KCBSKansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook

Barbecue… it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Such is but one of the many pearls of wisdom featured in the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook, a treasure trove of barbecue wisdom from the United States’ best BBQ town: Kansas City, MO.  (Okay, so I’m a bit biased, what can I say?)  But regardless of personal bias (and the fact I was sent a review copy), this really is a cool cookbook.

It starts out with a history of the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), which was started in 1986 to bring together BBQers (called cookers) from around the area.  At its inception, 30 cookers paid $12 to be members.  From these humble beginnings, the KCBS has turned into a premier BBQ association, publishing the first edition of the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook with it’s subtitle Barbecue…it’s not just for breakfast anymore in 1995.  In the intervening years, the society has also grown from 30 members to over 13,000 and now sanctions 300 BBQ events from coast to coast.  (I love this town!)

So when their 25th anniversary rolled around, KCBS had more then enough contributers to submit recipes and make the their 25th Anniversary cookbook something special.

Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook

Enough about KCBS, it’s time to eat!  (Well, read about eating anyway.)  The Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook is a collection of more than 200 recipes that covers everything from marinades to sides to fish to pork to beef to eggs and absolutely everything in between.  If it can be cooked BBQ style, there’s an entry.

However, I will admit, the cookbook’s comprehensive study of all aspects of BBQ suprised me a little bit.  I expected this fine cookbook to contain a bunch of recipes for brisket, a bunch of recipes for ribs, a few recipes for pork butt, a bunch of recipes for BBQ sauce and rub and about a 20 ways to make baked beans.  Now, let me say in no uncertain terms I would not have been unhappy with that cookbook at all.  Not one bit.

What, I got, though was something far better.  For instance, I like to grill fish and seafood.  There’s recipes for oysters “thermidor”, ahi tuna with maui onion dressing, ahi steaks, fish boil, and salmon (among others.)  I have thought about BBQing desserts and if I wanted to, I now have the recipes for Big Will’s Triple-Chocolate Cheesecake, Rick Browne’s Brown Bag Apple Pie,  bourbon sweet potato pie, and no-bake cookies that can be done BBQ style.  And let me tell you that I have never had the desire to make chicken livers on the grill, but with the Kansas City Barbecue Society cookbook, now I can.

Aw, yeah.

Putting the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook to the Test

So, whenever I review a cookbook, I like to cook something from it.  Just to test it out.  And since I am from Kansas City, I just had to do Korean Fire Meat!

(What, you were expecting pork butt?)

The recipe with paraphrased directions follows below, but let me tell you, this was some good Korean beef.  My one mistake was using dark soy sauce because it was a bit too salty.  Next time I’ll buy some low sodium soy sauce and use that for the marinade.  Still, check this recipe out!

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Cooking the Cowboy Way

Cooking the Cowboy Way

Cooking the Cowboy Way

The good folks at Andrews McMeel sent me Cooking the Cowboy Way: Recipes Inspired by Campfires, Chuck Wagons, and Ranch Kitchens by Grady Spears with June Naylor to review.  This may have something to do with my previous comments regarding the impossibility of dissolving my marriage on the grounds of my wife not liking seafood in Kansas, a state in love with it’s barbecue.  But either way, I’m always happy to review cookbooks and learn new ways to cook, especially when I get back to my cowboy roots.

Actually, that’s a lie.  I have no cowboy roots, but maybe I could grow some with the right cookbook?  Maybe Cooking the Cowboy Way could let me do just that.  Weighing in at 222 pages, the book is divided into 10 chapters, each featuring the cowboy cuisine of a different region from Alberta, Canada to Sasabe, Arizona, to Arlington, Texas to right here in Kansas City, MO.  Each chapter begins with a write up of the area and the cowboys that live there and then showcases regional specialties as prepared by the owners of famous ranches, cowboy eateries, and barbecue joints at each location.  

Spears is given some pretty amazing access into some of these restaurants and manages to snag  signature dishes from each ranch or restaurant, including the Jackstack Hickory Pit Baked Beans (recipe below), a flavorful mole sauce from Sasabe, and Lonesome Pine Ranch’s Kolaches (Czech pastries for breakfast or dessert.)  Also, every chapter is graced with dozens of professional color photos, both of the food, and the cowboys who eat it.

Cooking the Cowboy Way: The Good

Overall, Cooking the Cowboy Way is a great cookbook with lots of good recipes for how to cook beef, poultry, fish, and other meat according to traditional regional styles.  The mole sauce, for instance, stuck out as being something that looked really good, but something I could make despite having so many ingredients.  Plus, I learned something about my own town…apparently we were one of the originators of the Arnold Palmer drink, a mixture of half lemonade and iced tea.

Plus, the photography in the book is nothing short of stunning.  They’re the kind of pictures that make you want to get on a horse and run down some cattle.  Which having ridden a horse before, I can tell you is sure recipe for saddle sores.  But that’s another story.

So, the book gets high marks there.

Cooking the Cowboy Way: The Hrmm…

So, the one thing that surprised me about the book was that I was expecting something a little less… civilized.  Spears went to restaurants and ranch owners to get their recipes.  I was expecting something a bit more primal, like a campfire cookbook or something that would let me cook 120 meals with nothing but a knife, my Dutch oven, and a campfire.

It wasn’t that.  Sadly, I could make everything with a stove, a couple burners, and the other accoutrements of civilization.

On the other hand, I got the recipe for Jackstack’s hickory pit beans, so I guess civilization isn’t so bad.

Cooking the Cowbow Way: The Recipe

So, here is the bean recipe I keep talking so much about.  See, in Kansas City we have more BBQ places per capita than anywhere else in the world.  Still, for the most part, the debate about where the best BBQ can be found boils down to two places: Fiorella’s Jackstack (a family owned chain of barbecue restaurants) and Oklahoma Joe’s (a BBQ place that started in half of a gas station.  Though to be fair, it was a large gas station.)

My personal favorite is Jackstack.  It’s 1A, but 1B is definitely Oklahoma Joe’s.  Really you can’t go wrong either place.  One of the things that nudges Jackstack ahead of Okie Joe’s, though, is their baked beans.  They’re sweet and smoky and just packed full of meat.  I’d be happy with them and some fries…heck, I’d make the greatest loaded French fries in the history of humankind with that…

So of course, when I saw the recipe in the book, I knew that was the recipe I’d try from the cookbook. 

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