Cookbooks Of The Week: Charred & Scruffed and Vegan Cooking for Carnivores

By this point in your dad's publishing lifetime, there are literally thousands of grill- and meat-centric cookbooks appropriate for last minute Father's Day gifting. The trick is finding one that doesn't end up in his chimney starter by the end of the summer. Charred & Scruffed by Adam Perry Lang might just do the trick, even despite the rather blatant machismo pulsing through the pages.

The subtitle, Bold New Techniques for Explosive Flavor On and Off the Grill, is actually pretty spot-on. This is a book for those who aspire to finally master those super crispy pork rind snacks (Bad news: It involves boiling, baking and frying) and think that bacon-wrapping their spareribs (4 racks, stacked together like a meatloaf, 30 slices of bacon) before grilling them sounds like an impossibly good idea.

That would really be enough for some grill-obsessed father figures. But Lang offers up some pretty great everyday grilling tips as well.

Things like why you want to scruff up your meat and potatoes before grilling them, a technique he learned from Jamie Oliver. And why "clinching" the meat, or cooking it as close to the coals as possible by using a grate, is now his favorite technique to develop deeper flavors (Forewarning: A hair dryer is involved). There are recipes for "spackles," which are really thick sauces/condiments (artichoke, caponata, hatch chile pepper) despite the beefier name Lang prefers to give them. In one meat-free chapter, notably, you'll also find crispy salads like a green apple-cabbage-caraway slaw will definitely come in just in palate cleansing time after that grilled lamb in an ash salt crust.

Right. On second thought, it might be wise to get dad going on that vegan cleanse this summer with Roberto Martin's Vegan Cooking for Carnivores cookbook. Martin, who is Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi's private chef, describes himself as a carnivore who reluctantly became vegan when he applied for a job at the couple's home. And that's probably the very reason his dishes are refreshingly trend-free, at least in the often anything-goes vegan fusion cuisine cookbook world.

"It's been my experience that it's a good idea to start a job by making your best dishes -- ones that you've made a hundred times," Martin explains in the Introduction. "My plan was to do just that, only substitute plant-based protein (tofu, tempeh, beans) for meat."

A good idea indeed. Breakfast recipes are things like buckwheat pancakes and tofu Benedict with chipotle cream sauce, lunch gets you into really great looking avocado Reuben territory, and by dinner (divided into several chapters, from appetizers to desserts), you're diving into tofu crab cakes, shaved fennel, spicy noodle and grilled apple-pear salads, mole tamales, faux chicken pot pies, potato gnocchi and Southwestern-style rice and beans. Dessert? Berry tarts and mock cheesecakes, even a recipe for "chocolate chip magic bars" from your middle school bake sale days (those coconut bars with graham cracker crust). Those stellar photographs by Quentin Bacon certainly amp up the appeal.

Funny, we can't stop flipping to that vegan La Bête Noire ("the black beast"), a crazy rich chocolate cake that is clearly all about the (really good) chocolate. And all while thinking about Perry's pretty great meat "clinching" grill technique. Would it be so odd to serve up both books on Father's Day?


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