The Official John Wayne Way to Grill cookbook offers fans a taste of the American icon’s appetite for food — and life.
When my dad was making movies, after all the hard work of making a movie on remote location, the cast and crew didn’t run off to Hollywood clubs or their homes,” says Ethan Wayne, John Wayne’s son and president of John Wayne Enterprises. “They would have a cocktail and gather around the grill. They talked, told stories, laughed, and smiled. It was in those moments when my dad really lived life. He loved it.”
The Duke was an avid griller himself, says his youngest daughter, Marisa Wayne. “He loved a delicious grilled steak! We even had a huge indoor grill at home that we used daily. When we would vacation in British Columbia, I remember him grilling not only steaks but salmon and crab as well.”
A cookbook seemed like a natural tribute, so in May of this year, John Wayne Enterprises released one: The Official John Wayne Way to Grill: Great Stories & Manly Meals Shared by Duke’s Family. Intended for fans who likewise love cooking with fire, the cookbook dishes up straightforward, easy recipes alongside grilling tips and Wayne family anecdotes. One example: A recipe for Jamaican-Style Swordfish Steaks is accompanied by a couple of sentences about how the actor enjoyed sport fishing in the Gulf of California, a Mecca for swordfish.
This is a book that gets to the heart of The Duke’s love of simple pleasures and camaraderie. There are no lengthy essays, just intimate glances into the man and his family. No overwrought lists of ingredients or fussy chapter-long instructions for newfangled cooking techniques, just classic, satisfying dishes prepared with care. This is John Wayne food. Direct, not dainty.
“My dad was a steak-and-potatoes man,” Ethan says. “But he also ate fish, pork, and chicken. It’s all in there.” Indeed, the cookbook includes recipes for Black & Blue Steaks and Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon, as well as Grilled Tequila Chicken (putting one of The Duke’s favorite spirits to good use in the marinade) and Fresh Trout Fillets Topped With Citrus Crunch. There are personal recipes, too, including a soufflé from Ethan and Marisa’s mother, Pilar Wayne. “It’s one of my favorites!” Marisa says.
It’s all the inspiration you’ll need to gather friends and loved ones — which is, after all, the point of grilling. It’s the Wayne family way.
“Grilling isn’t a solitary act,” Ethan says. “You don’t do it in a vacuum. You’re sharing time and stories with your loved ones when you grill. It’s communal and multigenerational. Food was important to my dad, but people and life with people were more important. The Official John Wayne Way to Grill expresses that.”
Marisa echoes her brother’s sentiments. “I hope [the cookbook] helps bring families and friends together for lifelong memories like I have about mealtime,” she says. “I hope that when a mom or dad decides to cook a recipe out of it, that she or he creates an experience that is shared with their families. I hope that because of this cookbook, they get to know my dad a little better, and that they bring John Wayne to the table to share in their camaraderie, laughter, and fellowship.”
Peppered Cowboy Steaks
A bone-in rib-eye, or “cowboy steak,” is a can’t-miss cut everybody can agree on.
2½ teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1½ teaspoons salt
4½ teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons lemon pepper
1½ teaspoons ground red pepper
1½ teaspoons dried parsley flakes
6 (1½-inch thick) bone-in rib-eyes
3 teaspoons olive oil
Mix first seven ingredients. Brush steaks with oil; rub with pepper mixture. Cover and stick in the fridge for 1 hour.
Grill with grill lid shut over medium-high heat for 8 – 10 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.
Wayne family tip: A bone-in steak will always have a bit more flavor than a cut off the bone. You can cover any exposed bones on your steaks with aluminum foil to keep them from charring as you grill.
Real Deal Baked Beans
Baked beans are an old-fashioned barbecue staple and the perfect side to any grilled meat.
1 (31-ounce) can pork and beans
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons molasses
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 slices thick-cut bacon
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring grill to medium-high heat. Throw your bacon on the grates; cook until it’s crisp, flipping once. Combine all other ingredients in a mixing bowl. Break cooked bacon into the mixture. Stir until everything’s incorporated. Pour mixture into an oven-safe dish. Place dish on grill and cook for 1 hour. Remove from grill, stir, serve, and enjoy.
Wayne family tip: If your grill is otherwise occupied, these beans also work in the oven. The only difference in the end result is the consistency. Baking the beans gives them a thicker sauce.
Recipes excerpted and adapted with permission from The Official John Wayne Way to Grill: Great Stories & Manly Meals Shared by Duke’s Family, by the Editors of John Wayne Magazine (Media Lab Books, 2015).
From the August/September 2015 issue.