John Whalen might go by the nickname “Mr. Meat” because he is all about the wonders of meat. There’s his 2015 book Prime for prime rib fans and Rubs from 2016, a wonderful book of rubs, sauces, marinades and seasonings. This book, Paleo Grilling, is also from 2015 and predates the Rubs book. There is a rubs chapter in Paleo Grilling, surely anticipating that later volume, and it is reason alone to buy this book. You can see a review of Rubs here.
What is the “Paleo” thing? It’s a movement to return to cooking the way, literally, cavemen did from 2 million years ago up to just the end of the last ice age, about 12,000 BC. People were hunter-gatherers then, with just the first early splashes of agriculture taking hold. The belief is that eating paleo foods is healthier for you. Folks then died, not from diabetes, but from an unfortunate confrontation with a saber tooth cat.
It’s perhaps easier to describe paleo in terms of what foods you should not eat. It’s most of the foods you have in your pantry and refrigerator. Pastas, grains, sugar in all forms, dairy in all form, oils, surely butter and shortening, jams, salad dressings, and ice cream. Is paleo life bleak? No, but it is surely different.
The paleo diet is meat centric and you find chapters here for beef, lam, pork, poultry, seafood and shellfish. But there are soups and salads, too, side dishes and even desserts.
This book could have been called Grilling 101 because it includes John’s expert tips on how to use smoke, fire and heat. Many of the meat recipes here, like steak au poivre, are basic ones that have been packaged here in one neat volume that is ideal for barbeque beginners. But there are recipes here, too, for foodies to make you smile and have fond memories of those “cave” days:
Grilled Roast Pineapple Pork Loin
Red Wine-Marinated Chicken with Chipotle Cauliflower
Grilled Flounder with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus
Onion and Garlic Smoked Mussels
Desserts are simple, but different, like Grilled Watermelon Skewers. The sides are direct: Grilled Scallions, Grilled Balsamic Peppers, Grilled Eggplant with Herbs.
I often look to the start of the book to see if begins with some “intrigue” factor to grab my attention. Recipe #1 here is Classic Buffalo Wings, a good start. Recipe #2 is Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms. I stopped right there, showed the recipe to my wife Suzi and we had them last night. The verdict? If you buy this book and sample at will, there will be many thrilling grilling experiences ahead of you.
This is a well-written and researched book. You may not ever go “paleo” but you might go “Whalen.”
The recipe for those Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms will appear tomorrow, Memorial Day 2017. The dish is memorable, too, and ideal for a summer feast.