Tag Archives: marinade

If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

The heat wave continues its assault here in Santa Barbara. Despite a recent ocean breeze offering some relief, it’s still too hot to cook inside.

My kitchen has cooled off a bit, but I can’t imagine spending the next hour or more in its inferno. I have some steaks which I’ll throw on the grill tonight. I’ll toss together a salad and open some wine. Done. Grilled steaks are fine, but after years of working in bistros I know how a sauce partnered with a steak can transform the meal. A plain steak just seems, well.

Plain.

A great sauce requires a few basics. A pan. Some pan seared protein. Liquid to de-glaze the brown bits from the bottom of said pan. Additional ingredients such as stock, vegetables and herbs are needed. Butter makes it better. Cream? Bring it. But since I won’t be sautéing anything tonight, the pan is out of the equation. Now, I could in theory devise a sauce separate from the steak, but it’s just too much damn work. And let’s remember the heat factor people. Sauce is out.

Luckily I have plan B, insuring tonight’s meal won’t disappoint. A lean, grass fed sirloin has been getting cozy with a marinade of red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, olive oil, garlic and ginger for a good part of the day. Over some hot coals I’ll sear the steak, grill some ciabatta on the side and top it all off with a generous spoon of Red Onion Marmalade.

This delicious condiment is a mainstay in my fridge and easy to prepare. All you need are a few ingredients and a bit of time. The jam cooks on the stove top, and while it takes a good hour to make it requires little supervision. You can make this any time of day while you do other things. This jam holds beautifully in the fridge for several months, the sugar and acids serving as natural preservatives.

The marmalade will serve you well with its multiple ‘personalities’. A perfect match to beef and pork, it’s also a wonderful addition to a grilled panini, as a topping to slather on flat bread or mixed into your favorite meat loaf or meatball recipe. It can turn an ordinary burger into an extraordinary meal. Ketchup? Doesn’t stand a chance. I’ve even used it as a topping for pizza. It works.

Tomorrow I will post the recipe; I encourage you to make it soon. Having a jar (or two) at the ready may not be life changing, but right now? I’m not in the kitchen. I’m enjoying a glass of wine outside, the grill is ready to fire up. The salad is chilling, and so am I.

Life changing? Perhaps.

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Need a Lift? Drop Some Acid.

No, I am not tripping, nor am I advocating you do anything similar. I’m talking about using acid as a food enhancer.

I once worked with a very talented chef, who although I suspect was probably high half the time, taught me a few things about acid and flavors.

Chef explained that when food tasted ‘flat’, it could usually use salt or more often than not, a bit of acid. At first I was perplexed by this statement, but I learned what my chef was trying to teach me.

The kitchen crew would be busy preparing dishes for service, cooks heavy with tasks and  items to prep and complete. Chef would routinely come on line to sample the food, sipping sauces, dressings, tasting our recent projects.

Chef would then yay or nay our progress, asking questions about recipes used. Ultimately I would hear the following sentences often enough, I began to understand the process of ingredients, chemistry and their dance together.

“More salt.”

“Needs acid.”

When properly used, acid enhances the natural flavors in the food you are preparing. It won’t alter the dish so much, but it gives it punch. It has this wonderful ability to give foods another layer of flavor. This I learned, could turn a mediocre meal into a party in the mouth.

Let me give you a few examples that will make good foods taste even better. Chances are you already have a few, if not all these goodies in your pantry or fridge right now. The following list is a sample of what I call my “Arsenal of Flavors.”

This is only a sampling of acids I recommend, but this will get you started. They are extremely versatile and demonstrate the beauty of key flavors. Hopefully, they will transform your meals, get you cooking more  and enjoying great food!

  • Citrus juice and their zest (orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Spanish Sherry Vinegar
  • Champagne Vinegar
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Red and White Wines
  • Some liquors and cordials such as Sake, Tequila, Port and Brandy
  • Pernod or Dry Vermouth
  • Mustards
  • Capers
  • Beer!
  • Soy Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce

Here is a recipe I am using tonight which incorporates acid in a marinade, a great example which will impart maximum flavor versus just throwing the damn bird on the grill. No love or respect. Without further adieu, I give you:

Love and Respect Marinade for Grilled Chicken

This marinade would also work well for shrimp, scallops, various cuts of fish and pork. Tonight I’m using 1 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. This marinate makes about 1 cup, enough for up to 2 or 3 pounds of meat.

Key ingredients for the win.

Key ingredients for the win.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • a few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup. Stir completely and pour over meat, chicken or seafood. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour, turning halfway if you remember.

Giving the chicken some love.

Giving the chicken some love.

Remove meat from marinade and season with salt. Discard marinade. Grill chicken thighs over indirect heat until cooked through, about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

I am grilling the chicken tonight because it is still hotter than the be-jesus over here. I suppose you could broil the chicken, or saute, but I think a marinade and summer should require an outdoor cooking vessel.

Speaking of which, time to stop blogging, and get cooking.