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Hot Off the Press, Here Come the Latest Guides to the Grill

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Thrill of the Grill by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby

(William Morrow & Co. Inc.: $24.95)

(Publication Date: June 14, 1990; 395 pages, 200 recipes, 32 pages of color photographs.) Imagine mingling the sizzlingly spicy flavors of equatorial foods and the sweet, smoky tastes of American Southern barbecue and you’ll discover what this book is all about.

In 1985 Chris Schlesinger opened the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Mass. More recently he opened Jake and Earl’s, a barbecue take-out next door. But the young chef is also a surfer; while searching for the perfect wave, he discovered equatorial food, which he describes as “highly spiced, usually grilled, and served in that informal, friendly fashion that goes with beaches and hot weather.” With food writer John Willoughby, he has translated his findings into chapters of exotic tropical grilled meats, seafood and poultry.

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“Grilling creates no natural jus or any equivalent,” note the authors. Who wants grilled shrimp without fresh salsa? The one here is made with chopped fresh pineapple, sweet peppers and ancho chiles. Then there’s banana-green mango chutney, whose sweet tangy taste is in perfect balance with spicy pork on skewers. These grilling partners are contained in one special chapter called “Sambals, Blatjangs and Salsas.” They’re so unusual, they’re worth the price of the book.

But the accompaniments aren’t all tropical. Schlesinger remembers barbecue parties at his parent’s cottage near Virginia Beach, and adapts Southern standards such as piccalilli of corn and watermelon. Georgia peach chutney and Leesburg chowchow complement outdoor pork baby backribs and duck barbecue. He also touches on the Southwest: chipotle pepper mayonnaise with cilantro is an appropriate partner for the strong-character of grilled bluefish.

Last-minute touches are the chef’s trademark. He writes, ". . . a squeeze of lime, some fresh herbs, a chunk of spicy butter. I like my sauces to reach as many parts of the palate as possible simultaneously.” His compound herbed butters of basil-lemon, rosemary-garlic or honey-sage melt over the warm food, adding a bit of richness, a bit of zing.

Color illustrations, sound advice on grilling techniques, and interesting anecdotes all add to the thrill of this grilling book. As a bonus, it includes some desserts and beverages. Best of all, there’s a useful pantry of unusual ingredients listed at the end.

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365 Great Barbecue & Grilling Recipes by Lonnie Gandara with Peggy Fallon

(Harper & Row: $15.95)

(214 pages, no photographs, 365 recipes.)

Don’t underestimate this book. Despite its lack of photographs and illustrations, it offers ideas for every day of the year. And it is an ideal working cookbook. The sleek red, white and blue cover is washable, and the book lies flat when opened so it is extremely easy to use. Finally, author Lonnie Gandara, a California culinary consultant with an advanced certificate from the Paris Cordon Bleu, has covered almost every grilling favorite you can think of.

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For hot beginnings, how about grilled quesadillas? Or try beef or pork satay, Southwestern frittata or a no-fuss grilled wheel of Brie.

Most dishes have an American accent: hamburger is offered au poivre, Yankee Doodle chicken comes with butter and cider vinegar, spareribs are served “in the nude” with no gooey, fussy barbecue sauce. But there are also some sweet surprises: a dessert called chocolate-raspberried pound cake and all manner of drunken foods such as Scotch-soaked quail and grilled halibut with martini butter.

“Smoke-Touched Salads” is a refreshing chapter. You’ll expect good things from grilled and chilled steak salad, or grilled salad nicoise. Equally refreshing is the “Foiled Again” chapter--which offers creamy pesto bread or nachos on fire.

A chapter on barbecue sauces, marinades and glazes offers delicious samplings such as Ragin’ Cajun Sauce, Hong Kong BBQ Sauce and Black Olive Pesto. Not to be missed is Grilling Go-Withs, delightful accompaniments from salads to hot vegetables, rice and beans.

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The author makes it easy to decide from the start how long a dish takes to prepare, offering timing on preparation, marination and cooking. This would be a good gift for a beginning cook, as most recipes are quick, easy and completely unfrightening.

The Art of Grilling: a Menu Cookbook by Kelly McCune

(Harper & Row: $14.95)

(Paperback, 108 pages, color photographs throughout, 75 recipes . ) Flip through this sophisticated, beautifully photographed book and you may just want to get that fire going. A sequel to the award-winning “Grill Book” (Harper & Row), Kelly McCune’s latest opus is a barbecue bible for the ‘90s, offering more helpful tips, guidelines, product information and best of all, more innovative recipes.

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Updating begins with the latest information on grilling tools and equipment. McCune is aware of the heightened interest in smoked foods; she provides a section on smoke-cooking which details the latest word in modern smokers while also encouraging you to adapt your present grill for smoking. In the back of the book there is a helpful section listing equipment sources.

The recipes are eclectic, concentrating on regional American cooking--with a nod to the earthy food of the Southwest and the increasingly popular Far East influence. As captured by Viktor Budnik’s camera, the foods become tantalizing works of art.

The 24 menus are each designed around a grilled main dish; the creative meals include recipes for one or two grilled side dishes as well. Thai Barbecued Chicken is served with snow peas with toasted sesame dressing and silver noodles with cucumber, carrot and rice vinegar. A light seafood summer meal features grapevine-smoked whole salmon, trout and oysters, accompanied by fresh and dried bean salad and oven-roasted asparagus.

One of the most important chapters--on marinades, sauces and relishes--features 40 recipes. McCune divides the marinade groups into acidic marinades (for tenderizing and flavoring meats), oil marinades (give moistness, crispness and flavor to lean food, keep them from sticking to the grill), paste marinades (for savory crusts) and dry marinades (herb sprinkles to add just before grilling).

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The “Art of Grilling” takes down to earth grilling to artistic heights. It may just qualify for the most inexpensive coffee table book on a culinary subject.

The distinguishing flavor in Thai Barbecued Chicken is garlic, and plenty of it. The tangy taste of the garlic is balanced, however, by other flavors in the marinade: peanuts, coconut milk, palm sugar, cilantro and nam pla, or Thai fish sauce.

THAI BARBECUED CHICKEN

(from “The Art of Grilling”)

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8 to 12 chicken pieces

1 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup nam pla (fish sauce)

1/4 cup lime juice

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8 cloves garlic, minced

4 shallots, minced

1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, minced

2 tablespoons curry powder

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1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons Thai palm sugar or brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

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Leave skin on chicken, but cut away excess. Trim fat. Pat chicken dry. Combine coconut milk, nam pla, lime juice, garlic, shallots, peanuts, curry powder, red pepper flakes, palm sugar, salt and cilantro. Mix well in nonreactive dish. Add chicken pieces and toss well in marinade, coating well. Marinate at room temperature 2 hours, or at least 4 hours in refrigerator.

Oil cooking rack. In covered grill over medium hot coals, grill chicken, bone side down, 12 minutes. Turn and cook another 10 to 12 minutes, skin side down, or until juices run clear when pierced with skewer. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This spicy mustard glaze is a nice change from the tomato-based sauces so often used on ribs. Baking these in advance makes the grilling a snap.

KANSAS CITY-STYLE SPARERIBS

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(from “365 Great Barbecue & Grilling Recipes”)

6 cloves garlic, crushed

8 or 9 pounds pork spareribs (about 3 racks)

2 teaspoons salt

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1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup coarse-grain mustard

1/3 cup cider vinegar

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1/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard

Rub garlic on both sides of ribs and season with salt and pepper. Arrange ribs, meat side down, on large baking sheet. Cover and bake at 350 degrees 1 hour, turning ribs after 20 minutes. (Ribs can be baked 1 day ahead. Remove to rack and let drain and cool. Then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.) In medium nonreactive saucepan, combine brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, molasses and dry mustard. Bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove glaze from heat and let cool slightly.

Prepare hot fire. Place prebaked ribs, meaty side up, on oiled grill set 4 to 6 inches from coals. Spread 1/3 of glaze over ribs and cook until bottom is browned, about 5 minutes. Turn ribs.

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Spread half of remaining glaze over ribs. Cook until meat side is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn ribs again. Spread remaining glaze on top. Grill until bottom side is well browned and crisp, about 5 minutes longer.

Cut into individual ribs or portions for serving. Makes 6 servings.

This is a variation of the dry rub commonly used in barbecue. The normal searing and crusting action of grilling is enhanced by the rub .

GRILLED WEST INDIES SPICE-RUBBED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH GRILLED BANANAS

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(from “The Thrill of the Grill”)

Spice Rub

4 chicken breasts, boned but not skinned

4 firm bananas or firm-ripe plantains, peeled and halved lengthwise

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2 tablespoons oil

Butter

2 tablespoons molasses

Lime halves

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Rub enough spice mixture to coat both sides of each chicken breast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours. Over medium hot fire, grill chicken, skin side down, 7 to 8 minutes or until well-browned and heavily crusted. Turn chicken and grill additional 8 to 10 minutes. Check for doneness by nicking largest breast at fattest point. Meat should be fully opaque with no traces of red. Remove chicken from grill. Put 1 teaspoon butter on each breast.

Rub banana halves with oil and place them on grill, flat side down. Grill about 2 minutes, or until flat sides are slightly golden in color. Flip them and grill additional 2 minutes. Remove banana halves from grill. Mix 1 tablespoon hot melted butter and molasses together and paint over bananas. Serve with chicken breasts and sprinkle both with little lime juice. Makes 4 servings.

Spice Rub

3 tablespoons curry powder

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3 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons allspice

3 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons ground ginger

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1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper

Combine curry powder, cumin, allspice, paprika, ginger, cayenne, salt and pepper. Mix well. Place in tightly covered jar. Makes about 1 cup.

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Grilled food for sushi eaters--steak that is rubbed with spices and then cooked so quickly that the interior is left basically raw.

SEARED SIRLOIN, SUSHI STYLE

(from “The Thrill of the Grill”)

Spice Rub

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1 (16- to 20-ounce) sirloin steak, 2 inches thick, trimmed of all fat

1/2 cup soy sauce

6 ounces prepared pickled ginger

1/4 cup wasabi

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1/4 cup water

Rub steak on all sides with Spice Rub to taste. Allow to stand at room temperature, uncovered, 1 hour.

Over very hot fire, heavily sear steak on all its surfaces, 2 minutes per surface (thick steak will have 4 surfaces). Heat should penetrate only outer layer of meat but searing should be done close to very high heat.

Remove meat from grill and allow to cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days if desired, then bring out 1 hour before serving to remove chill. Slice meat paper-thin and arrange on platter with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi mixed with water. Makes 4 appetizer servings.

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Spice Rub

1 tablespoon freshly cracked white pepper

1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

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1 tablespoon five-spice powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix white and black peppers, salt, five-spice powder, paprika and ginger. Use to taste.

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