Neal Corman: Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook

Neal Corman holds BBQ aloft

Take a road trip and learn all about regional BBQ across the United States – or stay at home and crack open Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook (St. Martin’s Press 2014) by corporate chef Neal Corman with writer Chris Peterson. The introduction describes the real road trip through BBQ country before the restaurant in New York opened:

The gang flew to Memphis, rented a minivan, and started driving. Their motto became “follow the smoke,” because if you saw a pillar of smoke from the road, there was sure as shootin’ bound to be some memorable barbecue right underneath.” (p. 1)

This is a book about restaurant food from Virgil’s – from how to make barbecue and recipes for all sorts of other dishes the restaurant serves. If you are a fan of the restaurant, this is the tell-all that will still make you want to visit.

Virgil's Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook by Neal CormanThe first chapter covers the rules of barbecue – from how to season a cast iron grate (p. 17) to choosing the right kind of wood (p. 31). The starters chapter is full of non-BBQ dishes like Maryland’s Finest Crab Cakes (p. 37) served with Remoulade (p. 40) “Barbecue folks being who they are, they just have to make it their own. That’s how we feel at Virgil’s, so we’ve created a signature remoulade that is a bit more like a hybrid between tartar sauce and barbecue sauce.” It includes hot sauce, horseradish, and garlic. If you want BBQ from start to finish, just jump to Trash Ribs (p. 53) that are bite-size chunks of leftover barbecued ribs served with two kinds of sauces and cayenne pepper.

After a couple more chapters on drinks and side dishes, you’ll get to the heart of the book – the barbecue. There is a chapter on rubs, marinades, and sauces, and then individual chapters on different kinds of meat. For example, under Pork, the recipes include Memphis-Style Spareribs (p. 213), Baby Back Ribs (p. 215), and Boston Butt, the Virgil’s Way (p. 217) that’s served as pulled pork mixed with Dry Rub (p. 159) and Carolina Vinegar Sauce (p. 157). You’ll need 10 to 12 hours for smoking, but the meat will be tender and toothsome. Most of the recipes include tips for the right beer. “You can go with something lighter and sparkling to emphasize the flavors in the dish. We recommend ales, lagers, and golden ales.” (p. 218)

Virgil’s Barbecue Road Trip is not an exhaustive book of minutia – you can use it if you know a little about barbecue or if you know a lot about one kind and want to expand your repertoire. It will make you hungry to light up your grill.

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