Monday, May 16, 2011

"BBQ Makes Everything Better"

The only thing that could make this book meatier is if it was printed on bacon.

I cook most of our dinners on the grill. I especially love to grill in the winter when there’s a little bit of snow. Makes me feel in control of the elements. Mother Nature’s not going to tell me when I can or can’t have a steak.

Thus, I was excited to receive a review copy of "BBQ Makes Everything Better," by Aaron Chronister and Jason Day. They’re two-thirds of Kansas City's Burnt Finger BBQ team, the duo behind, and the inventors of the Bacon Explosion.

The cookbook won the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Barbecue Book, and it’s now available in paperback. Aaron and Jay will be signing copies and performing a cooking demonstration at Sam’s Club in Independence, Mo., this Saturday, May 14.

"BBQ Makes Everything Better" was written with a good sense of humor -- after all, these are the guys that call bacon “meat candy.” The recipes are easy to follow with lots of helpful tips, and run the gamut from ribs, pork, brisket and sauce, to chapters on burgers, international flavors, fancier dishes and desserts.

And of course, the book has a chapter all about bacon, too. There’s also another chapter dedicated to fatties, which are giant smoked meat rolls and the inspiration for the Bacon Explosion.

I’ve made a handful of the recipes over the past few weeks, and here are my results. FYI -- all cooking was done on my Blue Ember, which I can’t recommend enough if you’re in the market for a gas grill.

Bacon Cheeseburger Fatty
It’s sirloin, American cheese, ketchup, mustard and pickles packed inside a bacon weave and smoked for a couple of hours. Turned out very tasty with big smoke flavor, although next time I think we’ll top it with some lettuce, tomato and onion -- it seemed a little lonely on the bun all by itself.

I’m proud to say I’ve gotten much better at bacon weaving since my first go with the Bacon Explosion, too. Really the only hiccup I had while making this was a slight overbrowning of the bacon weave due to a major flare-up that coincided with the exact moment my three-year-old daughter discovered how locks work, stranding me on the deck until my wife Kelly came to the rescue.

Creamy Mushroom Steakburger & Sweet-Potato Fire Fries
I’ve been obsessed with cream cheese on burgers ever since I had the Bacon Philly Cheeseburger at Twin City Tavern, but haven’t had much luck with my own cream cheese experimentations at home. This topping is made with cream cheese, mushrooms and beef consommĂ©, and it’s melty, messy and fantastic. Extra points for recommending an onion bun.

The fries were super easy -- slice, toss with olive oil, sprinkle with spices and grill -- and are absolutely going to make it into the regular rotation.

Steak-Wrapped Shrimp, Grilled Port Portobello Mushrooms & Bacon Gorgonzola Twice-Grilled Potatoes
I chose these recipes for an all-grilled Friday night dinner, but I didn’t think about the fact that it’d end up being such a brown plate. However, it was an excellent meal, so whatever.

The steak-wrapped shrimp were delicious little surf and turf nuggets, dusted with chili powder, red pepper flakes and other spices, and then glazed with a sauce they’re also served with for dipping. The mushrooms had a nice kick, thanks to a marinade made with port wine, Worcestershire and a mustard-based barbecue sauce. The potatoes were rich without being too rich -- and I’m 100% in favor of anything with bacon and gorgonzola.

Grilled Candy Bars
Tortillas brushed with butter and sugar, with marshmallow fluff and a candy bar inside. What’s not to like?

The recipe says you can use any candy bar you want. I made these with a NestlĂ© Crunch, a Take 5 and a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar. And while my all-time favorite candy bar is Crunch, the crisped rice seemed to experience a secondary puffification on the grill -- I think there may have even been the risk of a molten chocolate explosion. Either way, I actually preferred the simplicity of the Hershey’s here.

Also, grilling the candy bars gave Dorsett and I a valid excuse to step out of Kelly’s royal wedding party. That alone made them awesome.

There are plenty more recipes in "BBQ Makes Everything Better" that I’m looking forward to trying out. To name but a few, Absolut Peppar Dinosaur Ribs, the cheesy jalapeno fatty and smoked deviled eggs.

Thanks again to Aaron and Jay for the review copy! It’s already got sauce smudges.

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