Thrills and Grills: Summer Cooking

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
When the gas grills are flowing and charcoal is glowing and we’ve got cold beers!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Seriously. Summer is my jam. Well, actually autumn is my jam because the temperatures don’t get all high and mighty. But I’ll take summer for all the wonderful tastes and smells it has to offer. I’ve called you here today to tell you about the wonderful new books that are going to help you have the best barbecue on the block. So stock up on wet wipes and read on!

Let’s jump right in and talk about how to cook your meat so perfectly it makes people drool before, during, and even after eating. While these first two titles might seem silly, I promise you the authors and publishers are quite serious about their barbecue. The South’s Best Butts by Matt Moore has over 150 tried and true recipes from some of the best barbecue joints in the South. Divided by restaurant, you’ll find meaty recipes throughout the first half of the book. While this does mean it’s laid out more creatively than a traditional cookbook that might place all the pork recipes together, for example, it also means you get to read about each restaurant which will make creating your barbecue road trip itinerary a snap. (Yes. I dream of taking a vacation where my husband and I do nothing but drive from one barbecue restaurant to the next as we wind our way around the country. Tell me this doesn’t sound like a rad idea!) For those looking for side dishes there’s a wide selection in the back part of the book. The genius recipes are those that incorporate the meat from the front part of the book, meaning you have ready-made ideas for any leftovers that didn’t already get gobbled up the day you cooked.

My personal favorite new barbecue cookbook however is Praise the Lard by Mike and Amy Mills. I admit I’m totally biased towards this book because both the Mills family and I hail from Southern Illinois (618 for life!) where you can find good barbecue all around you. Pork steaks, burnt ends, and ribs as far as the eye can see. Sorry. I went somewhere just then in my mind. I think I went to barbecue heaven, which can actually be found in Praise the Lard. But all of my dreams can be a reality by following the recipes on pages 101, 116, and 88, 92, 107 respectively. I got a little antsy with the church-themed chapter titles and wordplay, but it’s also representative of Southern Illinois and so I gave it grace and moved onward. In addition to intricate smoking and grilling recipes for meat, you can also find recipes for everything from sauces and seasonings to drinks and side dishes. They even show you how to cook the whole hog so you can make your dreams of a luau a reality at your next family reunion or block party.

Side note: if you know how to become a barbecue photographer please get in touch with me. Asking for a friend.

When it comes to summer drinking there’s nothing I want less than a heavy alcoholic drink. Think about it: we’re standing out in the heat, maybe even burning in direct sunlight. Aside from a nice cold beer or hard cider fresh from the cooler, what really hits the spot are low-alcoholic icy cold cocktails. Day Drinking: 50 Cocktails for a Mellow Buzz by Kat Odell will become your go-to beverage bible all summer long. Perfect for mixology beginners like me, Day Drinking explains all the perplexing-sounding techniques like muddling and dry shaking and builds confidence by reminding us that many recipes can — and should — be improvised. Included in the book are recipes for various flavored syrups you can make at home, making it super-easy to switch out ingredients and make your own bespoke cocktail. None of the drinks actually require a specific glass or container, meaning those red Solo cups that have become a staple at parties everywhere can hold your sorta-fancy low-booze beverage just as well as it holds beer fresh from the keg. That said, I must note that I’m drawn to visually interesting drinks like The Regent’s Royale that’s served in a hollowed-out pineapple, which is a bit of work but also means I get to eat a bunch of pineapple!

So there you have it. With just a couple of library books and a little bit of planning you can rock the best summer barbecue on the block. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to wipe the drool off my chin before my boss sees me.

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