Adventures In Grilling by Chef Willie Cooper Book Review
“Every serious grill cook looks forward to his or her annual backyard barbecue. It’s a time-honored tradition that strikes when the weather is right and the days are long. It’s also a time to gather your friends and family, and most immediately, a time to show off your grilling abilities.”–Chef Willie Cooper
I really enjoy reading Adventures in Grilling: Cooking with Fire and Smoke: Cooking With Fire And Smoke by Chef Willie Cooper. I don’t live very far from Sonoma in the Napa Valley, where Chef Willie Cooper calls home, so I do visit the area from time to time. When you drive through the Napa Valley it has a certain feel to. It’s a little hard to put your finger on exactly what that feeling is, but Adventures in Grilling has that feel.
Part of the Napa Valley feeling is that of snooty wine snobs, or maybe just snobs in general. But there’s also a feeling of casual living there too. You can visit high-priced wineries or pick up some heirloom beans at Rancho Gordo Beans. You can eat crazy expensive food at restaurants with 6 month waiting lists or you can slam a hamburger or homemade sausage at Gott’s Roadside. There is something for everyone in the Napa Valley.
And that’s what Adventures In Grilling offers the backyard griller, something for everyone. Maybe you want something that sounds a little snooty with “Asparagus with Saffron Aioli” or “Grilled Gazpacho.” Or maybe you want some down home food with a simple “Rotisserie Chicken” or “Chicago-Style Hot Dogs.” It really doesn’t matter what you want to eat Chef Cooper’s book will give you a chance at success with your backyard grill or the electric smoker.
“Knowing your ingredients will make your grilling experiences more satisfying and better tasting. Focus on buying the best ingredients you can and using the proper charcoal or gas grilling method to cook them.” –Chef Willie Cooper
One of the great things about outdoor cooking cookbooks released over the last couple of years is a beginning chapter full of the how-tos on outdoor grilling. Adventures In Grilling is no exception to this trend. However Chef Cooper does include a few things that aren’t found in very many books. The section on “Choosing Ingredients” is a great addition. If you’ve ever wanted to know a little more on what to look for when buying Meat, Poultry, Fish, Fruits, Vegetables and Flavoring you’re going to like this section.
The book also includes a Beer Pairing Guide and since it’s got the Napa Valley feel there’s a Wine Pairing Guide also. Since I’m a non-drinker this section is pretty much a foreign language to me but I’m sure someone who knows what a Dunkel, Irish Dry Stout, Meritage or Gewurztraminer is would find these sections a little more valuable.
The layout of the book is one of the highlights. Each recipe is laid out just like the image on the left. I like the clean layout that clearly shows the ingredients and directions. One thing that is especially helpful is each recipe also clearly informs the reader of the difference between grilling with charcoal and gas and using a meat thermometer or just feeling for temperatures.
“A day at the beach warrants an oceanside grilling party. Round up your friends, pack up treasures from the seas…and head to the sand.”
One great thing about outdoor cooking is the ability to mix and match flavors. The Grilled Foods Pairing Chart is a great way to pick your menu. For example you can pick beef and then choose something from the “sauce,” “marinade,” “rub,” or “sauce.”
Chef Cooper pays attention to, what I think is, one of the most ignored aspects of outdoor cooking; the condiment. Towards the end of the book there is a section devoted to some fantastic flavor enhancing condiments. This is not a throw away section at all, it is every bit as complex and appetizing as any other section in the book. Compound butters when used with BBQ are a fantastic way to add flavor and the Wasabi Butter recipe makes me want to grill some fish so I can try it.
After reading several cookbooks dedicated to outdoor cooking in the past six months or so that were full of stories, anecdotes, cute pictures Adventures in Grilling: Cooking with Fire and Smoke: Cooking With Fire And Smoke is a little refreshing. No introductions to chapters to speak of, no stories, no anecdotes…just 130 fantastic recipes with beautiful photograph by Ray Kachatorian. This is a great, great cookbook.