The man behind ‘Man Made Meals’

Hey, guys. This one’s for you. You know who you are, you know what you like, and when you’re in the kitchen, you don’t dabble or mess around — you cook.

You have heroes the likes of Emeril LaGasse, Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, Mark Bittman, Steven Raichlen and other food dudes.

They’re all terrific role models in the kitchen. But for me, it’s advantage Raichlen. Best known for his “Barbecue! Bible” cookbook series and for his workshops and weekends as the Dean of Barbecue University, Raichlen has written 30 cookbooks, all of them practical and full of big-flavored dishes.

Most recently, he has stepped away from the outdoor grill and into the kitchen. He is the author of “Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys.” Yes, he’s one terrific cook, but first and foremost, he’s a teacher. And that’s what you want and need when you turn off the Food Network on the telly and get down to business.

It’s a swell book, for both new and accomplished cooks, and for both men and women, too. Raichlen has style, and he writes in a breezy, entertaining way, but his voice is authoritative. Besides the tips, photos, techniques and insights, the hefty paperback has more than 300 unfussy, clearly written recipes that don’t scream trendy, cool or fashionable. They just work.

For instance:

A new shrimp cocktail. Boiling is a terrible fate for shrimp, and ketchup-horseradish dip is hardly exciting. Ergo, bench the old-fashioned shrimp cocktail. Raichlen re-tools the classic by searing spice-crusted shrimp in a skillet and serving them with a kicked-up chipotle dipping sauce. He gives two options for the spicing — Maryland-style or Kansas City-style. The best part is, the shrimp and sauce can be, and should be, prepared up to 24 hours ahead, allowing the cook time to concentrate on the rest of dinner prep.

All-purpose rub: Make a jar of this spicy mixture and use it for the aforementioned shrimp cocktail as well as for beef, pork, lamb, poultry, seafood and veggies. Slap some masking tape on the jar, noting this rule of thumb: 1 tablespoon rub per pound of meat. Great to have on hand.

Deli chips. Potato and tortilla chips just got benched, too. Better to deliver that satisfying crunch with foods you really want to eat: salami chips, pepperoni chips, prosciutto chips or just about any dry-cured sausage. It takes precious little time and effort; just slice and bake. I serve the chips with a little pot of mustard for dipping.

Finger-burner lamb chops: These chops taste best when eaten with your bare hands, scottadito style. That’s Italian for “finger-burner,” because you serve the chops so hot they scorch your fingers when you dig in. To round out a menu, I’d serve these with oven-fried potato planks and, if in season, maybe quick-roasted asparagus. Garlic-rubbed Texas toast would be good, too. Do you sense a theme here — a finger-food dinner?

Drowned gelato. There’s a reason there is a separation of territory between chefs and pastry chefs. They are apples and oranges in the kitchen, with little to no crossover. Still, the home cook needs to arrange for the sweet ending to a meal. One of the easiest desserts to make is affogato, gelato or ice cream doused with a hot shot of espresso. No secrets here, just very good ice cream, preferably vanilla. The dish is bitter, sweet, hot and cold.

And, easy and impressive. Just the way a man-made-meal should be.

Raichlen’s rules for guys

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the better you perform in the kitchen. And when you practice, you become competent and that leads to pleasure.

You live in the best time in history to cook and eat well. You don’t have to know how to cook everything. Repeat that sentence. Mastering a few dozen iconic dishes and principles will serve you better than “trying” every recipe that comes your way.

How you cook matters as much as what you cook. Go for attitude, edge and style. Flames, smoke, sharp implements, blowtorches, alcohol; why not?

You want what you eat to be good for you and the planet. Shop locally and green, and cook in a way that’s friendly to the heart and the waistline.

You understand the importance of quality. Often the difference between a merely adequate dish and a masterpiece boils down to the raw materials.

You know the value of money. Cooking doesn’t have to cost a fortune to ring up pleasure. Learn to cook to earn the best return on your investment.

You appreciate speed and simplicity. Plan, think, organize, execute.

You see the big picture. There’s more to cooking than just what you cook and plate. Cocktails, wine, setting, music, setting the whole scene.

Spice-Crusted Shrimp Cocktail with Chipotle Dip Sauce

Buy shrimp in the shell. Below, 2 options for spicing: For Maryland-style shrimp, use commercial Old Bay seasoning, and for Kansas City-style shrimp, use Raichlen’s Rub No. 2 (recipe below).

For the shrimp

1 1/2 lbs. peeled, deveined raw jumbo shrimp

2 to 3 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning OR Raichlen’s Rub No. 2 (recipe follows)

1 Tbsp. olive oil (or butter), plus 2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)

4 cilantro sprigs (optional)

Place the shrimp in a bowl with the spice mixture of your choice; toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss again.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until browned on both sides and barely cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the cooked shrimp to a serving platter and let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate them for at least an hour. The shrimp can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead at this stage. Makes about 4 servings.

For the cocktail sauce

Combine 3/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup (drained) prepared horseradish, 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange zest (rind), 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced, with 1 to 2 teaspoons of the juices. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve; and this can be made in advance, too.

To serve, divide the sauce among small bowls.

Raichlen’s Rub No. 2

Combine 1/4 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea), 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup paprika (sweet, hot, smoked, or a combo of all three), 2 tablespoons black pepper, 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder, 2 teaspoons granulated onion powder, 1 teaspoon celery seed in a bowl. Transfer to a jar, and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 1 cup.

Salami, Pepperoni and Prosciutto Chips

You can use deli meats, but as Raichlen says, “The better the fabric, the better the suit.” Go for the good stuff you’ll find at Parma Sausage and Penn Mac in the Strip District. Work with only 1 type of sausage at a time for even cooking; pepperoni browns faster than salami or prosciutto.

4 ounces thinly sliced salami, pepperoni, soppressata, prosciutto or other dry-cured sausage

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper (makes for easy clean-up). Place a wire rack on top.

Arrange the sausage slices or ham on the rack in a single layer. Bake until dry and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Work in several batches. You want to cook the chips in a single layer without crowding.

Remove from oven and blot the chips with a paper towel to remove any excess grease. The chips will crisp up as they come to room temperature.

Finger-burner Lamb Chops

Some people call these “lollipop” chops. Have the butcher cut the rib chops fresh, and ask him to “french” the bones (scrape the meat clean off the last 2 or 3 inches of bone. That will be your handle.) I used just a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes, not the walloping amount below. For a bit of drama, make a basting brush with a bunch of fresh rosemary and use it to baste the lamb.

2 1/2 lbs. small lamb rib chops, cut 1/2 inch thick

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. hot red pepper flakes, or to taste

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Extra-virgin olive oil

Lemon wedges, for serving

Arrange the lamb chops in a single layer on a baking sheet. Generously season the chops on one side with salt and pepper and half the hot pepper flakes, garlic and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and pat the ingredients onto the meat with your fingertips. Turn the chops and repeat on the second side. Let the chops marinate in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the lamb chops in a single layer (work in batches) and cook until well browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the chops over and cook the other side until the meat is cooked through to taste.

Place the chops on a platter and encourage eaters to pick them up and eat the meat straight from the bone. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing and plenty of napkins. Makes enough for 2 or 4 depending on the menu.

—“Man Made Meals” by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2014, $25)

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