Get cooking with "Charred & Scruffed" by Adam Perry Lang
Dec 23, 2012
"People love barbeque. The combination of fire, smoke, salt, and meat is probably the first recipe that humans ever discovered. Even vegetarians are programmed to love meat prepared this way: they choose not to eat it, which just leaves more for the rest of us." (Forward, page IX)
It quickly becomes clear "Charred & Scruffed: Bold new techniques for explosive flavor on and off the grill" is not a normal cookbook. This is as 280 page cookbook with serious attitude. Adam Perry Lang does barbequing and grilling quite a bit differently than the way most of us gave been taught through family traditions. If the forward written by his coauthor Peter Kaminsky does not make that clear, Adam Perry Lang does in the introduction when he states he actively moves the meat and checks it constantly while cooking. That is totally opposite to long standing belief that when cooking meat on a grill you just have it leave it alone. As the rest of the book will make clear that isn't the only change he makes.
Before getting to the actual recipes, various different ideas are explained in "Part 1: The Theory and Practice of Barbeque." This section goes from page 2 to page 27 and covers various topics such as his preferred four seasonings (salt, black pepper, garlic salt, and cayenne), scuffing the meat so that the taste fills the nooks and crannies better, basting, layering flavor, working the heat correctly, and other points of interest. Along with the informative text there are plenty of pictures of food and Adam Perry Lang in action using his techniques.
Recipes begin with "Part II: Meat, Fish, and Fowl" on page 28. He opens with "classics" as he defines them such as "Man Steak With Thyme Zinfandel Salt" on pages 34-39. Along with the recipe and detailed instructions (with pictures) of the cooking process, there are tips and pictures of how to clean the grill while cooking so that the meat is properly cooked. This is done while the meat is on a "pause break" resting away from the grill after the crust has formed on the outside of the meat. In addition to this recipe there are six other detailed recipes here in the "classics" part of part II.
"High and Slow" comes next starting on page 50 and throws the age old mantra of "low and slow" away. Instead, he believes the way to do it is build the fire, cook the meat high and away from the heat sources, and then right at the end, drop the meat close to the fire to finish it off while basting frequently. This part contains six detailed recipes such as "High-Low Boneless Rib Eye" (pages 62-65) and "Thick Pork Chops Guaranteed Juicy" (pages 76-79) among others.
The opposite idea of high and slow is getting the meat right down in the flames and that is the point of "Clinching: Down and Dirty." This starts on page 84 with an explanation of the technique involved before moving on to such recipes as "Clinched Strip Steak" (pages 92-97) and "Clinched Boneless Pork Chops" (page 100-101) among others. By doing it this way, you form the charred crust around the meat quickly and lock in the flavor while continuing to cook the meat as close to flame as possible.
Those five recipes have company in the eight recipe "Clinched And Planked" area which immediately follows. This is when you place the item to be cooked, after it has a crust, on a presoaked plank of wood and keep it covered. This gives the item being cooked a uniform temperature while also creating flavorful smoky steam to surround the food. "Clinched-And-Planked Shrimp (pages 110-113), "Clinched-And-Planked Chicken Legs" (pages 124-127) and "Clinched-And-Planked Fish Steaks" (pages 130-131) are just some of the choices here.
Side dishes are just as important as the main part and are covered in "Part III: Co-Stars." This part runs from page 132 to page 205 and features various subsections use designed to give you the perfect side dish to accompany the meal. Variety is key here as these recipes are broken down into different parts based primarily on the taste they create in your mouth.
This begins with "Melting, Creamy, and Comfortable" area that features ten dishes that "....calm down the strength of barbeque without getting in the way of flavor." (Page 134) Here is where you go for "Mushrooms In Parsley Cream" (pages 138-139), "Bubbling Bacon Butter Beans" (pages 142-143) or "Melting Potatoes" (pages 150-151) among others.
"Crispy, Fresh, And Sprightly" comes next. This area features sides that will crunch when you bite into them giving you a crisp flavor in contrast to the meat. "Green Apple, Cabbage And Caraway Slaw" (pages 162-163) kick off the seven salad type recipes here. No grilling is involved with these.
Leafy Vegetables are the focus of the next area "Leaves, Lettuces and Greens." 7 recipes starting with "Charred Radicchio with Sweet-And-Sticky Balsamic and Bacon" (pages 178-181) and ending with "Warm Crunchy Broccolini With Prosciutto and Scruffed Croutons" (pages 192-193 are here.
Maybe you are in the mood for French Fries or onion rings. "Duck-Fat Fries" (page 198) and "Crispy Moonshine Onion Rings" (page 200-201) are here in the next area titled "Crispy Bits." Three other recipes are also present in this area.
That leads readers to "Part IV: Finishing" starting on page 206. This is where you learn to finish the dish by way of several different options. The author opens with "Spackles" which are designed to wake up the taste buds so that you don't just taste the barbecue smoke. "These spackles are a finishing touch, a powerful uppercut that jolts the senses." (Page 208) This is where you go for "Red Pepper Spackle" (page 212-213), "Tomato Sparkle" (pages 218-219) and five others.
"Bastes" come next and ". . . are based on combinations of sweet, sour, salty, and hot." (page 226) You can go with a "Basic Baste" (page 230), or a "Classic Southern Baste" (page 234) or "BBQ Sauce" (page 237) among other choices. There are a total of ten bastes here with very different tastes so you have variety to pick and choose from.
Using salt as a flavor enhancer correctly comes next starting on page 240 with "Finishing Salts." There are 8 suggestions here such as "Thyme, Rosemary and Sage Salt" (page 244), "Lime Coriander Salt" (pages 248-249) and "Charcoal Salt" (pages 253-256). For the "Charcoal Salt" you will need "a lump of good-quality hardwood lump charcoal, briefly rinsed and dried" that you can grate onto other ingredients before running the whole deal through a clean spice or coffee grinder.
The book closes with a one page "sources" listing, a one page "Conversion Charts" and an eight page index. Unfortunately, there is no nutritional information in the cook book beyond number of servings. Therefore there is no information on fats, calories, etc., regarding any of these dishes.
This cookbook is perfect for barbeque enthusiasts and those who want to learn how to grill correctly and effectively. Not only does it teach you various cooking strategies it also provides considerable variety in dishes. Whether you want to feed a small gathering of friends and family or you want to entertain on a large scale there is something in this very well done cookbook for you.
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Apartment tenant policies set by our apartment management team prevented this reviewer from attempting any of these dishes. Grills of any type or size using any fuel source are banned from the property due to structure fires at this property and elsewhere directly caused by tenants failing to monitor their grills. Possession of a grill is a fineable offense that can also result in forfeiture of said lease and eviction. That fact makes any outdoor cooking impossible.