Robert St. John is a cool guy, funny and quick to see the irony in things others take way too seriously. He also can cook circles around most of us and has a few restaurants and a few cookbooks to back that up.
His latest cookbook, "New South Grilling - Fresh and Exciting Recipes from the Third Coast," is a real beauty, filled with photos to make your mouth water, not to mention more of St. John's priceless comments. As soon as he can get a book signing scheduled closer to the Coast, we're going to get him to sit still long enough to answer a few questions about grilling with your kids and then share it with Sun Herald readers. Yes, and Smorgasbord readers, too, presuming there are Smorgasbord readers out there.
Much to our surprise, though, the box in which the book arrived also contained what you might call samples of pantry staples, tins the shape and size of hockey pucks filled with seasoning mixtures. One for blackening, one called "Creole," another strictly for veggies. Probably six in all. Plus Bloody Mary and margarita mixes, shallow tins of rimmers for both and, of all things, pancake mix.
That box came yesterday, so we haven't had a chance to experiment with the goodies, but we will. And we will attempt to objectively evaluate these against the existing lines from other celebrity chefs. In fact, you can help. If you currently use a Creole or Cajun seasoning combination by some other famous name - Emeril, Paul Prudhomme, Frank Davis, Wolfgang Puck - let us know, and we'll include them in the taste-off.
If, like us, you simply have to try anything new along these lines, visit St. John's New South Restaurant Group site (link above) and check out sources for the products.
Meanwhile, here's one of a whole series of "non-stick" grilling marinades from St. John's new book, this one for beef. You won't be disappointed.
Brush this on burgers or steaks 30 to 45 minutes before grilling. A tarragon vinegar is a great substitute for the balsamic
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup light olive oil
Warm water as needed
2 tablespoons Lawry seasoned salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
Place the egg yolks, Dijon mustard and vinegar in a food processor. Blend on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes.
Slowly drizzle oils into the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the marinade becomes too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of warm water. Once all of the oil has been incorporated, add seasoned salt, pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder and onion powder until incoporated. Store covered in the refrigerator until needed.
Makes 2-1/2 cups.
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