Monday, July 6, 2009

America's Best BBQ: 100 Recipes from America's Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants ~ A Book Review

Original Review by John Raven, Ph.B.

Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk do not just cook, eat and write about bar barbecue, they live barbecue. They have been mainstays in the Kansas City Barbecue Society since its formation some twenty-five years ago. Each man has written a half dozen or so books on the subject of barbecue.

Now they have teamed up to bring us "America's Best BBQ". The book is soft cover but tightly bound and, for its size, is heavy.

The reading is not the heavy part. The stories and recipes are written in a down-home style that is easy to read and understand. The book is, as they say in the trade, profusely illustrated. The photos and illustrations are not your run of the mill food stylist type. The entire book is an incredible montage of illustrations, photos, barbecue postcards, actual signs from the barbecue joints and more.

The content of the book is not limited to the Barbecue Belt from the Carolinas through Texas and Missouri. The joints and recipes cover the nation from Florida to Maine, from California to Washington State and all the country in between.

"America's Best BBQ" is divided into sections labeled:
Main Dishes
Sides and Condiments
Favorite BBQ Restaurants
Legacy Recipes
BBQ Basics
So you want to start a barbecue business?
Joints we like to visit
Joints we would like to visit

Just so you know, Appetizers are called Starters in a barbecue joint. Davis and Kirk include starters ranging from onion rings to cheese dips, brisket nachos to deviled eggs, gumbo to burgoo and fried green tomatoes. Each recipe given is a specialty from an actual barbecue joint.
The main dishes are, as you would expect, mainly meat. You have your beef ribs, brisket, rib eye, and prime rib recipes and techniques from around the nation. The pork main dishes include: the ever-popular ribs, pork steaks, pork butt, pig wings (ham shanks), and the party-size whole hog. Other meats given careful attention are baloney, sausage, mutton, lamb, chicken, turkey and seafood.

Main dishes you would not expect in a barbecue book include beer-battered cod and pan-fried chicken livers. Again, all recipes give point of origin, ingredients and cooking details.
The traditional sides for barbecue are beans, coleslaw and potato salad. "America's best BBQ" covers these sides in depth. There are several recipes for each, plus recipes for boiled and fried potatoes, along with cornbread and hushpuppies.

Most visits to a barbecue joint result in folks being so stuffed they have no room for desserts. For those of us who think there is enough -- but never too much -- of a good thing, Ardie and Paul have rounded up some fine desserts for the book.
The boys start with good old American apple pie and work their way to Bananas Foster. The most intriguing recipe in the whole book may be Pop's Salt Lick Sundae. This dessert from the Salt Lick Bar-B-Q in Driftwood, Texas is simply vanilla ice cream with Salt Lick Original Bar-B-Q Sauce on it. No substitutions.

Included in the book is much information about the world of barbecue in general. Ardie and Paul list the Top Ten joints they have visited. Without giving away too much, Ardie's number one favorite is Cooper's Old-Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, Texas. Paul lists The Dixie Pig in Blytheville, Arkansas as his top pick. The duo list a number of joints they intend to visit and report on.

There are pages devoted to barbecuers who have reached a measure of fame through their love of "Que". They talk about recipes and techniques. Scattered throughout the book are tidbits of barbecue legend and lore. You can learn how some of the barbecue traditions began, such as serving on butcher paper, why white bread is served with barbecue, and more.
Of course, no barbecue book would be complete without a discussion of various cooking apparatus and fuels. The chart of estimated cooking times is there.

To sum it up, "America's Best Barbecue" is the Wikipedia of barbecue information.

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