Welcome back to Serious Eats Recommends, in which our editorial team shares the food-centered TV shows and movies we look forward to after an especially long week, the cookbooks we can't put down, and the culinary-minded podcasts that make our daily commutes fly by. Here's a look at what we've been loving lately and just why we think it's so great.
Your New Grilling Bible
The hows and whys of grilling and barbecue have long existed in the realm of folklore and legend. In his book, Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, Meathead Goldwyn (you may know him as the founder of AmazingRibs.com) distills decades of research on the art and science of barbecue and grilling into a single volume that will show you not just the best ways to take food to live fire, but why the techniques work. Far more than a recipe book alone (though there are tons of bulletproof recipes), this text will teach you the hard-tested fundamentals of outdoor cooking, giving you the confidence to cook anything, even without a recipe. The myth-busting and equipment tips alone were enough to get me hooked. —J. Kenji López-Alt, managing culinary director
A Podcast That Makes Broccoli Fun
Curious nerdy types who often say things like "That's fun to think about!" (such as myself) should immediately recognize the value of a podcast like Surprisingly Awesome, the purpose of which is simply to explore things that sound boring and explain why they are actually not. Topics in the life of the young series have included pigeons, yo' mama jokes, and boredom itself, but an episode on broccoli, from January of this year, will especially draw in food lovers and gardeners who also enjoy dipping a toe into light science now and again. For instance: Why do some people (particularly little ones) like eating broccoli, while others hate it? How does broccoli resemble a dog, genetically speaking? And—arguably the question whose response carries the broadest implications—how do you get your kids to eat the stuff? Adam Davidson, whose curious-nerdy credentials were amply established when he helped create NPR's Planet Money podcast, co-hosts this episode along with producer Rachel Ward, and the blend of casual banter and genuine interest in the subject matter produces a charming, somehow sweet tone that I've found in few other series. —Miranda Kaplan, copy editor
A Show About Chefs That's Actually Great
The thing that Netflix's documentary series Chef's Table, which kicks off its second season on May 27, does so well is this: It takes chefs whom you might be tired of hearing about—who you perhaps think have basked in the food media spotlight for far too long—and reminds you exactly why they mattered in the first place. Perhaps no episode of the series's first season illustrates this point better than the one that focuses on Italian chef Massimo Bottura, chef and owner of Osteria Francescana, one of the top five restaurants in the world. The show points out to us that Bottura—whose frantic, funny, and infectious personality comes shining through—was once regarded as no less than an enemy of Italian cuisine simply because of his heartfelt efforts to not just elevate it but reinvent it. Chef's Table depicts his struggles to find his culinary vision, his efforts to win over the skeptics in his hometown of Modena, and ultimately the culinary triumph of Osteria Francescana, one that he arrived at entirely on his own terms. —Keith Pandolfi, senior features editor
A Culinary Coloring Book
I've long been a fan of Jessie Kanelos Weiner's vivid and imaginative watercolors—she's done the art for several of our stories. But when Weiner released Edible Paradise: An Adult Coloring Book of Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables, I discovered a new affinity for her work. See, like many children, I grew up with coloring books. But, unlike most adults, I continue to buy—and fill—them to this day. For that I can thank my mother, a licensed art therapist who has long promoted the pastime as a therapeutic outlet. Far from pushing a think-inside-the-box mentality, coloring provides a healthy space for self-expression and experimentation. And, for those who enjoy it, coloring can leave you with a profound sense of zen-like relaxation and accomplishment. Weiner's fanciful landscapes are organized by season; they're a riot of vegetation, edible plant life, and tantalizing market scenes. They'll encourage you to paint (or pencil) the town red—in any colors you like. —Niki Achitoff-Gray, features editor
The Weirdest Sandwich Cookbook
It started with the broccoli tacos. That's what won me over the first time I visited Tyler Kord's No. 7 restaurant, after it opened in my Fort Greene, Brooklyn, neighborhood several years ago. After meeting Tyler himself a few months later, I became as big a fan of him as I was of those tacos. He's a pretty big deal in New York these days—aside from No. 7, he owns a bunch of No. 7 Sub shops, serving some of the most imaginative sandwiches Gotham has to offer. Still, when I ran into him last week at the old Fort Greene spot, he was filling in for a sick dishwasher. That's the kind of chef I like. I like his new cookbook, A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, too. In fact, it's the best sandwich cookbook I've ever come across, even though I haven't come across many. But if I were to recommend one sandwich cookbook, this would be it. That's because, to Kord, anything can be a sandwich, whether it's broccoli or asparagus, meatloaf or carrot purée. The book starts with a tongue-in-cheek forward by the novelist Emma Straub that has Tyler inventing his broccoli recipes in 1950s Paris and dying at the age of 73 in a zeppelin accident (I'd venture to guess that Tyler's nowhere even close to 40 yet). It only gets better and weirder from there. The super-upsetting part finds Tyler drinking in showers, crying in bathrooms, and going ballistic on overrated lobster rolls. But it's all in good fun.
What's not upsetting are the recipes. They're the exact opposite, in fact. The book starts out with one for a three-pound roast beef, which is big enough to make eight to 12 of the roast beef sandwich recipes that follow: the Chutzpah Express, with Chinese mustard and pickled mushrooms; the This Will Be Our Year sandwich of roast beef, grape jelly mayo, and fried clams. There are chicken sandwiches and fish sandwiches; there are hilarious essays and photo gallery–quality artwork. And then there's just Tyler himself. Writing in his own unique voice, making his own unique sandwiches, being the kind of chef that I've always liked. —Keith Pandolfi
The Story of White Bread, Told in 20 Minutes
This isn't the first episode of 99% Invisible I've recommended, and it likely won't be the last. Though the podcast bills itself as design-focused and receives funding from the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco, its episodes are far-ranging in subject matter, not to mention invariably engrossing. Take episode 137, "Good Bread," which delves into the surprising origin story of industrially manufactured white bread. You'll find out why Wonder Bread was once seen as a health food and how its very nature—pristine, white, and utterly uniform—captured the attitudes of America's ruling classes during a seismic period of industrialization, immigration, and shifting race and class relations. Host Roman Mars follows the bread's trajectory from rising star to empty-carb castoff, reminding us all the while that even the simplest of foods can speak volumes. —Niki Achitoff-Gray