Disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest & unbiased review.
Holly got the book The Big-Flavor Grill: No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes to review and asked me to help with the review since I am the grillmaster in our family. The book is basically organized around types of meat, utilizing a few different cuts or varieties with a recommended rub and cooking instructions for each one, and then having several different sauces or garnishes to go with each one. The premise behind the recipes is what they call in the introduction a “geographical model” of flavors, which the author describes as “one flavor after another—sour, sweet, bitter, hot, aromatic, earthy—is laid out for your taste buds in rapid succession.” The author contrasts this with the “architectural model”, which is based on blending various flavors to create “a single, well-blended, subtle, intricate articulation of flavor.”
I picked out three recipes that I wanted to try grilling up during a rare week where I handled all the meal planning: one beef, one chicken, and one lamb. In the beef chapter, they build recipes around only two cuts: skirt steaks and steak tips. I chose to go with Grilled Skirt Steaks with Barbecued Bread Salad. The first strike against the recipe was when I went to the grocery store and looked for a skirt steak. Our grocery store did not carry skirt steak as a fresh cut, and single pre-packaged steak they had was both too small for our family and upwards of $10 per pound. I decided to go with a flank steak instead. We grilled it up using the rub recipe and made the bread salad with it. I thought it was delicious—very flavorful—but the kids and Holly thought it was “too spicy”.
The chicken dish I decided to make was the Grilled Chicken Breasts with Cilantro-Lime Viniagrette. This recipe was a hit with both Holly and I, but the kids again thought it was “too spicy”. I really enjoyed the strong flavor of of the chicken & vinaigrette. It may not be a recipe for frequent use, but as a special meal to mix things up from time to time, I think it would work great.
The lamb dish I wanted to make was the Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Turkish Flavors. The recipe looked great, and I was very excited about it due to my memories of delicious Turkish food. However, we ran into two problems:
- We couldn’t get the boneless lamb leg needed for the recipe. The grocery store butcher could special order it for us, but it would be big $$.
- The recipe called for Maraş pepper and implied the alternative spice mix they give was significantly inferior to the Maraş pepper. There was no Maraş pepper to be found in town.
Due to these issues, we set this recipe aside to try again sometime later when we can round up the needed ingredients. Instead, I used leftover rub from the flank steak and make kebabs with more flank steak. I served it with some Greek-style yogurt** I had gotten to go with the Turkish-flavored kebabs, and it was a HUGE hit with the kids. That was the day we learned that they will gobble up Greek yogurt.
Overall I enjoyed all the recipes from the book that we tried. This is not a go-to grilling reference book like the Weber grilling book is; rather, The Big-Flavor Grill provided some bold new flavors outside of what would be our usual grilling comfort zone. The use of unusual ingredients in some of the recipes is indicative of the kind of recipes it seems to contain. The book is attractively presented, and the photos of the food in it are striking and dramatic. I look forward to trying more dishes from this cookbook—if we can find the ingredients without breaking the bank.