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Television cooking personalities are usually a boisterous group. On camera, the Bobby Flays and Gordon Ramsays sell themselves with their in-the-trenches authenticity, hooting and hollering like they’ve just stepped out of their restaurants to give us louts a lesson.
Steven Raichlen, host of PBS’s Barbecue University, takes a different approach. What Bob Ross was to the canvas, Raichlen is to the grill. (You can almost hear him now: “We’ll just put a little cracked black pepper over here. That’ll be our little secret.”) Where others yell and fuss, Raichlen just is. That’s not to say his cooking isn’t without the odd gimmick, but he’s no nonsense. His food does the talking, and boy, does it talk: Raichlen’s cookbooks have made him a James Beard award-winner five times over.
For his newest manual, Man Made Meals, Raichlen steps away from the grill and focuses on everything else guys need to know about cooking. There are a few grill how-tos, but the emphasis is on the kitchen rather than flaming charcoal. “One of the motivations to write this book is that I heard from so many readers who said, ‘Hey, how about us. We live in condos and we don’t have grills’ or ‘We live in Michigan and it’s too cold to grill in the winter.’”
If our Q&A whets your appetite, click on to the next page for three recipes from Man Made Meals. Still hungry? Check out Raichlen’s website, or catch him on the Denver stop of his Man Made Meals Tour on Tuesday, June 3, at 6 p.m. at the Littleton Williams-Sonoma. 8405 Park Meadows Center Drive, Littleton
5280: Do guys like grilling, or do they like everything that goes along with it—shooting the [breeze], drinking beer?
SR: I think it’s even more primal than that. Guys love to play with fire. I don’t know about you when you were a kid, but as soon as my parents left the house, I was building fires, setting things on fire, making cannons, loading model airplanes with firecrackers and blowing them up. I think that’s one of the big gender distinctions between men and women. So in a sense, when you grow up and learn to cook, you’re sublimating that primal urge to play with fire.
5280: What was the rubric for selecting the recipes in Man Made Meals?
SR: I made a number of lists. For the first list, I thought of all the essentials that every red-blooded male should know how to make. Every male should know how to shuck an oyster, cook a steak, make breakfast for his kids, have a fail-proof romantic chocolate dessert for that night when he has a date over. When I was interviewing all the food dudes for the book and asked what romantic dinner they’d recommend, the answer was just the fact that a guy knows how to cook.
5280: Do you think men today are more capable in the kitchen than in the past?
SR: I think this generation of men is probably the most food savvy in American history. But guys sort of universally suffer from this “afraid to ask directions” syndrome. Some of us need instruction on how to do it, and others need reassurance that we’re doing it correctly. So I tried to do both. I give guys not only recipes but also a lot of information on how to shop, what to look for at the market, the meaning of organic and grass-fed. There’s a pretty strong activist message in the book.
5280: Do you think there’s been a definite paradigm shift for men in regards to cooking?
SR: Total paradigm shift. When I was a kid, guys worked on cars, they built stuff out of wood, they took shop classes. Today, men express their manliness through cooking.
I believe we live in the best time in human history for men to cook well and eat well. If I could sum up what I tried to do in the book in one phrase, it would be, “In order to eat well, you have to know how to cook well.” We all want to eat better. We want better flavors, bolder spices and tastes. We want our food to be healthier, more fun, more international, hip, and cool. And the best way to accomplish that is to know how to cook.
Three summer dishes from Man Made Meals that every guy should add to their repertoire.
The New Shrimp Cocktail
“I’ve never understood the popularity of shrimp cocktail, because when you boil anything, you take flavor out and you make it taste rubbery. So I flip things around.”
For the shrimp:
1 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined raw jumbo shrimp
2 to 3 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or butter, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter if pan frying (optional)
4 cilantro sprigs (optional)
For the chipotle cocktail sauce:
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup (drained) prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon grated fresh orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced, with 1 to 2 teaspoons of the juices
1. Prepare the shrimp: Place the shrimp in a bowl and sprinkle them with Old Bay, or the spice mixture of your choice. Toss the shrimp well to coat, then add the 1 teaspoon of olive oil or butter and toss again.
2. If you are pan-frying the shrimp, heat the oil or melt the butter in a large skilled over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until browned on both sides and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
If you are broiling the shrimp, preheat the broiler to high. Place the shrimp on a broiler pan a couple of inches under the broiler and boil them until browned on the outside and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
3. Transfer the cooked shrimp to a serving platter and let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate them for at least 1 hour. The shrimp can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead to this stage.
4. Meanwhile, make the cocktail sauce: Place the ketchup, horseradish, orange zest, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, and chipotles with their juices in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Refrigerate the cocktail sauce, covered, until you are ready to serve the shrimp.
5. To serve, divide the cocktail sauce among 4 small bowls, one for each diner. Serve the shrimp on the platter, with the cilantro sprigs, if using, arranged on the top.
Sangria For Grown-Ups
“This is the best sangria you will ever taste. The secret is instead of using club soda or ginger ale as the effervescent agent, you use Lambrusco, which is a sparkling wine. It’s a very no-nonsense, not overly-sweet summer cooler.”
2 tablespoons sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) dark rum, such as Myers’s
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) ginger liqueur, such as Domaine de Canton
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1 bottle (750 milliliters) Lambrusco wine, chilled
1. Slice the orange into wedges and, using a fork, remove and discard any seeds. Place the orange and sugar in a pitcher and muddle (mash) them with the back of a wooden spoon.
2. Stir in the rum, ginger liqueur, and St-Germain liqueur and let macerate (steep) overnight in the refrigerator, covered.
3. When ready to serve, add ice cubes to the pitcher. Add the Lambrusco, stir gently, and serve.
Candied Bacon Sundaes
“One area that guys are notoriously weak on is desserts. This is a dessert that’s super simple—and with the addition of candied bacon, it’s super manly.”
For the candied bacon and walnuts:
4 thick slices bacon (4 ounces), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slivers
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or rice vinegar
For the sundaes:
3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 pint (2 cups) maple-walnut ice cream, or more to taste
Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling
1. Make the candied bacon and walnuts: Place the bacon in a cold skillet over medium heat. Cook until the fat renders and the bacon begins to brown and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the walnuts and continue cooking until the bacon and walnuts are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Do not let them burn. Drain the bacon mixture by placing it in a strainer over a heatproof bowl. Save the bacon fat for a future use, like frying potatoes.
2. Return the bacon and walnuts to the skillet and add the 1/2 cup of maple syrup and the vinegar. Cook the bacon mixture over medium heat until it is thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. The mixture should have a pourable consistency. Set the skillet aside and keep warm. The candied bacon can be made earlier in the day; cover the skillet and set it aside. Rewarm the candied bacon over low heat when you are ready to serve the sundaes.
3. Make the sundaes: Place the cream and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup in a chilled metal bowl and, using a mixer or whisk, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Alternatively, pour the cream and maple syrup into a CO2 charger and shake well to mix, 7 or 8 times. Invert the charger and squeeze the handle to release the whipped cream. Refrigerate the maple whipped cream, covered, until serving.
4. To assemble the sundaes, scoop the ice cream into balls and place 1 scoop in each of 4 sundae glasses or bowls. Spoon the warm candied bacon and walnuts on top. Top with the maple whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
—Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Salter