Steven Raichlen’s Primal Grill

If you can’t pick up a copy of Steven Raichlen‘s Planet Barbecue, reviewed yesterday, then catch his TV show, Primal Grill.

The third season on PBS fittingly debuts on Memorial Day weekend. Super Chef got a sneak peak at the premier show featuring Steven preparing and eating Mussels on Pine Needles, Salmon on a Stick and Caveman T-Bones with Sweet Pepper Topping and to go with it all, Grilled Garlic Bread with Parmesan Cheese and Prosciutto. This is fun food TV, not only because Steven’s recipes are uncomplicated, and his steps clear, but also because he puts the food in context. He doesn’t work on a gas-powered top-of-the-line grill. This is cooking with direct fire – in the case of the steaks, he puts them literally on the embers – very primal. He cooks with the flavors of the region he is working in. His Salmon on a Stick (Indian Style) with Mustard-Dill Sauce from the Pacific Northwest uses indigenous redwood sticks for the salmon, madrone wood favored by the Yurok tribe from which the recipe comes. He adds saguaro cactus seeds from the Sonoran Desert where he is filming.

Perhaps the most wonderful recipe is the first for mussels. He demonstrates how to clean the mussels and then how to create a pan with wholes in the bottom to hold the mussels and dried pine needles.

To call the combination of sea saltiness and pine smoke sublime would be an understatement, and to wash the mussels down with anything less than a crisp, dry Muscadet would be criminal. And the best place to try eclade is at La Bouvette, a rustic restaurant surrounded by vineyards and with a wood-burning grill. (p. 513 in Planet Barbeque)

On camera, Steven recalls Ile de Re where he ate the mussels as he makes and eats his own. It definitely a dish worth trying – simple, direct, and completely dependent on grilling pine needles for its exquisite taste.

In this season he also shows the crew preparing each shot. The viewer gets a sense of the steps behind the smooth TV banter. You can see how much work goes into creating a fire pit, or setting up a table. Instead of everything being pre-cut, pre-measured, and all ready for the TV chef to just dump one ingredient after another into a bowl, when, in fact, preparation takes time and is often more difficult then the final step.

Primal Grill is a well-thought out travel show that focuses on unusual recipes and background facts about that go well beyond good old bbq.

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