Food & Drink

New cookbooks help you savor the grill of victory

Beef Fajitas. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post. Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post.
Beef Fajitas. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post. Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post. For The Washington Post

Cookbooks are some of the best things to happen to barbecue during its current boom. The big general-overview books are deeper and more informed than similar books from yesteryear. And there is increasing room for books that draw on heritage, helping to evolve the cuisine in exciting ways.

As we enter the second half of the grilling season, here are 10 new books to help you raise your live-fire game.

“Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue,” by Tuffy Stone (St. Martin’s Griffin, $30).

“Mise en place” is not a term typically found in barbecue cookbooks. But Stone is not your typical barbecue cookbook author. Oh, he has traditional, albeit top-shelf, bona fides: He was a judge on TV’s “BBQ Pitmasters,” five-time world champion on the competition circuit and owner of Richmond, Virginia’s Q Barbeque restaurants. But Stone is also a classically trained chef who has cooked barbecue for a sold-out audience at the James Beard House.

Despite the fancy verbiage, Stone’s approach is laudably down-home. There are highbrow touches (dove breast, goose pastrami) and competition items (chicken thighs, ribs, pork butt). But it’s the sensible variants of grilling mainstays that make this book so appealing. Pork loin is stuffed with kale and bacon. Chicken leg quarters are dressed with tarragon and Aleppo pepper. Herb-stuffed trout with savory almond granola balances beautifully between simple campfire cooking and elegant dinner-party fare.

Instruction is clear. An overview of fire management is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Advice, such as “saving over- and undercooked meat,” is informed and valuable.

Whether you’re cooking the basics or seeking dishes that are a bit more elevated, this is the one essential barbecue book for you this year.

“Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces,” by Bill Kim, with Chandra Ram (Ten Speed Press, $30).

Talk about atypical. Bill Kim, having cooked at Chicago’s groundbreaking Charlie Trotter and Philly’s celebrated Chinese/fusion Susanna Foo, goes further into chef-barbecue territory, adding a welcome ingredient: his Korean background. Capitalizing on a superhot trend, Kim, the owner of Chicago’s BellyQ, goes far beyond the tabletop full of grilled meat commonly associated with Korean barbecue. He combines a chef’s creativity and exactitude with a larder from his heritage to create such dishes as kimchi salsa, gochujang salmon and the Mexican-Asian mash-up Korean al pastor. Kim dazzles with unfamiliar sauces and spice rubs. The book is a gloriously mind-bending trip into barbecue’s evolution.

“Cowboy Barbecue: Fire & Smoke from the Original Texas Vaqueros,” by Adrian Davila, with Ann Volkwein (The Countryman Press, $25).

Third-generation pitmaster Adrian Davila of Davila’s BBQ in the Central Texas town of Seguin assembled engaging recipes that pay tribute to his Latin American heritage, such as smoked beef tongue, in-the-ground cooked beef head, and the ever-popular beef fajitas. Engaging cultural, historical and personal overviews, along with unconventional items (goat tacos, peanut butter mole and shrimp in chile broth) expand our knowledge – and our culinary repertoire.

“French Grill: 125 Refined & Rustic Recipes,” by Susan Herrmann Loomis (The Countryman Press, $30).

Incorporating elements of Syrian (spiced lamb chops) and North African cooking (cod with chermoula) with more traditionally French recipes (tomatoes Provencale), “French Grill” reflects past colonial rule and current immigration trends. The handsomely presented book transports you to a cookout in the south (or, really, anywhere) of France. At this time of peak produce, try the “purely French” grilled vegetable salad.

“Hardcore Carnivore: Cook Meat Like You Mean It,” by Jess Pryles (Surrey Books; $30).

The good news: This is an informative and well-written book. The bad news: Only about half of it is about barbecue. But so what if your meat game gets a hybrid outdoors/indoors boost? The self-taught, Australian-born, Texan meat expert has an adventurous palate: Sumac-dusted roast chicken, dukkah-crusted backstrap, peanut-butter-and-jelly wings. There is even a recipe for kangaroo (she’s Australian, remember). Looking for exciting ideas? This is the book for you.

“How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food,” by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30).

The latest in Bittman’s How to Cook Everything series, this whopping 576-page book covers the basics of appetizers, sides, entrees and desserts in clear, well-reasoned prose. As the subtitle suggests, the recipes are unfussy. For each primary recipe, the former New York Times columnist provides variants to help inspire culinary improvisation. The book is a comprehensive primer, more for those learning their way around live-fire cooking than those already adept at taming the flames.

“Project Fire,” by Steven Raichlen (Workman; $23).

This book is like a live album. It doesn’t provide much new stuff, but it can satisfy nonetheless. By now, some 30 books, a couple of TV shows and a “university” into an unrivaled barbecue career, Raichlen perhaps couldn’t stop but also needed a breather. Whatever the case, the classics here (caveman porterhouse, chicken breasts grilled under a salt brick, harissa mayonnaise, grilled sangria) are classics for a reason.

“Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook,” by DJ BBQ, a.k.a. Christian Stevenson (Quadrille Publishing, $23).

This outlandish YouTube barbecue sensation brings his brash flair to globe-trotting recipes (Korean Philly cheesesteak, whole harissa-roasted cauliflower). Chapters include one on breakfasts and another on “dirt” cooking (on embers). The book could have been all attitude, but it’s grounded in a commendable and surprising sensibleness.

“Any Night Grilling: 60 Ways to Fire Up Dinner (and More),” by Paula Disbrowe (Ten Speed Press, $25).

This book from the Food52 team smartly balances the straight-ahead with the bold. But, “any night”? Consider the former for weeknights, the latter for weekends. From grilled halloumi cheese with blood oranges and ember-roasted beets with black lentils to leg of lamb with a sumac yogurt sauce and grilled figs with coffee ice cream, Disbrowe shows that, with a little forethought, an otherwise ordinary evening meal can be something special.

“The Secrets to Great Charcoal Grilling on the Weber,” by Bill Gillespie with Tim O’Keefe (Page Street, $22).

The winner of two of America’s biggest barbecue competitions, Gillespie brings his considerable knowledge to the basic backyard Weber. His recipes are generally beginner’s level (pork loin, beer can chicken), but his descriptions of different charcoal configurations are useful even to live-fire veterans.

Herb-Stuffed Trout With Savory Almond Granola

Yield: 6 servings

Think of this as a rustic, smoky homage to the French classic trout amandine.

The original recipe called for head-on fish, which can be difficult to come by. We had success in testing with six 6-to-8-ounce skin-on fillets, serving the stuffing mixture alongside or on top. If you find whole trout, you will need to butterfly it (keeping it together on one side), then spread a thin layer of the stuffing mixture on one interior surface before closing the fish together. Grill for 4 or 5 minutes on each side.

Make ahead: The savory granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from “Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue,” by Tuffy Stone (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2018).

For the granola

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon granulated garlic (garlic powder)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (sweet or hot)

1 1/2 cups whole, skin-on, unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup rolled oats

2 large egg whites

For the fish

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon canola oil

4 cups sliced leeks (halved lengthwise, then sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch thick half-moons)

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots

1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

36 to 48 ounces skin-on trout fillets (see headnote)

Juice of 1 lemon

For the granola: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Stir together the melted butter, sugar, garlic, salt, chipotle powder and smoked paprika in a mixing bowl, until well combined. Add the almonds and oats, tossing to coat thoroughly.

Whisk the egg whites in a small bowl until they hold soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the almond-oat mixture until just combined. Spread the granola over the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

Bake (middle rack) for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown. Let the granola cool to room temperature on the baking sheet. The yield is about 2 1/2 cups.

For the fish: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the oil over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, shallots, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring often for 10 minutes, until the leeks are soft and translucent. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Remove from the heat; fold in the chives and parsley. Discard the thyme sprigs. Cover loosely to keep warm while you grill the fish.

Place the trout fillets skin-sides down on a rimmed baking sheet. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and brush the flesh of the trout with half the melted butter, then dust with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Carefully turn and brush each fillet on the opposite side with the remaining butter, and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (about 400 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, use a metal chimney to prepare your charcoal or wood briquettes; once the charcoal is gray and glowing red, distribute the briquettes evenly under the cooking area. The grill should be ready when you can place your hand about 6 inches over the grates for 4 to 5 seconds without pulling it away.

Spray the grill grates with cooking oil spray. Working in batches as needed, carefully place each trout fillet directly on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 3 minutes. Use two metal spatulas to carefully turn them. Close the lid again and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque. Carefully transfer to a serving platter.

Garnish with the lemon juice and the remaining tablespoon of melted butter. Spoon the filling mixture over the top or alongside the fish. Sprinkle the granola evenly over the trout and serve right away.

Nutrition | Per serving (using half the granola): 550 calories, 40 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 35 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 140 mg cholesterol, 950 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar

Korean al pastor

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

The combination of tropical flavors makes these tacos with a grilled pineapple salsa especially mouthwatering. The sauce recipe included here would also be good on pork chops, baby back ribs and even a whole turkey.

We found in testing that it helps to give the meat a 15- to 30-minute rest in the freezer before slicing; this firms up the meat and makes it easier to slice thin.

Make ahead: You’ll have some sauce left over, which can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 2 months. It won’t fully harden when frozen, so you can spoon out as much as you need whenever you want to use it. The pork needs to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Adapted from “Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces,” by Bill Kim with Chandra Ram (Ten Speed Press, 2018).

For the Ko-Rican sauce

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons Madras curry powder

1/4 cup salt

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

26 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the tacos

1/2 cup gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)

1/2 cup fresh pineapple juice

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup honey

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices (see headnote)

Flesh of 1 pineapple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Kosher salt

Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving

Lettuce cups, for servings

Sliced yellow onions, for serving

For the Ko-Rican sauce: Whisk together the paprika, oregano, chili powder, curry powder, salt, vinegar, garlic and oil in a medium bowl, until well blended. The yield is 1 1/2 cups.

For the tacos: Combine 1 cup of the sauce, the gochujang, pineapple juice, chopped yellow onion and honey in a large, shallow dish and mix well. Add the pork slices and turn to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Prepare the grill for direct heat: If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on the grill. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 6 or 7 seconds. Close the lid and open the vents about a quarter of the way. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.

Place the pineapple slices on the grill grate; cook for 2 minutes on each side, turning once, until lightly charred. Transfer the grilled fruit to a cutting board; once it is cool enough to handle, finely chop it. Toss together that pineapple and cilantro in a bowl.

While the pineapple is cooling, place the pork slices on the grill grate and season lightly with salt, discarding any sauce left in the dish. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, turning once, until lightly charred. Transfer the pork to a serving platter and let it rest for 3 minutes.

While the pork is resting, place the corn tortillas on the grill to warm them slightly on each side, and soften, before serving.

Top the pork with the pineapple-cilantro salsa and serve with the tortillas, lettuce cups and sliced yellow onions on the side.

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

Beef fajitas

Yield: 15 to 20 servings

This is tailor-made for parties and large gatherings, as it calls for 10 pounds of skirt steak! There’s beer in the marinade.

The original recipe calls for “asado-style” grilling, which basically means direct heat, often using wood charcoal.

Make ahead: The meat needs to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Give it 30 minutes to come to room temperature before grilling.

Adapted from “Cowboy Barbecue: Fire & Smoke from the Original Texas Vaqueros,” by Adrian Davila, with Ann Volkwein (The Countryman Press, 2018).

10 pounds skirt steak

24 ounces (2 bottles) Modelo Light beer

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 4 lemons)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon granulated garlic (garlic powder)

2 red bell peppers

2 green bell peppers

2 yellow bell peppers

4 medium tomatoes

8 scallions, trimmed

1 large white onion, cut into 1-inch rounds

6 jalapeño peppers

30 flour tortillas

Sliced avocado, for serving

Pico de Gallo for serving

Fire-Roasted Tomato, Onion and Serrano Salsa for serving

Trim the skirt steak of any excess fat and remove the tough membrane. Use a sharp knife to score the meat diagonally with 1/2-inch deep cuts. This allows for the marinade to fully penetrate.

Combine the beer, lemon juice, oil, black pepper, salt and granulated garlic in a nonreactive pan (or for best results, in a Cryovac vacuum bag or a zip-top bag). Reserve 1 cup of marinade for basting. Put the steak in the bag with the marinade. Seal and massage to coat evenly. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Prepare the grill for direct heat: Light the hardwood charcoal or briquettes. Once they are ready, distribute them evenly in the grill. For a medium fire (350 to 375 degrees), you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the heat for at least 7 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.

Take the meat out of the refrigerator; discard the marinade. Allow the meat to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

Char the bell peppers directly over the hot coals, turning until blackened on all sides. Transfer to a zip-top bag; seal and steam the peppers for 10 minutes, then discard the skins and seeds. Cut the flesh into thick strips (rajas).

Place the meat on the grill grate; it should just fit on a standard Weber. Cook until medium (little or no pink inside), turning it every 5 minutes and basting it with the reserved marinade each time you turn; this may take 30 minutes (turning the steak about 8 times). Be careful to control any flare-ups.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board to rest for 10 to 12 minutes before slicing it into thin strips across the grain.

Meanwhile, grill the tomatoes, scallions, onion rounds and jalapeños until softened and lightly charred. Once they are cool enough to handle, slice the tomatoes, scallions and jalapeños as you like.

Serve the steak with the tortillas, avocado, Pico de Gallo and Fire-Roasted Tomato, Onion and Serrano Salsa.

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Part Mediterranean, part French, this salad is luscious because the vegetables are thoroughly cooked and resultingly sweet.

You’ll need a perforated vegetable grilling basket.

Serve as a first course or as an entree; the author suggests pairing the ratatouille with a bottle of Languedoc-Roussillon.

Adapted from “French Grill: 125 Refined & Rustic Recipes,” by Susan Herrmann Loomis (Countryman Press, 2018).

For the vinaigrette

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground piment d’espelette or a blend of mild and hot paprikas, or more as needed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh tarragon or basil

For the salad

2 medium zucchini (about 5 ounces each), cut in half lengthwise

2 medium eggplants (7 ounces each), cut in half lengthwise

2 medium bell peppers (about 5 ounces each; seeds and ribs removed), cut in quarters

4 scallions or small spring onions, trimmed

1 cup cherry tomatoes (8 ounces), preferably red and yellow, cut in half lengthwise

1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces medium cremini mushrooms (stems removed), wiped clean

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Fine sea salt

Fleur de sel, for serving

Herb sprigs of your choice, for garnish

For the vinaigrette: Whisk together the mustard, honey and vinegar in a medium bowl. Whisk in a large pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper along with the garlic and the piment d’espelette, then slowly whisk in the 1/4 cup of oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as needed.

For the salad: Brush the zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, scallions or spring onions and tomatoes all over with a tablespoon or two of oil, as needed. Brush the mushrooms first with lemon juice, then with oil. Set all of the vegetables on a large platter near the grill. Season them lightly with salt.

Prepare the grill for direct heat: If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on the grill. For a medium-hot fire (400 to 460 degrees), you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 4 or 5 seconds. Close the lid and open the vents about a quarter of the way. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.

Set the perforated pan on the grate, directly over the coals/heat. Once the pan is hot, place zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and scallions or spring onions on/in it. Cook (uncovered) for 2 minutes, then turn the vegetables, brush them with oil, and brown for 2 minutes. Close the grill lid and cook the vegetables until they are tender throughout, which will take 10 to 12 minutes for the zucchini, peppers and white eggplant, if using, 12 to 14 minutes for purple eggplant and the scallions. Check them at least once during cooking; if they are browning too quickly, move them to the edge of the grill, where they will continue to cook but won’t brown so quickly. Transfer the vegetables to the platter and return the grill pan to the grate.

Add the mushrooms; cook (uncovered) for 2 minutes on each side, then close the grill lid and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender on each side. Add them to the platter.

To serve the salad, cut the vegetables into large, nice-looking, bite-size pieces (zucchini on the bias, eggplant lengthwise, etc.). Arrange them on the platter or jumble them into a serving dish. Strew the cherry tomatoes over the top, or toss them in.

Mince the tarragon or basil and whisk it into the vinaigrette.

Drizzle the vegetables with the vinaigrette, season with fleur de sel, garnish with herb sprigs, and serve either warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 8): 130 calories, 3 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar