That is the question.
Whether ’tis tastier to enjoy moist, tender
Victuals enhanced by herbs and wines, or
Partake of dry, flavorless shoe leather.
What can I say, I was an English major — Shakespeare’s spirit visits me from time to time! 😉
We’ve been having pleasant weather (my apologies to those of you who haven’t), and we also have a rather busy day today — finalizing figures so we can complete our taxes, assembling (mainly hubby) and then organizing/filling (me and hubby) some much-needed bookshelves, along with some other chores (such as reviewing and responding to work-related e-mails), and also writing my blog! 😉 — so when we were casting about for an easy but tasty meal for supper, we thought of using our grill: baked potatoes on the grill, sirloin steaks on the grill…add in some bread and light Caesar salad, and we have a tasty, easy, generally nutritious meal that will require minimal effort.
Especially because I tend to cook with lean meats (such as sirloin steak; boneless, skinless chicken breast, etc.), I am a big believer in using marinade for meats and vegetables when we grill them — ‘though a marinade isn’t limited to just grilling, of course! They can also help add flavor and tenderness to slow-roasted, simmered, or skillet-cooked meats and vegetables, as well.
What is a marinade? Its most basic elements are an acid or enzyme — such as wine, vinegar, brewed coffee, soy sauce, and the like, and/or a fruit/fruit juice, such as lemon, lime, orange, pineapple, papaya, apple, tomato — that is usually combined with desired herbs and spices and a bit of some kind of fat — olive or canola oil, perhaps even butter. By allowing your food — meat or vegetables — to marinate in a marinade mixture, your victuals become infused with the flavor combinations. A small bit of sugar (teaspoon or two) — white or brown — can also help tenderize and season meats and vegetables. The acidic/enzymatic element helps tenderize lean meats as well as imparting flavor to the meat or vegetables, and the bit of fat that is usually present adds moisture and helps keep your victuals from burning or sticking.
While you can purchase ready-made marinades and marinade seasoning packets in the store (and I take advantage of those sometimes, as well), it’s quick and easy enough to make up a marinade just mixing together the basic combination of acid/enzyme, herbs/ seasonings, and a bit of fat (such as olive or canola oil). Tonight, I’m trying out a new (for us) marinade based on a recipe in my Betty Crocker”The Big Red” Cookbook: a garlic marinade comprised of canola oil (1/4 cup), chopped garlic (I just tossed in a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic from a jar), chopped rosemary leaves (I used fresh from our herb garden; you want a tablespoon or so), a squirt of yellow mustard, a couple – three teaspoons of reduced sodium soy sauce, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup apple juice. I whipped it up in less than five minutes and now, other than turning the steaks every so often to make sure the meat is marinated on all sides, I won’t have to fuss with it again ’til we grill it.
In need of a marinade, and quick? Any oil and vinegar salad dressing you have on hand will do quite nicely!
Have a favorite dry seasoning mixture or rub? Turn it into a marinade by mixing it with some acids/enzymes and a bit of canola oil.
Marinating is an easy way to infuse more flavor and tenderness to your victuals, be they meat, vegetable, or tofu 😉 Here are a few tips for successful marinades:
- Use a glass or non-porous plastic container for mixing and using the marinade. A gallon-sized plastic storage bag (think a “ZipLock” bag) is perfect — easy to mix up and marinate the victuals in. Metals will react with the acids, giving an unwanted metallic taste; earthenware and porous plastics will soak up the marinade and its flavors, leaving the taste of the marinade behind forever. 😦
- The longer the food marinates, the more flavor it will absorb. You’ll want to marinate anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours; however, unless otherwise directed by the recipe, you likely won’t want to marinate the food for more than 24 hours. Unless it’s a delicate meat — such as fish — I usually like to marinate for at least a couple of hours, and preferably for 4 to 8 hours.
- To ensure the food is fully exposed to and soaks in the flavors of the marinade, turn or stir the victuals every so often. (This is where a large plastic bag is so handy — I just flip the bag over every so often!)
- Unless you’re marinating for a short time (less than an hour) or unless otherwise directed by your recipe, you will want to keep the food refrigerated while you marinate. Meats will brown better if they’ve lost the chill from the ‘fridge, though, so you may want to remove meat and its marinade from the ‘fridge about 30 to 60 minutes before you cook it.
- Follow good food sanitation: NEVER place cooked meats back onto an unwashed platter or container that held the raw meat.
- Discard the used marinade, OR, to use as a sauce with meat, bring to a full boil and boil for one to two minutes.
Marinades — they make food (meats and veggies) so moist and yummy, you’ll be hooked. 🙂