ILNews

Grilling guru

Jenny Montgomery
August 3, 2011
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Before attorney Mark Nicholson left for work, he placed a slab of spare ribs on his indoor slow-cooker grill. By 4 p.m., the aroma of the meat – seasoned with Nicholson’s secret “magic dust” – is so enticing that it could cause even the most diehard vegetarian to waiver. Collard greens and baked beans simmer on the stove as sweet cornbread cooks to perfection in the oven.
 

ribs (Submitted photo)

Barbecue is this public defender’s specialty. He has been cooking since before he was old enough to drive, and after taking a judging class in Ohio this year, he earned the distinction of becoming a “Certified Barbeque Judge” from the Kansas City Barbeque Society.


cornbread (Submitted photo)

Igniting a fire

Nicholson’s love for cooking began when he was a boy. His father – whose signature dish was a butterscotch cream pie – showed 10-year-old Nicholson how to fry bologna.

“When he showed me how to cook,
 

mark nicholson Mark Nicholson (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

I had it as a hobby right then and there,” he said.

From his humble beginnings sautéing pre-packaged lunch meat, Nicholson has learned how to cook shark, alligator, and kimchi, a spicy Korean dish prepared with pickled or fermented cabbage. When he’s looking for meats that can’t be found in a garden-variety store, he goes to Saraga International Grocery, where he enjoys wandering the aisles, looking for new and interesting temptations.

Nicholson’s love for food has motivated him to set forth in search of great barbecue – in Indianapolis and beyond. For the past six or seven years, he and friend Marion Superior Judge Robert Altice have gotten together about once a month on a quest to find outstanding barbecued ribs.

That search has taken them to some unusual destinations, like one mom-and-pop restaurant on the east side of the city. “They have a big sign up that says ‘barbecued goat,’ and I said, ‘Do you really want to eat here?,’” Judge Altice said.

Judge Altice and Nicholson share a passion for cooking outdoors; although the judge says Nicholson’s grilling skills are superior.

“I cook all year round, and I’m like Mark, in that to me, it’s all about charcoal,” he said. “But I have to admit I do have a gas grill ... and that comes in handy, at least in the winter.”

Judge Altice, who used to live in Kansas City and participated in barbecue competitions there, said he would never admit to his peers there that he’s got a gas grill on his property.

Nicholson uses charcoal only in its raw form. But he prefers to grill with wood – applewood, cedar, mesquite – all of which infuse meat with flavors that cannot be achieved with gas.

Nicholson is a purist – he shuns the use of gas or other chemicals in grilling. “I don’t mess around with gas at all,” he said. That’s probably in his best interest, as the Kansas City Barbeque Society will disqualify from competition any participant who uses gas or accelerants inside a grill.

A job well done

For Nicholson’s 42nd birthday this year, his wife, Gina, surprised him by arranging for him to take a barbecue judging class through the Kansas City Barbeque Society. KCBS offers classes throughout the year and around the Midwest, and Nicholson’s one-day class was in Ohio. Afterward, he began perusing the KCBS newspaper, Bull Sheet, looking for a barbecue team to join. He found a classified ad seeking a team member posted by Thin Blue BBQ and joined in time to participate in the Smoke on the Square barbecue competition in Franklin, Ind. In that competition, Nicholson won fifth place for his brown bag grilled apple pie, and the team won the people’s choice first-place award for their pulled pork.

“To my knowledge, I was the only attorney competing in the event and several competitors were somewhat surprised to see an attorney out there grilling and barbecuing with the pros,” he said.

Now, Nicholson is sometimes torn about whether to judge or participate in competitions – especially prestigious events like the KCBS-sanctioned “Wine, Brew & Bar-B-Q Too!”

“I was planning on judging next week in New Palestine, and then I was thinking about competing, so I haven’t really made that final decision – that’s my dilemma,” he said. Barbecue ethics won’t allow him to be both a chef and competitor in the same competition.

Sharing the bounty

As Nicholson talks about cooking, a common theme emerges: He enjoys sharing his creations – and swapping recipes – with others. He regularly trades recipes with colleagues in the Marion County Public Defender’s office. And he and his wife host three large get-togethers each year. Of course, Nicholson mans the grill. He prepared food for 80 people for his brother-in-law’s high school graduation, with other relatives bringing side dishes.

Friend and fellow attorney Enrique Flores is among those who have had the opportunity to sample Nicholson’s cooking. Times have changed. Flores said he actually used to prepare meals for Nicholson when the two attended law school together at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis.

“My girlfriend and I didn’t have a car. He used to drive us to get groceries, so as a thank-you, I would cook dinner for him on Thursday,” Flores said. “He used to bring side items, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what they were, but they were all very good.”

Flores also talked about Nicholson’s hobby of photographing food.

“He loves food. On Facebook, he always posts things that he makes, or if he goes to a restaurant and he likes something, he’ll take a picture of it,” Flores said.

Last course

Nicholson opens the oven again to peek at his cornbread. “Oh, that’s perfect!” he says, as he pulls the cast-iron skillet from the stove. He grabs his new camera – a Father’s Day present from Gina – so he can snap a picture of his handiwork.

In his household, Nicholson said he does most of the cooking (except for when he took the bar exam, and Gina handled most of the meal preparation). It’s no surprise that Gina is so supportive of her husband’s hobby. Nicholson recalls that when they were first dating and Gina had suggested they go out for breakfast one morning, he instead showed up on her doorstep with a tote full of supplies to make her a breakfast that would put Bob Evans to shame – pancakes, bacon, sausage – the works.

“I’ve always said that the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach,” he added.•

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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