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Friday, August 1, 2014

Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan's new beef and barbecue cookbook mostly throws strikes

After the 1979 baseball season, a baseball pitcher already destined for the Hall of Fame, signed what was then a record $1 million contract to bring his golden arm back home to Texas, to pitch for the Houston Astros. 

He already had thrown four no-hitters over seven seasons for the California Angels, and Ryan would go on to throw three more – one as an Astro in 1981 and two more as a Texas Ranger in 1990 and 1991.

Over a  career spanning three decades as a player, he recorded more strikeouts than any other pitcher, often throwing pitches over 100 miles an hour.

I still harbor a grudge against Ryan for being a part of the 1969 “Amazing” New York Mets, who overtook my Chicago Cubs to win the division and then won the World Series.

During many of those 27 years, Ryan became a winner in another venue – as a cattleman. In his new book, “The Nolan Ryan Beef & BarbecueCookbook (Little Brown),” the Alvin, Texas native relates how he entered the business in 1973, while he was pitching for the Angels.

“My success in baseball gave me the economic resources I needed to get started in the cattle business. I have taken the same measured, careful and passionate approach to all my business operations, and buying and selling cattle and starting Nolan Ryan Beef have been no different,” Ryan writes in the opening section of the book.

In addition to marking prime cuts of beef coming from cattle free of antibiotics and hormones, Nolan Ryan’s All-Natural Beef has tasted success at the baseball stadium as the company’s hot dogs and steak sandwiches are now sold at Rangers and Astros games.

He has given his name to Beefmaster brand of cattle, which were bred in Texas to withstand its arid heat.

Grilled Asian Beef Ribs

Being an astute businessman – also obvious from his tenure as CEO of the Rangers – Ryan has produced a cookbook to complement his product. With Christobal Vazquez, executive chef at Rangers Ballpark, he has published a book dedicated to every cut of beef, from the standard steak varieties to ribs to brisket, flank and flat iron steak.

My main complaint with the book is that Vazquez’s name deserves to be on the cover with co-author J.R. Rosenthal, who has written books with other major leaguers Randy Johnson, Don Mattingly, Tony Gwynn and Leo Mazzone. Ryan acknowledges throughout that many of the recipes are from Chef Cris. It’s also quite the marketing brochure for the company.

The book also places a little too much emphasis on cooking times over meat temperatures, although it does mention using a meat thermometer on page 17. The photographs by Geno Loro accent the text well.

But otherwise Ryan’s book “brings the heat”with its simple, straight-forward recipes, which often take you through the entire cooking process, from the refrigerator to the dinner plate. Each one, particularly those in the ribs chapter, is a strike right down the middle.

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