Just call me Jim

Church Bazaars can be treasure troves of memorabilia you’d never expect. The very righteous bazaar at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Franklin, TN., delivered this little gem: Jim Beard’s New Barbecue Cookbook. That would be the same “Jim” that became James Beard, iconic food expert and namesake of the James Beard Awards. But apparently back in 1958 when the book was published he was just plain old Jim.

The famous Mr. Beard holds forth on the lowly hot dog (referred to as a frankfurter) advice true to this day: “Most Americans think they know all there is to know about cooking frankfurters. they simply grill them in a pan or folding grill (or, heaven forbid, boil them), slap them on a tasteless frankfurter roll, pass the mustard and piccalilli, and that’s it. ” Beard suggests substituting “tender little finger rolls from your local bakery” or small French rolls.

His variations on a frankfurter include old standbys: cheese-filled, wrapped in bacon and grilled; with chili; and topped with relish. But then there’s this novel approach: Slice frankfurters down the middle and stuff with a mixture of liverwurst, grated onion, sour cream and Tabasco. Brush with mustard (he does not specify what kind), and roll in foil. Grill for 12-15 minutes, turning them twice.

Hmm, hot dogs and liverwurst.

I’m going to try some of his recipes to see if they stand up after half a century. I’ll let you know the results.

Mike Calvert, a BBQ guy

I am so bummed tonight. My friend, Mike Calvert, died of a heart attack earlier this week. Mike was just a spectacular individual. I met him when I became a Kansas City Barbecue Society judge. I didn’t know anyone at the contests, and Mike just came up to me with this big, broad smile on his face and gave me a hug. He didn’t even know me. Gave me a hug.

I judged a lot of contests with Mike. He lived nearby on Old Hickory Lake. He offered more than once to take my husband and I on a cruise around the lake and we never took him up on it. Too bad for us.

Mike is no doubt having a libation and trading stories with other BBQ guys who have gone before (sadly, there are more than I want to think about) up in the Pitmaster’s domain. We here on earth are left a little sadder, a little emptier, a little lonelier without Mike to stride up, break into a grin and give us a big hug.

Book signings and hot spots

I had my first book signing Saturday at a local bookstore. I do not understand why this is a valuable source of promotion for a book. You sit at a table and hope against all odds that someone will come up and be interested enough in your book to buy it on the spot so they can get your very desirable signature. This, of course, did not happen to me. The only thing that remotely saved me from total embarrassment was I sent out an e-mail blast to my friends and had some pity visitors. I understand that Mario Batali or Bobby Flay will get lines forming for a book signing two days before the event, but there’s got to be some happy medium between super star chefs and lowly cookbook authors like me.

Ah, well. As always there’s a silver lining. My publisher suggested I bring some food samples to the book store and I decided to make the red pepper and cream cheese crostini from the book. So I grilled some slices of baguette and got a really easy and cheap lesson in how to tell the hot spots on your grill. Put the first batch on and as I turned them over some were a lovely brown with beautiful grill marks and some were almost black. Aha! Guess where the hot spots are on my grill?

So here’s the recipe: Baguettes sliced into about 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground salt. Grill until pretty on both sides. When cool, top with cream cheese and red pepper jelly. Grilled crostini

Exploding deodorant

What a weekend in Landover, MD., for my competition BBQ team, Chicks in Charge (all female, naturally!). We get to the Beltway BBQ Showdown, which is in the shadow of the FedEx Field, where the Redskins play, and set up our little cooking area. It’s a little warm and muggy, but not bad for June. Then Saturday, when we did most of the cooking, the temperature shot up over 100 degrees. What a great idea – standing over a hot smoker for hours in death-defying heat.

We probably downed a case of water in a four-hour period and never had to visit the bathroom (which was actually the only sanctuary in the heat because it was air conditioned – one competitor went in there and spent a half hour just sitting on the commode to cool off). The awards ceremony was in an open field at 3:30 in the afternoon. The Chicks went down there with umbrellas – we looked like dirty, stinking, greasy Mary Poppins.

It was worth it. We came in 13th overall and got called to the stage for a 5th place chicken entry. If you’re curious about all this competitive BBQ stuff, visit www.kcbs.us
to learn about how you can become a certified judge or a cook.

The capper was when we got back home, I took a shower and my deodorant, which had been in the car all day, exploded like a projectile missile when I took the cap off! Who knew personal hygiene could be so dangerous.

Buy local


The Farmer’s Market in Franklin, TN., is one of the region’s true treasures. Every Saturday morning beginning at 8 a.m. organic farmers display a staggeringly beautiful array of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, flowers and homemade baked goods (fried pies!!). The Franklin Square Players pick old-timey tunes while bohemians and blue-hairs alike browse the good stuff. Didn’t think you needed five pounds of Swiss chard? You actually did.

Yesterday, I didn’t think I needed two beautiful heads of lettuce until I got there. But I did. We knew we needed Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese. Garlic and Paprika Jack and Chipotle Cheddar. Mark and I did not need to chocolate and peach fried pies but we got them anyway. Turns out Alex and Noah snatched them when we weren’t looking so we avoided the guilt of biting into crust made with ACTUAL LARD!

At any rate, the farmers work diligently to bring the best products available and they deserve all our support, especially right now in these tough economic times.

Ms. Chick Goes to Washington

Chicks in Charge will be making an appearance at the Beltway BBQ Showdown in Landover, MD., next weekend, so I had to do a little practicing this weekend. Actually, only two of the Chicks will be there – myself and Mary Ann and we’re cooking on two tiny Weber Smoky Mountain bullets so it’s going to be aChampionship material? challenge.

So Friday night, I decided to practice ribs with a recipe I’ve made exactly zero times from a world-famous competition cook I took a class from (for free – I’m a writer so I got valuable knowledge for the price of an article I wrote for him). They turned out pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself so I’m assured of crashing and burning in Landover because I am now overconfident. Alex actually ate warmed-up leftover ribs and said they were the best he’d ever had. That’s a complete curse.

The problem with the Chicks is we are four Type A women who always want to have the last say. So we overthink everything and then second guess ourselves relentlessly. I’m starting to get to the place where I need to just go on my instincts and forget all the multitude of tips, recipes, techniques I’ve stolen from a myriad of really good competition cooks. If nothing else, we’ll have a good time, drink a little too much wine and smoke too many cigarettes. Whoo-hoo!

Too many hamburgers

Just got back from vacation in the Smoky Mountains. Judged a barbeque contest and got to visit with my in-laws (a good thing!) and my stepson and daughter-in-law, who is pregnant. Many baby clothes bought at the outlet mall in Pigeon Forge. But way too much food, too many hamburgers, too many puff pastry appetizers – that’s what happens when you rent a cabin and all three families bring food.

Soooo, here’s a tasty recipe for Sesame Marinated Grilled Tilapia:

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup dark sesame oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

4 tilapia filets

Combine oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic and ginger in a bowl and whisk thoroughly. Put fish filets in a heavy duty plastic bag and add marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Preheat the grill to medium. Spray a grill basket with spray oil. Add fish. Grill for about 4 minutes a side.