The father-daughter duo of Mike and Amy Mills, of Murphysboro's 17th Street Barbecue, has done it again.
The two released a second cookbook in May, called “Praise the Lard: Recipes and Revelations."
“This picks up where 'Peace, Love and Barbecue' left off,” Amy Mills said. “It’s a real love letter to Murphysboro.”
"Peace, Love and Barbecue," the Mills' first cookbook, gave fans a real look at the world of competitive barbecue and the opportunity to recreate some of their favorite dishes from 17th Street, with some favorites from Mills’ barbecue buddies thrown in.
"Praise the Lard" gives more instructions for cooking award-winning meats, sides and desserts at home. More of the Mills family favorites can be found on pages of the book, along with stories of life in Murphysboro and cooking barbecue.
“The meat chapter is really specific and gives you very specific instructions,” Amy Mills said.
Very specific is right. The chapter contains 16 pages of recommendations — down to the brands of equipment — and instructions before readers get to the recipes.
Mike Mills reviewed some of his tips for the backyard barbecue enthusiast.
First, start with good meat, like from Big Muddy Hogs, he said. Then, it is about temperature and fire control.
“We like fruit wood. Oak and hickory have a heavier flavor than apple or other fruit woods,” Mike Mills said.
Mike Mills believes good barbecue has four flavors: smoke, sauce, seasoning and the meat itself. The other ingredients should complement the meat, not overpower it.
Use the bark as well as the inside wood, he said. Without bark, the wood will not give the meat much flavor.
“A steady low temperature is better than going high and fluctuating,” Mike Mills said. “You want the temperature to rise and be steady, so the meat knows what to do.”
Mike Mills explained that meat doesn’t take smoke after it rises to a temperature of about 140 degrees. After it reaches that point, don’t worry about adding wood.
“Really the whole key is fire managements,” Amy Mills said.
But, there’s a little more than barbecue in “Praise the Lard.” The book also contains some tastes in each chapter that are specific to Southern Illinois.
“I love peanut rolls,” Mike Mills said.
“Peanut rolls are very specific to Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri,” Amy Mills said.
Pork steaks are another taste of Southern Illinois that is a 17th Street Barbecue specialty.
“Only a very specific part of the Midwest knows about pork steaks,” Amy Mills said.
One chapter Amy Mills is particularly proud of is a chapter called "Holy Communion," which features barbecue-inspired cocktails. In addition to Bloody Mary, Negroni and Amy’s Margarita recipes, other cocktails have unique names, like Pork and Stormy, Salty Pig, Lipstick on a Pig and 17th Street Shuffle.
Along with each recipe, readers will find a story.
“Everything has a story,” Mike Mills said.
“All the recipes we included have some reason to be in the book,” Amy Mills said.
Research shows the average person cooks two recipes from any cookbook he or she owns, according to Amy Mills. She calls purchasing cookbooks a sort of “armchair travelling.” If she is correct, “Praise the Lard” is armchair travelling to Murphysboro, Illinois.
“It really is about the town,” Amy Mills said. “The town is a character (in the cookbook).”
“I feel strongly that Murphysboro is on the upswing,” Mike Mills said. “There is a real resurgence and we’re proud to be a part of it.”
“Praise the Lard” sells for $25 and is available in 17th Street restaurants, Barnes and Noble in Carbondale and at amazon.com.