Marinating made easy
January and February are slow months with no major Jewish holiday on the calendar. So its a perfect time to learn new cooking techniques. Todays lesson: marinades.
The art of the marinade is to soak food in a seasoned liquid, allowing the combined flavors to infuse into the product. There are two styles of marinade: coating the food with a flavored liquid or paste or submerging it into a bag or bowl full of liquid. The amount of flavor absorbed depends on how long the food is covered. Thick cuts of meat, usually used for roasting, are great for marinating. They fill up with extra moist flavor and then sit in the dry oven heat for a long, slow roasting time. The marinade helps the meat stay moist, even while heat dries it out and concentrates the flavors. For cooks famous in their homes for drying out the brisket and over-baking the chicken and fish, try a marinade for a quick remedy! (Oh mother-in-law, Im talking to you.) Any extra moisture found hiding in the beef, chicken, or fish at mealtime will be considered a gift.
There are three components to a marinade acid, oil, and seasoning. Acid, which breaks down the proteins in meat or chicken, can be lime or other citrus juice, wine, or vinegar. The oil acts as a medium to evenly distribute the ingredients as a coating. Seasonings can be as varied as the cooks imagination. Beyond these three components, you can get fancy, and embellish with extra ingredients in order to give your dish some flare, extra flavor, or ethnicity.
Never use an aluminum mixing bowl, as the metal reacts to acid; rather, mix the marinade in stainless steel or glass. Cover with plastic wrap or use an oversized zip bag (my wifes favorite for easy clean-up).
The easiest way to get into marinating is to pour a vinaigrette-style salad dressing (Asian or Italian) into a zip bag. Add pieces of chicken and seal tight. Let sit in the fridge for an hour, then grill. Use the excess marinade that didnt get absorbed to coat or baste while you grill. Dont, however, use the extra marinade as a sauce, because of the raw meat that had been in it earlier.
Another easy marinade is barbecue sauce. Thin it with a splash of red wine vinegar, water, or oil and allow the beef or chicken to soak an hour or two. Then its off to the grill or broiler. Try this same quick marinade on thick sliced potatoes roasted in the oven.
Speaking of potatoes, Ranch Style Roasted Potatoes is a great accompaniment to a dairy meal, so plan accordingly with salmon, sea bass, or a vegetable stew. Par-bake Idaho or Russet potatoes in the oven or zap in the microwave for seven to eight minutes. Cool, slice, and marinate for 20 minutes in oil, fresh herbs, and chopped garlic. Add a sprinkling of Parmesan and Romano cheeses. (Notice that theres no acid in this marinade because were working with a vegetable, not a meat, which needs to have its proteins broken down.) Place the potatoes in a roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes until golden and crisp around the edges.
Time is an important element when marinating. Light vegetables (snow peas, zucchini, string beans, sugar snap peas, or bean sprouts) need only about 15 minutes; any longer, and their natural flavor will be overpowered by the marinade. Heartier vegetables like turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, and rutabaga the root veggies can handle a lot more soaking. They need to roast longer and therefore require the extra moisture to accompany their time in the oven. Root vegetables can be combined for a hearty winter medley. Cube, then toss with honey and orange juice. Bake until fork tender 40-50 minutes.
Set the timer when marinating seafood. Allow only 15 minutes for a piece of fish; beyond that, the acid in the marinade will turn the fish into ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice, which cooks the fish, firming the flesh and turning it opaque).
Red meats can withstand a long marinating time often overnight. Thicker and more fatty cuts, like short ribs, are a natural complement to the acid-based marinades. Soaking them in red wine, smashed garlic, carrots, celery, and onions yields a rich and flavorful dish. Marinating fruit involves a term change macerating. Really the same thing, the process infuses a liquid into the fruit. A fun dish to prepare (even in the winter if your grill isnt covered in snow) is Grilled Pineapple Slices. Peel the pineapple, slice into one-inch thick rounds, and marinate in dark rum, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar or substitute the rum with apple cider. After the fruit has soaked up this delicious liquid for 30 minutes, grill for three to five minutes on each side. Serve with a scoop of ice cream. If you really want to pour it on cook the remaining marinade over medium heat, until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the fire and thicken with a pat of butter. Pour this sauce over the ice cream and fruit; garnish with fresh mint and toasted almonds or pecans. Since no raw meat is soaked in this marinade, it can be used as a sauce.
MARINATED RIB EYE STEAKS IN
PORT WINE SAUCE
1/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice (or one 4 oz. can)
1/4 cup fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp. chili powder
4 12-14-oz. buffalo rib eye steaks
1/4 cup canola oil
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 lbs. assorted portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup green peppercorns
2 tsp. red currant jelly
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups port wine
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/3 cup port wine, additional
In a large zip bag, combine olive oil, soy sauce, juices, ginger, and chili powder. Place rib-eye steaks in bag and allow to marinate at least two and up to 24 hours, refrigerated. Turn occasionally.
Remove steaks from marinade and discard liquid. In a large skillet, heat oil. Sear the steaks on both sides. Continue cooking until desired doneness is achieved. Remove steaks from pan and set aside. Keep warm.
To the same pan, add shallots and portobello mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms begin to wilt, stirring occasionally. Add green peppercorns, currant jelly, balsamic vinegar, and one-and-a-half cups of port wine. Stir to combine and simmer until liquid is reduced by one quarter its volume.
In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with remaining port wine to make a slurry. While whisking continuously, pour slurry into lightly simmering sauce. Cook one more minute and remove from fire. Adjust seasonings with salt, if needed. Serve sauce with the buffalo steaks. Yield: four
Jeff Nathan, who lives in Livingston, is co-owner and head chef of Abigaels on Broadway, a glatt kosher restaurant in New York City. He is the author of Adventures in Jewish Cooking and Jeff Nathans Family Suppers: More Than 125 Simple Kosher Recipes. He welcomes readers comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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