If a Master Class is a bit more than you want and something closer to a fireside chat sounds more soothing, sign up for Rick Rodgers' Barbecues 101. Rodgers gives cooking classes around the country, teaching people how to give great seasonal parties. His previous "cooking class" books, Thanksgiving 101 and Christmas 101, with their less-stress approach, have helped a host of hosts get through those holidays with more joy and fewer anxiety attacks. So, when this meal-mentor-extraordinaire takes the festivities outdoors, he aims for easy entertaining whether it's a backyard birthday party or an all-day family reunion. Rodgers begins with a quick tour of the basics and once he has you, and the grill, fired up, he gets right into the recipes for the sauces, salsas, marinades and rubs that bring out the zing. Graduate to the sizzle of burgers, ribs, chops and chicken, the delicate flavors of fish and seafood and a garden of grilled vegetables. Rodgers moves back into the kitchen to cook up essential sides and salads and adds a sweet array of traditional desserts. Fortunately, this 101 course ends with a series of menus with complete timetables, not with a final exam.
Sybil Pratt has been cooking up the column for more than five years.