Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Technique Tuesday: Marinades

I absolutely love marinating meats and vegetables! There are a million different ways to marinate, so you can really use your imagination in the kitchen. Marinades bring personality to meat and fish; just follow my simple rules below, and you will be whipping up delicious and cost-effective marinades in no time!

Photo Description: Balsamic/soy marinated strip steak and balsamic/brown sugar veggies
1. Extend a marinade with water or stock
Sometimes after I've blended a marinade, there is a film still stuck to the side of the Cuisinart. I dribble a stream of water and swish it around in in the bowl, then I add it to the marinade. This way you get all of the delicious marinade without wasting a drop!
2. Use baggies and a bowl
When I started marinating proteins in a baggie, I was able to cut the amount of marinating liquid by 50-75%! Place the marinade and meat/fish in the bag then press out all the air. The marinade will coat the entire surface of the meat/fish, making sure that all of the delicious marinade soaks into every part of your protein. Plus, you can just throw away the bag when you're done! Make sure to use a bowl under your plastic baggie, just in case your bag develops a tear. The last thing in the world you want is to have meat/fish juice running down the shelves of your refrigerator!
3. Watch your marinating time
A good rule of thumb is to marinate fish for a short period of time. If you're using a citrus based marinade, the acidity in the liquid will break down the fish and basically cook it. I tend to marinate fish for only 15 or so minutes. For chops and chicken, I tend to marinate for 2-4 hours. For steaks, anywhere from 2-24 hours is great!
4. Use your imagination!
The sky's the limit with marinades. Experiment with different citrus fruits and oils. Make sure to add salt and pepper (you need to season at every level of the preparation process). Be mindful of your ingredients; if you are using soy sauce, you will need to add less salt (I recommend a reduced-sodium soy). Fresh herbs are fabulous in marinades. Go crazy!
5. Reserve some marinade before adding meat or seafood

It's never a safe idea to re-use marinade. Bacteria from the meat or seafood can taint other foods, so it's best to just go ahead and reserve some of your marinade before you add your protein. You can reduce it for a sauce or toss it with some vegetables to go on the grill (see above picture).
6. Invest in a mini-Cuisinart or Cuisinart SmartStick
This is, hands-down, my favorite kitchen appliance. I have both a mini and a SmartStick and will often use both to prepare a meal. Great for blending a quick marinade or salad dressing, these tools offer quick and easy set-up and clean up (dishwasher safe). They emulsify dressings and marinades so that all of the flavors truly meld together.
7. Feel free to use a cheaper cut of meat
You don't need to choose a filet for marinating; rather, you can go with a nice London Broil or flank steak. These meats, when prepared correctly, can be absolutely amazing. The right marinade (and cutting the steak correctly) make the difference between a delicious, juicy entree and a dry, tough piece of meat. Another tip along these lines is to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they're on sale. Our local grocer sells Tyson breasts for $1.87/lb. pretty frequently. I tend to freeze the breasts individually and pull them out when I need a quick meal. Chicken breasts are wonderful when marinated. They are a great blank canvas upon which you can impart a million different flavors. In fact, I served chicken three times last week while my mom was in town, marinated three different ways. She didn't even realize we'd had so much chicken since the flavors were so varied! What a great way to use a family pack of chicken breasts!

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