Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: Virgil's Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook

I was contacted by St. Martin's Press and asked if I would be interested in reviewing Virgil's Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook: The Best Barbecue From Around the Country Without Ever Leaving Your Backyard which came out April 8th. I was more than happy to agree to reading and reviewing it. A couple days later a shiny new book showed up in the mail.

Virgil's is a popular restaurant in Times Square where they cook on a smoker and grill. From the sounds of it, it is a restaurant I would like to visit someday. Before opening, the chefs and owner took a road trip to find out what BBQ was so they could open an authentic BBQ restaurant in NY City. Their travels across the US influenced the food in the restaurant and the recipes in the book.

The book is a combination of grilling and barbecuing from across the country with recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts. It shares a short history of BBQ, thoughts when purchasing a grill, helpful tips and a menu planner. It is a great cookbook.

First Thoughts
When I opened the package with the book in it I was greeted by a cover with great looking rack of ribs and some other tasty morsels. I was worried this was another "barbecue" cook book where "barbecue" means grilling. After reading the first chapter I was glad to see the distinction between barbecue and grilling made. I flipped through the rest of the book and my eyes were caught by full color food photos and callout boxes with tips, ideas, and anecdotes about the recipes and food. It was an inviting and interesting book to look at.

Inside cover. Fun to read. 

Pursuing the Book
Looking over the table of contents the book is ordered in way that makes sense for planning a meal. The progression of the book follows:

  • Starters and Salads
  • Drinks
  • Sides
  • Rubs, Marinades, Sauces
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Sweets
  • Suggested Menus

To me this makes sense. You start at the beginning of the meal and work your way through it. Since Virgil's also serves beer, many of the recipes have a callout for what beer would go with what food. This can be helpful if you're planning a special meal and want the drinks to accent the flavors you're making or if you're interested in pairings.

The Recipes
The recipes are easy to follow. They give a backstory of the item and then the ingredients and amounts needed followed by the directions on how to put it together. I read through some of the rubs and sauces and am going to have to give them a try. I also looked over the recipes on smoking meats and would find them easy to follow as a novice smoker. The one thing I did note was that they say to cook your brisket to 185° internal temperature. While the meat is cooked at that temperature it is going to be tough, at least in my opinion. They do say to wrap it and rest it for 45 minutes which might allow it to get up the correct temperature. Most BBQ people I talk to about brisket say to cook it to 195°-205°; but the true test is to make sure your temperature probe slides into the meat like butter.

As with any smoking recipes, practice and find out what works for you. The recipes here are great guidelines and starting points but only experience will perfect them.

I did make the banana pudding recipe they have and it is AWESOME. I think it would have been better if I had let the custard cool more before I mixed it with the whipped cream but it smelled so good I couldn't wait.
The banana pudding I made. 

Final Thoughts
After reading through this book I would definitely want to add it to my cook book collection and would recommend it to other fire cooking enthusiasts. It has great recipes and advice for those starting to smoke meat and grill and for the more experienced cooks. If you're planning a summer cookout Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook will help you find great recipes for each course and plan the menu. If you just have a hankering for some crab cakes, a mint Jullip or a piece of chocolate pie it will help you whip those up too.

Despite some quibbles over temperatures for finished BBQed meats I give Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook a full rack of ribs on the Gibbs Ribs scale. It is full of ideas and insights into barbecuing and grilling with lots of tips and serving suggestions. Pick up the book and give those recipes a try.

*When I do reviews, books or otherwise, I rate the items with ribs (they are my favorite BBQ dish). A full rack is great and a single rib is poor. I will tend to stick to a full rack, half rack or one rib.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like this is a good book for folks who already enjoy cooking but may want to start 'smoking' food for the first time. Nice review. Thanks!