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OLD KING COAL STEVEN RAICHLEN SHARES HIS WISDOM.

Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

You could call Steven Raichlen the king of barbecue. Oprah Winfrey dubbed him the ``Gladiator of Grilling.''

Whether it's grilling or barbecuing, the man knows all about it. Little wonder, after five cookbooks on the topic - including his newly released ``Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA'' (Workman Publishing; $19.95), which weighs in at 4 1/2 pounds, 774 pages and 425 recipes.

Five years in the making, Raichlen traveled to 40 states to research this combination travelogue/cookbook celebrating America's most distinctive culinary tradition. Included are some of the best barbecue joints and festival finds - like Soot Bull Jeep in Los Angeles' Koreatown (you grill your own dinner on a hibachi), Thousand Oaks Meat Locker in Thousand Oaks, American Royal Barbecue festival in Kansas City or the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tenn.

``Barbecuing and grilling - live fire cooking - is the biggest field of food and food culture in the world,'' he pointed out, adding that 76 percent of U.S. households own a barbecue grill and 70 percent of those own a gas grill - and ``roughly 45 (million) to 50 million families have involvement with live fire cooking.''

Each of his barbecue books (2 million in print) has taken a different approach ranging from global barbecuing or techniques to extreme grilling or sauces, rubs and marinades. He's turned his best seller, ``How to Grill,'' into a 13-series PBS show, ``Barbecue University,'' which recently debuted throughout the country (KCET has yet to schedule it). The curriculum embraces his philosophy that ``if it tastes good cooked, it'll taste even better grilled.''

Raichlen was fired up when he pulled into Los Angeles (the last stop on his recent book tour) in a specially outfitted, wildly colorful barbecue tour bus that took him to 26 cities in 35 days and 9,607 miles. He rolled out two barbecues in a nearby park and quickly turned up the heat.

``I've always been a griller, even during the winter, outdoors, in Boston,'' said the former Boston Magazine restaurant critic. ``What makes me different is my abiding and deep interest in the history, anthropology and culture of barbecue.''

Raichlen majored in French literature before he went on to study medieval cooking in Europe, trained at La Varenne and Cordon Bleu cooking schools in Paris and wrote 24 cookbooks.

``Barbecue and grilling are pretty much synonymous. However in Texas and the South, barbecuing and grilling are two very different processes. Grilling is the process of cooking small tender pieces of food directly over a hot fire quickly. True barbecue is when you cook large or tough pieces of food next to - not directly over- fire at a low heat for a long time in the presence of a lot of wood smoke.

``My personal definition of barbecue is expansive enough to include a grill, a pit, a meal, a party and every possible food I can imagine being cooked by live fire.''

So, gas or charcoal?

``If I could only cook on one grill for the rest of my life, it would be my trusty charcoal kettle. Charcoal burns hotter than gas, so it sears better. It's also easier to smoke on a charcoal grill.''

However, he tests recipes using gas.

Barbecue no longer means just the main entree. Today, more people are grilling vegetables and an entire meal, including desserts.

Rubs, marinades, bastes, mop sauces and barbecue sauces boost flavor, and there are three ways to do it - prior (rub, marinade), during (mop, baste or butter) or after grilling (barbecue sauce, salsa, chutney, etc.)

Asked about when to salt and turn foods, Raichlen suggests adding salt and pepper prior to cooking, and only turning the food once - although he acknowledges with a chuckle, ``There is a debate about everything in barbecue.''

GRILLED CORN WITH MAYTAG BLUE

8 ears sweet corn in the husk

3 tablespoons Maytag Blue cheese, at room temperature

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Coarse salt (kosher OR sea), optional, and freshly ground black pepper

Shuck corn, stripping husk back as though you were peeling a banana, but leaving husk attached at the stem end (leave stem on). Holding an ear of corn in one hand, gather husk together so that it covers the stem and then tie it with a piece of butcher's string. This forms a sort of handle. Remove corn silk. Repeat with remaining ears of corn.

Place a small metal strainer over a mixing bowl. Push cheese through it with back of a spoon (this is a highly effective way of pureeing blue cheese). You can also mash cheese in bottom of a small mixing bowl with a fork. Add butter and parsley, then beat until cheese mixture is smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary and pepper to taste.

When ready to cook, lightly brush corn with a little of cheese mixture. Arrange corn on hot grate so that husks hang over edge of the grill (this keeps them from burning) or place a folded sheet of foil under husks to shield them. Grill corn until nicely browned on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side (8 to 12 minutes total), turning with tongs and basting with remaining cheese mixture. Transfer grilled corn to a platter or plates and serve at once. Makes 8 ears; 4 to 8 servings.

From ``Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA.''

PLANKED SALMON WITH MUSTARD AND DILL SAUCE

For most people, the hardest thing about grilling fish is keeping it from sticking to the grate. The second-hardest thing is turning the fillets without breaking them. Pacific Northwesterners have devised an ingenious solution to these problems - one that adds flavor and theatrics. They grill fish on cedar planks. Planks prevent sticking - you don't even turn the fish - and they impart a haunting spicy flavor that utterly transforms salmon. I've kept the seasonings simple, just a glaze of mustard, dill and mayonnaise, so you can experience the cedary aromas in the fish.

SALMON: 1 salmon fillet, with OR without skin (about 1 1/2 pounds; ideally cut from the end closest to head; see Note)

About 1 tablespoon olive oil

Coarse salt (kosher OR sea) and freshly ground black pepper

ALSO NEEDED:

1 cedar plank (about 6x12 inches), soaked 2 hours in water to cover (a rimmed baking sheet with sides or a large roasting pan works well for soaking), then drained

GLAZE:

1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Best Foods)

1/3 cup Meaux (grainy French) mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

Coarse salt (kosher OR sea) and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare Salmon, run your fingers over salmon fillet, feeling for bones. Using needle-nose pliers or tweezers, pull out any you find. Rinse salmon under cold running water, then blot dry with paper towels. If using salmon with skin, generously brush skin with olive oil. If using skinless salmon, brush one side of fish with olive oil. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Place salmon on plank, skin side down, if it has one; oiled side down if not.

Make Glaze by combining mayonnaise, mustard, dill and lemon peel in a nonreactive mixing bowl; whisk to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set up a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high.

When ready to cook, spread Glaze mixture evenly over top and sides of salmon. Place salmon on plank in center of hot grate, away from heat, and cover grill. Cook salmon until cooked through and glaze is a deep golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer through side of salmon: The internal temperature should be about 135 degrees F. Another test is to insert a slender metal skewer in side of fillet for 20 seconds: It should come out very hot to the touch. Transfer plank and fish to a heatproof platter and slice fish crosswise into serving portions. Serve salmon right off the plank. Makes 4 servings.

NOTE: You can use fish fillets with or without skin - your choice. (My wife finds that the skin makes the salmon taste fishy. I love it.) For that matter, the recipe works well with other rich oily fish fillets, including bluefish and pompano.

From ``Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA.''

MANGO GRILLED CHICKEN

2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts (each 12 to 16 ounces) OR 4 half breasts (each 6 to 8 ounces)

Coarse salt (kosher OR sea) and cracked black peppercorns

1 mango, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 cups)

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup diced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, plus 4 mint sprigs for garnish

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

If using whole breasts, cut each breast in half. Trim any sinews or excess fat off chicken breasts and discard. Rinse chicken breasts under cold running water, then drain and blot dry with paper towels. Generously season breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Place breasts in a nonreactive baking dish.

Combine mango, cucumber, onion, garlic and chopped mint in a nonreactive mixing bowl and stir to mix. Stir in lime juice and olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste; mango mixture should be highly seasoned. Pour 1/2 of mango mixture over chicken breasts, turning to coat on both sides. Let chicken marinate 30 to 60 minutes in refrigerator, covered, turning once or twice so that they marinate evenly. Refrigerate remaining mango mixture, covered; you'll use it as the salsa.

Set up grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. When ready to cook, drain marinade from chicken breasts and discard. Brush and oil grill grate. Arrange chicken breasts on hot grate, placing on a diagonal to the bars. Grill chicken breasts until cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes per side. To test for doneness, poke a breast in thickest part with your finger; it should feel firm to touch.

Transfer grilled chicken breasts to a platter or plates. Spoon remaining refrigerated mango salsa over chicken and garnish with mint sprigs. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

From ``Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA.''

BASIC BEER-CAN CHICKEN

CHICKEN:

1 (12-ounce) can beer, soda OR fruit juice

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken

2 tablespoons All-Purpose Barbecue Rub (recipe follows) OR your favorite commercial rub

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

ALSO NEEDED:

2 cups wood chips OR chunks (preferably hickory OR cherry), soaked 1 hour in water and/or beer to cover, then drained

Vertical chicken roaster (optional)

Pop the tab off beer can. Pour 1/2 of beer (3/4 cup) over soaking wood chips or chunks or reserve for another use. If cooking chicken on the can, using a church key-style can opener, make 2 additional holes in its top. Set can of beer aside.

Remove packet of giblets from body cavity of chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard fat just inside body and neck cavities. Rinse chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon All-Purpose Barbecue Rub inside body cavity and 1/2 teaspoon inside neck cavity of chicken. Drizzle oil over outside and rub or brush it all over skin. Sprinkle outside of bird with 1 tablespoon rub and rub it all over skin. Spoon remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons rub into beer through a hole in top of the can. Don't worry if the beer foams up; This is normal.

If cooking on a can: Hold bird upright, with the opening of the body cavity at bottom, and lower onto beer can so can fits into cavity. Pull chicken legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. The rear leg of the tripod is the beer can. If cooking on a roaster: Fill it with the beer mixture and position chicken on top, following the manufacturer's instructions. Tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken's back.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce heat to medium.

When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all of wood chips or chunks on the coals. Stand chicken up in center of hot grate, over drip pan and away from heat. Cover grill and cook chicken until skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180 degrees F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching the bone), 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour. If the chicken skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent with foil.

If cooking on a can: Using tongs, hold bird by the can and carefully transfer it in an upright position to a platter. If cooking on a roaster: Use oven mitts or pot holders to remove the bird from the grill while it's still on the vertical roaster.

Present the bird to your guests. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then carefully lift it off its support. Take care not to spill hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Halve, quarter or carve chicken and serve. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

ALL-PURPOSE BARBECUE RUB: In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup coarse salt (kosher OR sea), 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup sweet paprika and 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper. Stir to mix. Store rub in an airtight jar away from heat and light; it will keep for at least 6 months. Makes about 3/4 cup.

From ``Beer-Can Chicken,'' by Steven Raichlen.

SMELLING SALTS

Grill masters and pit bosses everywhere use seasoned salt. The best-known commercial blend is Lawry's, created by Lawrence Frank in Los Angeles. Frank became restaurateur to the stars in the 1920s with the opening of the Tam O'Shanter, which is still in business in the same location today. In 1938, he solidified his reputation with a Beverly Hills dining establishment specializing in a single dish, Lawry's The Prime Rib. Equally popular as the beef was a seasoned salt Frank developed to go with it. Forever the purist, I could not resist the temptation of developing a seasoned salt you could make from scratch.

1 cup coarse salt (kosher OR sea)

2 tablespoons garlic flakes

2 tablespoons onion flakes

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon cracked OR coarsely ground black pepper

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Place salt, garlic and onion flakes, parsley, black pepper, poppy seeds and hot pepper flakes in a bowl and stir to mix. Store in an airtight jar away from heat or light. Smelling salts will keep almost indefinitely. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

From ``Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA.''

Natalie Haughton, (818) 713-3692

natalie.haughton(at)dailynews.com

5 tips for BBQ perfection

For great grilling with ease and success, grill master and cookbook author Steven Raichlen reels off his five essential tips.

1. ``Keep it hot.'' Start with a hot grill grate when you use the direct grilling method.

2. ``Keep it clean.'' Brush the hot grill grate with a stiff wire brush before adding the food.

3. ``Keep it lubricated.'' Rub the grill grate with a folded paper towel dipped in oil. If using cooking spray, be sure to remove the grill grate, spray and then return it.

4. ``Turn, don't stab.'' Use tongs, not a barbecue fork for turning food.

5. ``Put the sauce on at the end.''

- Natalie Haughton

CAPTION(S):

4 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Grill with `The Gladiator'

Master the art of outdoor cooking with Steven Raichlen

(2 -- color) no caption (Grilled Corn with Maytag Blue)

(3 -- color) PLANKED SALMON WITH MUSTARD AND DILL SAUCE

(4 -- color) no caption (Steven Raichlen)

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer

Box:

5 tips for BBQ perfection (see text)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Jul 16, 2003
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