops, Vegetables, Shrimp, and Fish Hardcover – March 25, 2014
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“The Big-Flavor Grill is simply proof that no one writes better grilling books than Schlesinger and Willoughby. Don’t miss out.”
"Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's Big Flavor Grill will probably transform the way you think about grilling. The pair abandoned the notion that long marinating times are necessary for tender meat and bold flavor, instead opting for zesty, piquant rubs and sauces that save our time and our sanity. This concept is enough to catapult the book to weekday-friendly use all summer long."
—Kate Williams, Serious Eats
About the Author
CHRIS SCHLESINGER is the former owner and chef of East Coast Grill in Boston. He was the winner of the 1996 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast and is a contributing editor for Saveur. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
JOHN WILLOUGHBY is a writer, editor, and the former executive editor at Gourmet; he currently serves as the editorial director for magazines at America’s Test Kitchen and publisher of Cooks’ Illustrated magazine. He was the co-author, with Chris Schlesinger, of a monthly feature in the New York Times food section. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Schlesinger and Willoughby have written nine cookbooks together.
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These grilling masters developed an easy, casual approach that fits nicely with the way we Americans like to handle our "cookouts": The recipes capitalize on the dependable, powerful flavor of the Maillard reaction. Foods are simply grilled, THEN combined, tossed and/or topped with an international range of flavors and foods after coming off the grill.
For each food type(I list them below since there is no "Look Inside" feature with this product page), there is a basic grilling recipe. That basic recipe works as a building block for the subsequent four to eight recipes. All together there are over very-worthy 120 recipes.
These grilling pros advocate no marinades....At first, that gave me pause, but now I am a firm believer. Before the food goes on the grill it is prepped minimally with a good dose of S&P, (and maybe a coating of olive oil or another spice or two, depending on the food). That is all. And that is why these recipes work so well on an infrared grill. Infrared grill instructions try to discourage you from putting too much "stuff" on your food before laying it on the grill.
With these recipes there is no basting, no slathering with sauce while the food is on the grill. You choose the proper cut of meat, fish, seafood or veggie; prep it simply; get it on the grill, multi-task with a drink and interaction with whatever else is happening around you; cook that food to perfection; get it off the grill, and get it into a bowl or onto a platter. The extra flavors that make it more than a basic recipe are added afterward--and you are advised to add it with flair, exuberance and showmanship!
Introductory pages of basics will appeal to the beginning/novice griller. Recipes serve 4 to 6 people. These recipes are especially workable for backyard family, friend and company gatherings. Ingredients are simple and commonly found. Page layout and type face are conducive to easy reading. Pictures are nicely done, most of them being of finished dishes, but there is not one for every recipe. There is even a "Drinks" chapter at the end. There are a few basic component recipes and an ingredient dictionary at the end of the book, plus a decent index.
YOU CAN STOP READING HERE, if you are short on time. But if you need more info to help you decide on whether you want to add this book to your kitchen library, here's more:
Each major chapter (Beef, Lamb, Pork, Chicken, Seafood) is divided into different sections that feature a specific cut of that food. Each section includes one basic grilling recipe, plus, on average, five (what I call) variations. The fish/seafood chapter offers up to eight recipes for each type. These "variations" include butters, sauces, relishes, dressings, vinaigrettes, grilled veggie accompaniments that build on the basic grilling recipe.
For the most part, the recipe-changing flavor components are added (topped or tossed with) after the food comes off the grill. Ribs are grilled whole, then cut into ribs, then tossed. Whole chickens are smoke-roasted with a rub, then cut into pieces and tossed with a sauce. Food on kebabs and skewers are pulled off, then tossed. There are a few chicken recipes where the pieces are removed from the grill, tossed with a glaze, put back on the grill for a minute or so, then off again.
Some recipes have a simple two-ingredient list; most have 6-8 ingredients, some use 9 or 10 ingredients. There is one magnificent chicken thigh recipe with a Chunky Peach-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce and a Hot and Sour Lime Slaw that has 12 ingredients besides the chicken and S&P.
These authors have chosen specific cuts and sizes of meats and other foods that work superbly on the grill. You won't find rib eyes or porterhouse steaks here; not that they are not great on the grill, but you really don't need another recipe for cooking them, do you? For instance, in the Beef Section you will find only skirt steak and steak tips because the authors believe those cuts to be the most flavorful when grilled.
Steak tips are a New England "thing". In other parts of the country it would be 2" cubes of bottom sirloin butt, flap steak or tri-tip. Depending on the part of the country you are from, this cut may or may not be a usual item in your grocery's meat department. (It is not readily available in my area.) A mediocre substitute would be cubed regular sirloin steak.
The lamb chapter is divided into (1 ½" thick) chops and kebabs (from boneless lamb leg).
The pork chapter is divided into chops (1" thick), skewers (1" cubes of tenderloin, loin, butt), ribs (baby back).
Chicken is divided into chicken parts (skin-on breasts, thighs, wings), skewers (1" chunks), and whole chickens.
In the seafood chapter you will find sections on shrimp, fish fillets, tuna steaks, and other fish steaks. I have some issues with these fish recipes. They are not very clear on the difficulty of flipping fish fillets. Nor do they discuss the thickness of the fillets. In other words, I think the "very basic" grilled fish recipe has too little instruction. There should be more information on how to deal with fish on the grill. I love the recipes for the sauces and salsa, but I have had a lot of experience grilling fish, so the lack of instructions is not a problem for me. Someone putting their first fish fillet on the grill could easily find failure. No whole fish recipes, that was a disappointment for me personally.
The veggie chapter is limited to sections on new potatoes, eggplant, corn, cherry tomatoes and asparagus.
The drinks chapter has 13 recipes featuring mint, ginger and pineapple.
*I am posting this review on the day this book is first available to the public. Months ago, I received a temporary download of this book from the publisher. So I have been working with these recipes for some time. I love to grill, and I grill and smoke often. During the winter months (when I tested these recipes) I use a gas grill. These recipes taste just great over gas. They will taste even better over fire. (I use two Weber Genesis grills.) I also have a Char Broil infrared grill that I picked up on Amazon on Black Friday last year. That is why I was so hot to tell you how well these recipes work with an infrared. During the summer I use wood and lump charcoal on a fire pit or a Weber kettle grill. I have been grilling since the 70's.
I am definitely going to add this book to my collection of grilling books. Other grill books I recommend are books by the Jamison's, Carpenter and Sandison, and Mallmann's "Seven Fires". I have several other grill books by Schlesinger and Willoughby, but think that this one is their best. I think the recipes in the Carpenter and Sandison "Hot" series would transcribe nicely into the techniques presented in this book.
If you're aghast at the prospect of nearly eliminating marinades, consider that a number of food science authorities have tested how far marinades penetrate and have found that flavoring agents only influence the top few millimeters of foods. Salting (for red meat) and brining (for poultry and pork) is still beneficial, but marinades are a surface treatment. And if you're only affecting the surface...why not use a more flavorful rub, glaze, dressing, or relish to add flavors directly to the surface?
Their formula is generally as follows, presented here in Mad Libs format: While hanging out with [PEOPLE YOU LIKE] and drinking [WHATEVER TAKES THE EDGE OFF], simply grill [PROTEIN] or [VEG] seasoned simply with salt and pepper or a simple [RUB] and some oil, slice or serve whole as appropriate, and top with simple [RELISH, SAUCE, DRESSING] made from a handful of flavorful ingredients with clean, distinct flavors.
I generally riff off their recipes, which they intend and encourage. In general, I tend to reduce the quantities of watery liquids (soy, citrus juice, wine) they call for, as they tend to soak the crunchy-crispy bits and affect the texture. Where citrus is called for, I tend to include just a squeeze for brightness, and then use the citrus zest from that lime or orange to introduce more flavor.
While I've been grilling for a long, long time, and for weekday meals, I find myself reaching for this book for inspiration more than just about anything else on my cookbook shelf. It'd be a great book for a newcomer looking to move past steaks and burgers, but even an old pro can derive useful tips and ideas. The grilled eggplant with feta cheese and aleppo chile is genius. So is the Jerk Wings From Hell.
One quibble: Most American spice purveyors refer to the flaked chiles this book calls Maras pepper as "Aleppo pepper" or "pul biber." If you can't find Maras pepper for the life of you, and you really should obtain some and put it in everything, google Aleppo pepper and you'll find it.
“The Big Flavor Grill” is exactly what it says. S&W have created a format that should work perfectly for the cook who doesn’t want a multi-step preparation, prefers a really simple mise en place, and wants it non-complex yet tasty. S&W have devised a very effective format for this: Cook one of the really simple proto-recipes (“Really Simple Pork Skewers” for example), and then modify it, usually with condiments, sambals, sauces, &c. This is very effective.
But here’s the rub: If one chooses to cook in this terse a manner, one loses a lot of options and depth. The aforementioned pork – a rub or a wet rub or a marinade could help it become something better. But this isn’t what the book offers; and I get that. For me, this is a little like cooking with your left hand behind your back. But then, that’s what the book promises to do, right? Hence my problems with reviewing this properly.
Where I see this book really shining is as an entry point into cooking for the previously uninitiated. And I think that, if your kids are ready to be around the grill, this book would be a splendid starting point, offering powerfully tasty, high-impact meals cooked in an exciting cooking method.
A very good, entry-level cookbook.
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