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Rob Rainford’s Born to Grill: Over 100 Recipes from My Backyard to Yours

by Rob Rainford

Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin’ and Chillin’

by Ted Reader

If Christmas is the season for hockey gift-books for dads, summer is for barbecue books. Each year a new crop of titles on how to char hunks of meat over coals and flames appears in stores just in time for Father’s Day. It’s a publishing ritual, and this year two veterans offer up decidedly different takes on the ways dads – and others – can cook alfresco.

Ted Reader is something of an extreme-grilling guru. He holds the Guinness record for grilling the world’s largest cheeseburger (185.8 lbs, all dressed). He’s known for arriving at parties with a massive barbecue that looks like a miniature steam locomotive mounted on a boat trailer. And in two books on the niche art of plank grilling, he has done yeoman’s work bringing this esoteric subject into the popular sphere.

Beerlicious is another title that aims to explode a niche. It is Reader’s opus on grilling with beer, and if you think that means downing a Bud Light while burning some hot dogs, this book will be a serious eye-opener.

Reader employs dozens of beers from around the world to create recipes that range from simple to complex to downright bizarre. Mussels and grilled chorizos are baked (a covered barbecue can function as an oven) in a sauce made from Rickard’s White (a rather mediocre wheat ale). Scotch eggs, barbecued plank-style, are made using smoked eggs pickled in a brine of India Pale Ale. Short ribs are marinated in Chimay (a Belgian Trappist beer) before being grilled with a glaze of chocolate sauce. Scallops are injected with Moosehead (yes, with a syringe) before grilling.

In more than 100 recipes, spread over chapters covering such subjects as beef, pork, game, sandwiches, seafood, and desserts, rarely does the same beer brand appear twice. In addition, the book provides primers on grill and charcoal types, planking, rotisseries, and meat cuts, and includes tasting notes on all beers used.

Beerlicious is not for novices in either barbecuing or beer. Some may find the range of brews fascinating, while others may be frustrated by their lack of availability. But for dads – and anyone else, for that matter – who love beer and are skilled at the grill, this cookbook is a winner.

Born to Grill, from TV chef Rob Rainford, is a more refined and less intimidating offering for barbecue season. Known for his Food Network Canada show License to Grill, Rainford here offers up 20 menus that draw inspiration from a variety of cuisines. Some feature African techniques and flavours, such as Egyptian lamb koftas (skewered meatballs) with tahini sauce. Others offer Caribbean flare, such as jerk-seasoned shrimp (Rainford originally hails from Jamaica). There are Asian menus with Szechuan chicken and Malaysian satays. Others focus on beef, game, fowl, or fish.

Rainford’s recipes always provide two or three types of meat to choose from, and he has included a smattering of more esoteric recipes, such as cold-smoked tuna tartare, which employs ice to reduce a smoker’s temperature while the fish is exposed to the smoke. Rainford’s menus also include salads, sauces, some vegetables, and even the occasional baked dish, such as asparagus quiche or cornbread muffins.

Born to Grill will appeal to home cooks looking to up their game a bit at the grill, trying out a few new flavours and techniques without having to adopt a whole new lifestyle.

For those who doubt the relationship between hockey and barbecue books, consider this: both Beerlicious and Born to Grill were originally signed by Key Porter Books, but didn’t make it to press before the publisher went bankrupt last year. Beerlicious has been picked up by McClelland & Stewart’s new Fenn/M&S imprint, run by former Key Porter publisher Jordan Fenn, a noted hockey-book publisher. Born to Grill, meanwhile, is the inaugural title in a new lifestyle imprint from Random House of Canada, M&S’s parent company.

This boys’ club just got a little more exclusive.