“I think I can capture the taste buds of the average right-wing conservative who loves barbecue.”
There’s a lot of mystique around competition barbecue and it tends to be a boy’s club, with macho posturing around the best technique, the meanest sauce, and the craziest combinations.
Melissa Cookston, with her pink-painted fingernails and diamond rings, just smiles and swabs–and wins.
And in this book, she translates her calm expertise for the home cook, sharing the secrets of her no-nonsense approach to layering flavor, marrying sweet, salt, and smoke in rubs and sauces. Her recipes swing back and forth between competition and home kitchen scale–the recipe for Ultimate Barbecue Rub recipe makes 6 1/2 cups–but you may find that it goes fast. Cookson uses it in the perfect Delta Juke Burgers to flavor the Juke Sauce, as well as in Baked BBQ Beans, BBQ Oysters, and Smokin’ Hot Wings. I sprinkled it on some edamame for munching while the grill came to heat. It won’t win any prizes, but it was pretty good.
We are in deep summer and in the backyard or the park this will be the only book you need to keep friends and family happily fed. To go with those burgers (an 80/20 meat to fat ratio please), I made Cookston’s Cucumber Salad and her Balsamic Grilled Vegetables. A light pickle keeps the cukes interesting and a marinade with some attentive grilling makes the asparagus, mushrooms, and peppers sweet, tender, and smoky. For dessert, Meyer Lemon Pie–any dessert made with graham crackers and sweetened condensed milk will make the cook and the eaters happy.
But what will really work for the cook are these recipes’ resiliency. I wasn’t about to hunt for Meyer lemons–and supermarket lemons worked great. Likewise, the tasso ham in Red Beans and Rice is a mail-order ingredient for me. But once again, Cookston’s bold and balanced spice mix carried the flavor–the Delta Creole Seasoning gave the stew some soul.
This is the book if you’re ready to barbecue, eat hearty, and call folks to the table, but can do without the posturing.