Like so many others, I am a huge fan of my barbecue grill. A die-hard, charcoal only, Weber loving fool, I typically grill at least four nights of every seven from May to November. That being the case, I thought I had a pretty good repertoire of recipes and ideas to make the most of my favorite cooking method. Still, new ideas are always welcome and it was with great anticipation that I opened, Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned, the latest cookbook from barbecue queen Elizabeth Karmel.
Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned, is a collection of more than 400 recipes specifically designed to flavor foods prepared on the grill. From marinades and brines to compound butters and tapenades, the cookbook covers a dozen different methods for flavoring virtually any protein, as well as some great suggestions for fruits and vegetables and even the occasional dessert.
Not surprisingly, the cookbook begins with a chapter on basic grilling. Covering both gas and charcoal grills, as well as direct and indirect cooking methods, this section provides clear, concise directions and variety of suggestions for successful grilling. The author then jumps into the specific methods that leave the food soaked (marinades and brines), slathered (sauces, glazes, mops, salsas, and sweet sauces), or seasoned (BBQ rubs, flavored vinaigrettes, compound butters, pestos, and dipping sauces). Sample recipes in each of the categories resulted in well-balanced flavors that were significantly enhanced during the grilling process.
The book itself is interesting and fun. Printed in a small format with bright, full color photographs, the author utilizes different font colors to identify the information being conveyed. Red, for example is the recipe title, orange her commentary on the dish, and black for the recipe itself. This makes the book easy to follow and allows the author to provide some great tips along the way. There is also a "good for" statement in each recipe to let the reader know what proteins, fruits or vegetables work best with the flavors in that recipe. Finally, while sauces, marinades, and other flavorings are the focus of the book, there are about a dozen recipes that are actual complete dishes. Two of the more interesting are Coffee Crusted New York Strip Steaks and Smoked Oysters with Fresh Cherry Horseradish Relish. Both were excellent when prepared as directed.
Given the quality of the recipes, it is no surprise that I am generally quite satisfied with Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned. I do, however, have two complaints. First, a relatively large percentage of recipes call for a wide variety of wine and sprits. In the sauces section, for example, fully 34% (12 of 35) contain wine or alcohol. This significantly reduces the number of available recipes for those who do not drink, or who do not have access to a fully stocked bar. Second, there is no index by food to be flavored. That is, if I have pork tenderloin, it would be nice to be able to look up pork in the index and get a full list of brines, marinades, sauces, butters etc. that are especially suited to this specific meat. To be fair, there is a partial list of recipes by protein in the index, but knowing that there might be something better on the next page, I still found myself flipping all the way through the book before settling on a recipe. Since many home cooks plan their meals around the protein at hand, a complete index by food would be the perfect addition to future printings.
Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned is a great option for anyone who loves their grill. Sadly, mine will be put away soon, but for those of you in a more temperate climate, this could easily become your new favorite cookbook.
Recipe: Java Joe Steak Marinade