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For the grill, two big ol’ daddies rule

Times Staff Writer

IN summertime, a barbecuer’s heart lightly turns to creating -- or stealing; who cares? -- dynamite grill recipes.

That’s why we have barbecue books. The current crop shows the magnificent vitality of the American ‘cue scene (translation: there are some wacky backyard grillers and barbecue contest entrants out there).

For the record:

12:00 a.m. June 29, 2007 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 29, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Barbecue cookbook: In Wednesday’s Food section review of “Extreme Barbecue,” the name of one of the authors was misspelled. The book was co-written by Dan Huntley, not Dan Hunter.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 04, 2007 Home Edition Food Part F Page 2 Features Desk 0 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Cookbook author name: A review of the cookbook “Extreme Barbecue” in the June 20 Food section incorrectly named one of the authors. The book was co-written by Dan Huntley, not Dan Hunter.

And there are two major entries: “Mastering the Grill” by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim, which borrows its structure from Julia Child’s epic, and “Weber’s Charcoal Grilling” by Jamie Purviance, which aims to show that those of us who haven’t bought a gas grill can do very impressive cooking. The former is the big book of the season, a virtual school for the authors’ particular kind of high-level inventive barbecue.

There are others, natch. Fred Thompson’s “Barbecue Nation” gathers recipes (350 of them, in this case) from home grillers -- some of them very rudimentary, such as using bottled salad dressing as a marinade. Which happens to work pretty well, by the way.

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“Extreme Barbecue: Smokin’ Rigs and Real Good Recipes,” by Dan Hunter and Lisa Grace Lednicer, is something else -- a walk on the very wild side of homemade barbecue rigs.

The authors visit people around the country who cook in customized trash cans, brick-lined pits in the ground, cardboard boxes lined with aluminum foil, elaborate two-story rigs with spiral staircases and raggedy piles of loose cinderblocks.

And those examples are just from the East; the Midwest apparently specializes in grills made out of earth-moving equipment or old steam engines.

The recipes aren’t as exotic as the rigs, but the one thing I’m disappointed at in this book is that it’s printed in a small (6-by 8-inch) format on paper stock that doesn’t reproduce color very well. I, for one, would have liked bigger, clearer photos of these crazy rigs.

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Recipes with imagination

BACK to the big dogs. “Weber’s Charcoal Grilling” and “Mastering the Grill” are both ambitious cookbooks with a lot in common, including a taste for butter, fresh herbs and kosher salt (which is better than table salt for brining and dry-curing and elsewhere can add an attractive crunch).

Purviance’s book has slight folksy tendencies -- he visits with 10 (Weber barbecue-using) “charcoal fanatics” who include a retired lawyer, a Colorado game hunter and a Marine stationed in Iraq.

Basically, though, it’s another collection of imaginative recipes from a guy who graduated first in his class from the Culinary Institute of America and went on to write (as of this volume) five barbecue cookbooks under the Weber imprint.

Not that he’s out of touch with what a lot of us are looking for. He includes five recipes for pork tenderloin, that favorite cut of dieters, which can always use a little dressing up.

He has a very good way with adapting non-barbecue sauce ideas. The tomatillo salsa in one of his pork loin recipes has a smoky note of bacon in it, turning this Mexican concept into something a little bit Southern. He serves rosemary-crusted porterhouse steaks with what’s pretty much a French wine sauce except for that half cup of ketchup, which gives it a subtle kinship to barbecue sauce.

His idea of topping oak-grilled swordfish with a savory hash of ground almonds and garlic fried in butter is brilliant, and he makes a luscious pale green sauce from Anaheim chiles, mayonnaise and sour cream that goes beautifully with scallops. Sometimes, as you always fear in high-flying barbecue books such as this one, his creative ideas go a briquette too far: Marinating filet mignon in gin and olive brine is a cute idea, but it doesn’t have much payoff in flavor.

The title of “Mastering the Grill” recalls Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and the Schloss-Joachim volume has something of the same systematic style. There are “mastering technique” sections for everything you might cook on the grill (ribs, chops, fish fillets, even cheese, leaves and flowers) that feel like the “master recipes” in Child’s book.

The resemblance extends to the practice of incorporating recipes given elsewhere in the book. The ingredients list of a given recipe may refer you to pages 382 and 393.

And as with Child, you often have to multiply or divide those subsidiary recipes to fit the dish at hand, so you might have to reduce a two-thirds cup recipe to two tablespoons (FYI, friend, it’s just a simple three-sixteenths proportion). But also as with Child, it’s actually worth it. These are classy, inventive recipes.

Take cumin-crusted sea bass in lime-cilantro butter. The idea of flavoring fish with cumin, though common in the Mediterranean, is little known in this country, but cumin happens to have a real affinity for fish (here, a bit of fresh ginger is along for the ride as well). With a luscious, perfumed lime-cilantro butter on it, this is one irresistible fish.

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Butter, with a twist

BUTTER is certainly part of the secret of that dish’s success, as in a number of “Mastering” recipes. There’s often a twist, though. Grilled vegetables come in a vinaigrette in which browned butter replaces the oil, its browned flavor pointing up the grilled taste of the vegetables. There’s a spectacular roast chicken recipe in which butter compounded with Provencal herbs is rubbed under the skin, making for particularly fragrant meat and crisp skin.

Butter’s not the whole story. Molasses-brined pork chops come out not only juicy but also with a hint of barbecue sauce in the meat.

Whole-grain mustard burgers contain horseradish and two kinds of mustard, but the effect is mysteriously savory, rather than strongly pungent, and the texture is punctuated by the gentle popping of balsamic-marinated mustard seeds between your teeth.

And you’ve got to love foodies who are determined to perfect the humble s’more. Evidently it has always rankled one of the authors that the toasted marshmallow is rarely hot enough to melt the candy bar, though it’s so gooey it squishes out between the cookies. So: an open-face s’more with the hot marshmallow resting on chocolate-hazelnut spread.

That recipe’s so easy to make it might have been thought up by one of the backyard grill jockeys in “Barbecue Nation.” Well, at this time of year, it’s all one barbecue world. And we barbecuers will steal ‘em as we see ‘em.

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charles.perry@latimes.com

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Rosemary-crusted porterhouse steaks with red wine sauce

Total time: About 1 hour

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from “Weber’s Charcoal Grilling” by Jamie Purviance.

Red wine sauce

2 cups low-sodium beef stock

1 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the stock, wine, ketchup, thyme and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and simmer until the mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Rosemary-crusted steaks

2 porterhouse steaks, 1 to 1 1/4 pounds each, about 1 1/4 inches thick, trimmed of excess fat

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Red wine sauce

2 tablespoons butter, cut into two equal pieces

1. Coat the steaks on both sides with the olive oil and season evenly with the rosemary, salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.

2. Prepare a charcoal fire covering one-half or two-thirds of the charcoal grate (a “two-zone” fire; if using a gas grill, turn flame to high heat). Sear the steaks over the fire, with the lid closed as much as possible, for 6 minutes, turning once and swapping their places as needed for even cooking. Then move the steaks away from the fire (“indirect heat”; if using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium) and cook until done to your taste, 4 to 6 minutes for medium rare. Remove the steaks from the grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Bring the sauce to a simmer and whisk in the butter until emulsified. Remove from heat. Carve the steaks and serve warm with the red wine sauce.

Each serving: 725 calories; 50 grams protein; 10 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 49 grams fat; 19 grams saturated fat; 145 mg. cholesterol; 2,179 mg. sodium.

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Cumin-crusted sea bass

Total time: About 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from “Mastering the Grill,” by Andrew Schloss and

David Joachim.

Lime cilantro butter

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter

1 clove garlic, minced

Juice and grated zest of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup minced cilantro (about 1/2 bunch)

In a small pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add the lime juice and zest and remove from the heat. Add the salt and pepper. Let cool to warm and then add the cilantro. Set aside.

Cumin-crusted sea bass

2 whole sea bass, about 1 1/2 pounds each, gutted and cleaned

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Scrape the dull side of a knife against the skin of the fish from tail to head to remove fine scales and excess moisture. Cut 3 or 4 diagonal slashes down to the bone on each side. In a bowl, mix together the cumin, garlic, ginger, salt, sugar, lemon zest and cilantro. Season the fish inside and out with the mixture. Rub 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the fish.

2. Put the fish on a liberally oiled grill (alternately, you can use a well-oiled grill screen or fish basket). Cover and cook over medium heat until browned on both sides and an instant-read thermometer reads 130 degrees, about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with the warm lime-cilantro butter sauce.

Each serving: 290 calories; 22 grams protein; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 grams fiber; 21 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 80 mg. cholesterol; 506 mg. sodium.

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Grilled summer vegetables with brown-butter vinaigrette

Total time: About 30 minutes

Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from “Mastering the Grill” by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim

2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise

2 yellow squash quartered lengthwise

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips

1 large onion peeled and cut into 8 wedges

3 large tomatoes, thickly sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) salted butter

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup capers

1. Toss the zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, orange bell pepper, onion and tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a grill screen over medium fire, covered, until browned and tender, 5 minutes on a side.

2. Put a medium skillet over high heat. Add the butter and cook until it begins to brown lightly . Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and capers.

3. Cut the vegetables in large bite-sized chunks, put in a serving bowl and pour the warm brown-butter vinaigrette over the vegetables. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 207 calories; 3 grams protein; 13 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 17 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 20 mg. cholesterol; 425 mg. sodium.


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