Pink oven mitts, rhinestone-studded tiaras and beauty-queen sashes make the perfect patio attire for self-proclaimed "Barbecue Queens" Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, co-authors of the new cookbook "The BBQ Queens' Big Book of Barbecue" (March 2005, Harvard Common Press).
Recognizing that women would rather master the grill work themselves than wonder when the heck the steak will be finished, Adler and Fertig have crafted a book that is packed with recipes specifically designed for women grill chefs.
Since women are the force behind planning, shopping, and preparing most family meals, it makes sense to have a variety of recipes that allow for cooking most, if not all, of the meal right on the grill, says Fertig.
"What women bring to the table is this global outlook to make sure that everything in your meal coordinates and complements each other," she says.
And that's why this cookbook has an array of mouth-watering marinades, rubs, vinaigrettes, side dishes, appetizers, desserts and, in keeping with the royal theme, "crowning glories," or sauces for everything from asparagus to beef skewers to cranberry-almond torte.
Of course there are recipes for simple grilled chicken, but if you want to get frilly, Adler and Fertig suggest balsamic-thyme chicken, grilled on a cedar plank with peppers and onions and served with rustic aioli.
While smoking has been a traditional way to slow-cook tough cuts of brisket and pork shoulder, don't overlook the value of infusing smoked flavor into non-traditional grill foods, says Fertig. Choosing chipped hardwoods like hickory, sassafras and oak-barrel, the latter which offers a Chardonnay-like mellowness to your food, is a slow-cooking path to some truly unique flavor.
"We have enlarged the scope of smoking and we like to smoke even smaller things like shrimp, medallions of goat cheese, and vegetables," says Fertig.
And if you're craving down-home southern cuisine, try the smoked tomato and cheese grits, with tomato, jalapeno and garlic smoked right on your grill and added to grits.
Seeking out the natural resources your area has to offer is well worth the effort for smoked flavor goodness, says Adler. Michigan's reputation as cherry capital is worth more than just the pitted fruit, for instance. "Knowing that you have cherry trees, if you are going to do any smoking, for heaven's sake, use the wood that is indigenous to your region," says Adler. "Use your fruitwood, your cherry or your apple, either one."
Not only do women bring a unique flair to outdoor cooking, but a woman's palate for grilled foods is more diverse, according to Don McCullough, executive vice president for the National Barbecue Association in Austin, Texas.
"Chicken and fish, even seafood have become highly prominent foods for grilling," he says. "This has been led more by women, who tend to prefer healthy eating and sophistication."
And, in McCullough's opinion, families are choosing to stick closer to home, post-September 11. That means they are putting more money into outdoor living as extensions of their homes.
"Outdoor kitchens and hot tubs are more popular now," says McCullough. "People are concentrating on neighborhood functions in their backyards. And women have become more involved in that process as well."
Although some women welcome the opportunity to have someone else do the grilling, many will find a satisfaction at using outdoor grilling equipment designed with their needs in mind. With stainless steel and non-stick surfaces, grills are a more attractive heat source for cooking than they have been in the past, says Susan Baier, chef instructor and program coordinator at The Culinary Studies Institute at Oakland Community College.
"As grills are becoming much more user friendly, they are catering to many different uses," says Baier. Perfect for the BBQ Queens' char-grilled baby summer squash, crunchy smoked cheese dip and tarragon grilled turkey breast.
And for the woman who has yet to don her own rhinestone tiara and join the grill babe craze, co-author Judith Fertig has some words of encouragement.
"It's not rocket science!" she says.
---Claire Charlton grills tuna burgers on her own patio in Berkley, Michigan. She keeps her own tiara handy for those impromptu barbecues!
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