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Steven Raichlen, a national barbecue treasure and author of The Barbecue! Bible, How to Grill, and other books in the Barbecue! Bible series, embarks on a quest to find the soul of American barbecue, from barbecue-belt classics-Lone Star Brisket, Lexington Pulled Pork, K.C. Pepper Rub, Tennessee Mop Sauce-to the grilling genius of backyards, tailgate parties, competitions, and local restaurants. In 450 recipes covering every state as well as Canada and Puerto Rico, BBQ USA celebrates the best of regional live-fire cooking. Finger-lickin' or highfalutin; smoked, rubbed, mopped, or pulled; cooked in minutes or slaved over all through the night, American barbecue is where fire meets obsession. There's grill-crazy California, where everything gets fired up - dates, Caesar salad, lamb shanks, mussels. Latin-influenced Florida, with its Chimichurri Game Hens and Mojo-Marinated Pork on Sugar Cane. Maple syrup flavors the grilled fare of Vermont; Wisconsin throws its kielbasa over the coals; Georgia barbecues Vidalias; and Hawaii makes its pineapples sing. Accompanying the recipes are hundreds of tips, techniques, sidebars, and pit stops. It's a coast-to-coast extravaganza, from soup (grilled, chilled, and served in shooters) to nuts (yes, barbecued peanuts, from Kentucky).
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Raichlen's 24th tome falls firmly into the quirky camp of his Beer Can Chicken, with its mixed-grill of recipes, barbecue tips, food history and restaurant profiles. While the chapters are essentially broken down by main ingredient ("Going Whole Hog," "Sizzling Shellfish"), each entry is branded with the city from which it is borrowed: "The Pittsburgh airport was the last place I expected to find superlative roast beef" begins a typical entry. At times, the attention to geography (and photos of bbq joints) is used to fine effect, especially in the appetizer chapter, where chicken-wing variations from Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville and Buffalo are laid out for easy comparison. But at other times the locale is superfluous. New York City is no more the place for Tarragon Chicken Paillards than landlocked Dayton is for Fennel-Grilled Shrimp. Classic BBQ joints, such as Wilber's in Goldsboro, N.C., are profiled along the way, and succinct, interesting history lessons on various styles of barbecue (Memphis, Kansas City, etc.) are served up. Cooking tips are provided in the margins of nearly every other page, with more space given to larger projects, such as how to barbecue a whole hog. The 650 photos are of various chefs, eateries, markets and fresh produce, rather than what is coming off the grill. (Apr.) Forecast: Workman plans a $100,000 marketing campaign, along with a 25-city author tour-and if that's not enough to push sales, in May, PBS will launch the 13-part series Barbecue University with Steve Raichlen. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Raichlen is the author of two dozen cookbooks on a variety of subjects, but his best-selling The Barbecue! Bible and its successors have made him the "Grill King." Fans, then, will be delighted with his latest book-not to mention the related PBS series, Barbecue University, debuting this summer. Although champion "pitmasters" may have a more narrow definition of the term barbecue, here Raichlen includes recipes for all sorts of grilled or smoked foods, from traditional regional specialties such as North Carolina's Classic Pulled Pork to that backyard favorite, the Ultimate Hamburger, to upscale dishes like Herb-Grilled Sea Bass with Garlic Mint Vinaigrette. Each recipe is identified by place of origin, and there are reviews and histories of famed barbecue joints and other notable spots, dozens of sidebars offering helpful hints, and more than 600 black-and-white photographs. Strongly recommended. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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