Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Robert St. John: Vacation Food

It's always interesting to me how we enjoy some foods only during certain times of the year or on certain occasions. We love the dishes and meals, yet we reserve them for a specific time, place, or holiday. My grandmother didn't believe in that rule. Sunday lunches at her house were always an event. It’s also where my love of food and for dining began. There was a particular rotation that she followed. One Sunday a month we would have leg of lamb. The next Sunday we would have roast beef. The third Sunday we would basically have a Thanksgiving meal whether it was November, January, or June. 

 I love Turkey, dressing, gravy, and all the trimmings that go with the typical Thanksgiving meal. We ate that as our Christmas Eve formal dinner as well. But there were ten other months during the year when we ate turkey and dressing. Her philosophy was if it's good enough for important occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve why not do that more often during the year?

As a side note for the first eight years of my life, they told me that leg of lamb was roast beef. Which always made me think we were having roast beef two Sundays in a row, which didn't bother me because I loved roast beef. I just thought it tasted a little different one week. To this day I love leg of lamb and I have never eaten a lamb dish better than the one my grandmother prepared once a month during my childhood.

There are other foods that my family reserved for certain occasions. We didn't take a lot of family vacations to the beach, though when we did there were two items that were always present— marinated eye of round and freezer sandwiches.

I've written often about freezer sandwiches and there are currently a couple of dozen in the freezer at our lake house. When I'm motivated, I make a batch to keep at the house. They are my favorite casual Saturday afternoon lunch at home, and the perfect vacation lunch when I am away. The recipe is easy. Nothing fancy, just sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and basic hamburger buns. They have to be the cheap kind of bun. Fancy ones don’t work. The buns are brushed on top and bottom, and on both insides with a mixture of Dijon mustard, melted butter, horseradish, and poppy seeds. Then wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in the freezer until ready to bake. When it's time to eat, I just pop a frozen one in a 400-degree oven. It takes about 45 minutes. It is an oven-only sandwich. It can’t be cooked in the microwave because the crispiness of the outside of the bread comes from the contact with the hot aluminum foil. 

The other vacation staple from when I was a child was marinated eye of round. I think my mother got the recipe she used from her friend Patty Hall. Eye of round is an inexpensive cut of beef that looks— on first inspection— like a small beef tenderloin, although, other than it is a cut of beef, it has nothing in common with a beef tenderloin. It is a very lean, tougher cut of beef that comes from the back leg of the steer and is more akin to roast beef, as the top round makes an excellent roast. The eye of round, when heavily marinated and baked, makes good sandwiches.

My mother used either Italian dressing or Lipton onion soup mix to marinate the eye of round. I’m not quite sure, but both of those items were always ever-present in our pantry and had multiple uses beyond their original intent. Whichever she used she marinated heavily, season with salt and pepper, bake in the oven, let cool, and then wrap it and place it in the ice chest with the other food items we were bringing on vacation.

Whichever she used she would marinated heavily, season with salt and pepper, bake in the oven, let cool, and then wrap it and placfe it in the ice chest with the other food items we were bringing on vacation. 

When making sandwiches all one had to do was slice the eye of round against the grain and slap a couple of pieces between two pieces of white bread that had been slathered with mayonnaise, and add salt, and pepper. In later years I began adding lettuce, but as a child it was basic meat cheese meat and bread. It's a good cold sandwich but we only ate it on vacation. I'm not sure why we wouldn't keep one in the refrigerator year-round for quick sandwiches or snacks. It was a cheap cut of beef and so price couldn't have been the reason, but I think we all get it in our heads that there are certain foods that are eaten on vacation that can't be eaten at home. 

A couple of decades ago I changed the offerings for family vacations. We still make freezer sandwiches and bring them along, but I started using a whole beef tenderloin for sandwiches when we are out of town. It started because we had catered an event a couple of days before a vacation back in the 1990s. One of my go-tos for catering events is a whole smoked beef tenderloin. We put them out— buffet style— and serve them alongside rolls freshly baked rolls and a horseradish-mustard I developed. One day we had an entire beef tenderloin leftover after a party, so I wrapped it tightly and packed it into an ice chest to take to Florida. It was a huge hit.

Since then, I have traded marinated eye of round sandwiches for smoked beef tenderloin sandwiches. The process is easy. I trim a whole beef tenderloin and season it liberally with steak seasoning, put it on an almost-cold smoker until it reaches rare (125 degrees). Next, I pop it in the oven and take it to medium rare (135 degrees). At that point I have two options— if I want to serve it warm as an entrĂ©e, I serve it immediately. But if I want to serve it on a buffet for cold sandwiches or take it on vacation, I let it cool and then put it in the refrigerator. This is perfect vacation food. Granted, it's expensive, especially these days, but no more expensive than many of the tourist restaurants one finds when traveling out of town.

My friend Jesse Marin is visiting from Rome. We brought him over for a two-week visit in the United States. We are currently in the Florida Panhandle where he is enjoying the sun and beaches with my family on our annual jaunt down to this part of the world. Two nights before we left, we threw him a big party and invited a lot of the people who have traveled with us on Italian tours with us, and a and assortment of our local friends who had never met him. At the party we served smoked beef tenderloin. There were two full tenderloins left over, so I wrapped them, stuck them in the ice chest, and brought them down along with freezer sandwiches. 

My son has two of his friends here. Between the three of them, and Jesse, the tenderloin is going fast. My wife brought enough groceries to feed a summer camp an entire week, but the go-to is the beef tenderloin.

The sandwiches are pretty much like what I always have eaten whether it was eye of round or beef tenderloin. These days I use whole wheat bread, spread mayonnaise on both sides, put two slices of smoked beef tenderloin on the bread, then add lettuce, salt, and pepper. It's the perfect sandwich with a side of Wickles and Fritos. Jesse, being the healthy one in the bunch spread his bread with avocado and then placed the beef tenderloin on it before topping it with chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper. 

Tonight, we’ll eat freezer sandwiches and I’ll think of vacations past while enjoying the moment with these wonderful people.


Freezer Sammiches

1 stick Butter, melted
3 Tbsp Prepared Horseradish
3 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
1 pound Ham, thinly shaved
8 slices Swiss cheese
8 Hamburger Buns

Combine horseradish and mustard and stir well. Slowly wisk in the melted butter until it is fully incorporated and emulsified. Add poppy seeds.

Open hamburger buns and brush both sides of the inside with the poppy seed dressing. Place two ounces of ham and one slice of cheese on bottom part of bun. Repeat with the remainder of the buns. Close the tops of the buns and brush more of the poppy seed dressing on the outside tops and bottoms of buns. Tightly wrap each sandwich in aluminum foil and freeze.

To cook, preheat oven to 400-degrees. Place sandwich, still tightly wrapped in foil, directly on the center rack for approximately 30-45 minutes until center is hot and cheese is melted.

Yield: eight sandwiches


Anonymous said...

My most go-to food would be fried chicken. Hotdogs hamburgers on charcoal grill are good. Homemade pizza, rib-eyes when possible. Thin breakfast fried pork chops with biscuits and jelly. Fried catfish. A good (hamburger meat)chimichanga not shredded. Baby link sausage better to me than patty. Tacos routinely.
BLT but never late in the day.

Anonymous said...

Sweet, got one more comment than your business partner when he posts his solo lunches at your venture.

Anonymous said...

We never could afford nice food like that. Must be nice.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure all that is tasty, but why take all of that meat on a road trip ?

There are dozens of grocery stores down there were one can buy
anything fresh.

Anonymous said...

To the person who said he couldn't write a column without mentioning Tuscany--he did it.
I still can't figure out what Wickles are though.

Anonymous said...

Wickles are a brand of pickle.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS