The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 20, 2013

Joe Hadsall: Grilling cookbook packed with inspiration

JOPLIN, Mo. — At the risk of spoiling a secret stash of steaks, I'm pretty excited about a good source of flat irons. And it's not like steaks are morels.

Food 4 Less has had them fairly regularly over the last few weeks, for about $3.98 a pound. That's a nice change from the almost $7 or $8 a pound prices I was seeing a few months ago.

I've written about flat irons before: They have the flavor and size of a sirloin and the tenderness of a filet. The good ones come in a vacuum-sealed package and can weigh anywhere from 1 to 2 pounds.

With a healthy supply of flat irons, I've been able to experiment with a new grilling cookbook that has turned out to pretty handy and comprehensive.

"Weber's New Real Grilling," by Jamie Purviance, is a porterhouse-thick cookbook filled with more than 330 color pages with great photography and a well-designed layout organized by type of food to be grilled.

If the name of the book doesn't make it obvious enough, all the recipes require the use of a Weber grill -- because I'm a Weber charcoal snob, mine is usually ready to go pretty quickly.

Each section provides good information and general cooking tips. Though The Lovely Paula is a big fan of my grilled chicken, I learned a couple  of things from the book that will help me improve it.

Purviance also has some basics at the beginning, from a walkthrough of different grilling tools to lessons on some less-used techniques, such as braising.

The most surprising thing about the book is the variety of recipes, from an extensive selection of appetizers to a menu of fruity desserts, including cakes and French toast. With the right attachments, a cook can stir fry some great chicken or bake a smoky pizza.

Yeah. Pizza. On a grill. Makes sense -- I love the taste of wood-fired pizza, so I'm looking forward to trying the stuffed pizza recipe.

In fact, there's so much I want to try. The recipes look fairly easy -- Purviance is somewhat forgiving with ingredients, using easier to find options instead of luxury, high-priced foodstuffs. He also gives options -- for the pizzas, you can use pre-made dough or make your own.

But he finds enough unique ingredients to provide inspiration for other creations.

I tried the book's New York strip steaks with Parmesan basil crust and garlic butter -- only with flat irons, of course. And the steaks didn't disappoint. All the instructions were easy to follow, yet the extra work added incredible layers of flavor (Parmesan cheese: How can something that smells like feet taste so delicious? I have no clue).

My only gripe with the book is that sometimes the use of the grill seems excessive. Some of the salads and other entrees require the grilling of one ingredient.

If I'm going to light a fire, I'm going to grill a lot, not just a few ears of corn for a summer salad. I cannot abide a wasted fire. Yet, to make the best use of the grill requires a healthy shopping list that may require waiting until payday.

Others recipes seem included for the express purpose of selling Weber grilling accessories and attachments.

There are a few stir fry recipes that require sticking a wok in a special grill with a big hole in the middle. While I like stir fry, I don't see the immediate need to stir fry on a grill -- it doesn't seem like you can keep the lid closed long enough for smoke to add any flavor. So I'll skip those.

But there's still a healthy load of inspiration inside the book. Most of the recipes are functional with any gas or charcoal grill, and there are enough tips and training sections to increase your grilling know-how significantly, from basic to advanced details.

I love grilling, and I love my Weber, so I'm going to get mileage out of this cookbook. Released earlier this year, it retails for $24.95 -- or about six pounds of flat iron steaks.

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