“Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys” by Steven Raichlen. Workman Publishing Company, 2014. 640 pages. $24.95.
“Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys” is the cookbook that moves Steven Raichlen’s mastery of the man-centric world of grilling in his popular “Barbecue! Bible” books into the kitchen. The hearty, tasty, and feel-good nature of many of his 300 or so recipes make it a Father’s Day gift that could pay dividends of great home-cooked meals for a long time to come.
The book is encyclopedic with interesting explanations of etymologies, histories of the foods, and methods used to prepare them as well as the reasons why some things work well together and others do not. It is a fun read even if cooking isn’t your thing.
It covers the basics of kitchen organization, from cleaning as you go to the proper scheduling of the parts of a meal that can allow a home-cooked meal to take on the character of a fine restaurant’s signature offerings. The book includes detailed descriptions of the basics, slicing and dicing, how to shuck an oyster, truss a chicken, cook a steak to the desired doneness, as well as shortcuts and tips on things like when it might be better to have your butcher or fishmonger do the work.
“Man Made Meals” is about tools and techniques as well as favors. It’s about exposing secrets from the pros such as how to multitask and prep. It’s about understanding flavor and flavor boosters, like anchovies and miso, and it’s about creating complete dinner presentations from hors d’oeuvres to desserts.
The book includes chapters covering breakfast items such as the mile high pancake and blowtorch oatmeal to lunch items, burgers and hot dogs, soups such as Beer Soup, chilies, and salads. Starters take up 40 pages. Meat, fowl, and seafood are covered in over 200 pages with recipes such as Downeast Lobster Rolls, Skillet Rib Steak, Porchetta, Finger-Burner Lamb Chops, Yardbird’s Fried Chicken, and Blackened Salmon.
The Existential Burger, requiring shiitake mushrooms and umami ketchup, is one tasty sounding indulgence, as is Swedish Meatball Sliders. There are chapters on noodles, vegetables, breads and desserts, including a dessert based on the assumption that everything is better with bacon called Candied Bacon Sundaes, as well as and ice cream floats for grown-ups, such as the Rum and Coke Float.
There are macho-sounding recipe names for some offerings, perhaps necessary for a “man’s” cookbook, but most all have a much more subtle and complex presentation and list of ingredients than the names might indicate, fitting an accomplished chef.
Mr. Raichlen, a Chappaquiddick summer resident, is a Baltimore native who majored in French literature at Reed College, won a fellowship to study medieval cooking in Europe, and was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to study comparative literature. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris. He is the host of the popular PBS show “Primal Grill” and has published a DVD series called “Barbecue University ” He also hosts a French language show called “Le Maitre du Grill.” His books have sold over 4.7 million copies.
Correction: The article headline has been re-written to clarify the fact that Mr. Raichlen is not a formally trained chef, but a TV food personality and cookbook author.