There is a lot to speak about a good Marinade. The first thing is that it does bring flavour, enhance the taste of the food you are going to enjoy either meat, fish or veg. This brings me to tip number one, you must make sure that whatever you put in a marinade is fully defrosted. Let's call it at room temperature. For if frozen the texture of the item will not end up quite right at the end of the cooking. And, in the end we do enjoy our food so we must regard it like the fire that keeps a house warm in a fire place or the fuel that keeps our bodies alive and well.
Marinade for Crayfish also called Langoustine
A good Marinade will impart flavours to your dish. But it has also other benefits which I will speak about later on. To be honest, there are no recipes set in gold for a Marinade: you are the maker and the creator. I will say just try, taste and trust your taste buds at the end of the day. Like my grand parents used to say practice and experience make it all better. It is about learning what works for you and also others if you do have guests. One Marinade can work for one friend, but not for the other or for you. But if you plan, you always can accomodate everyone.
Salmon Fillets being marinated with a Citrus and Chilli and Chive Marinade.
But don't let me scare you: A Marinade isn't difficult to do and gives bags of tinkling in your taste buds that you will believe you have a mouth full of gold teeth: It is a Kerching moment like you won the jackpot in a casino. Let me explain there is mainly two types of Marinades.
One is mainly based on acidic ingredients. It could be lime or lemon juice, vinegar of your choice, wine or alcohol which you think could pair well with the dish you have in mind. Now, the matter of fact is those acids tenderise your food. Tip number two, and three: Two, it is preferable to use a glass bowl for the process. It is fair to say that it is a chemical reaction that will go under way and that like in vintro babies you don't do them in a metal one. It has to be glass.
Getting the Juice of Lemons or Limes without pips.
For tip number three I am divided, but from practice I will say, for the best results for meat, I will marinate for twenty minutes onwards to about twenty four hours or more. For fish, depending on the fish, it is more of a matter of minutes depending on the dish you are planning to do and how meaty is your fish. You can't treat a monkfish like a sprat as per say. Size and fleshiness matter and I will go back to my grand parents and the 'Practice makes better'. But I will add in my own way, you learn as you go along...
Monkfish fleshy tail to marinate.
Enough for the tips, we want flavours and this is the goal of marinating anything. Now you can be your own Picasso, Dali, Jackson Pollock, Leonardo Da Vinci be creative to make your dish either wild or classical, a kick in the jaws or subtle. I will share my tendancies with you.
For Beef I go depending on the style I want to go for. For a stir fry, I love marinating my beef. I cut the piece in strips rather than cubes. I use ginger sliced, soya sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic cloves (peeled and crushed), either chopped coriander or coriander seeds or both, Sechuan peppercorn (you do not need a lot, it is hot), if you want to be a firing dragon you can add a chilli either dry or fresh, sliced. If you want a little more acid I do add a lime, the juice of it, and the zest of it. A little Sake is just optional, depending if you are celebrating Chinese New Year. The sweetness of honey never goes amiss on that one, it rounds everything together. A dash of Sesame oil, not too much and let it rest covered in your fridge for a good day.
Marinating Strips of Beef in an Asian Style.
You will get a very nice stir fry to warm your belly. As accompaniment to the marinated Beef choose what you want to eat, like and have at hand. As a personal choice, I tend to go for bean sprouts, chopped spring onions, some strip sliced red peppers, a little chopped ginger and garlic, (peeled), I either put some sugar snap peas with baby sweetcorns for more veg but my other combination is Shitake Mushrooms and Pak Choi. Now if you like it spicier, you can add a chopped chilli of your choice. A sprinkle of white or black sesame seeds add to the texture of the overall dish.
Pak choi, Red peppers, Limes, Spring onions, Noodles and Soya sauce.
Another way with Beef but this time roasting one, is to use red wine, a dash of red wine vinegar, crushed and peeled garlic, some olive oil, a dash of paprika either smoked or unsmoked (depending on your own taste), Seasoning: Salt and black peppercorn, either a little runny honey or demarara sugar, and herbs. The choice is yours, as for myself I do like my chopped parsley stalks and all (every bit is as good as another with parsley), then I love a bit of onion flavour running through the meat so I do go for either chopped shallots or chopped chives. For a roast and a large piece of meat a day is a best bet to have flavour in your beef in a marinade. If I do use paprika in the marinade, when I come to choose the side for the roast dish, my way goes the Medditeranean style: Sliced red onions, chopped sweet peppers (Any colour will do, red, orange, yellow or green). I will just say there that the more colourful is the main meal or dish at a party, the more smiles you do get on your guests as if you just introduced Harlequin from the Comedia del Arte on the table to entertain them. To make it a pure joy to eat you can go lavish, I can advise the addition of roasted tomatoes done à la Provencal, two halves per person. There it is taste and colour as well. Either baby potatoes, cut in halves and roasted are a crowd pleaser. You can also boil them in the marinade reused, but the marinade will have to be fully boiled at that point for health and safety reasons. Well done it is worth every little efforts even the finish to garnish the dish with some chopped parsley.
Roast Beef which was marinated with salt and pepper, parsley, white onion, Red wine and red wine vinegar, with a little rapeseed oil and chopped garlic.
For Lamb I can't start to tell you how many combinations do work. Anyway I will try to say this, marinating lamb take less amount of time to impart a good taste than beef. However it also depends on the size of the piece you are dealing with. A lamb chop will take less time than a lamb shoulder or a lamb leg of course. The Marinade can be quite versatile as usual. My preferences are to use either lemon juice, or a very light red wine. A combination of the two does work on a large piece of lamb. My oil of choice will be olive oil for that one. For the seasoning sea salt, black peppercorn or pink one is nice. For the herbs, my choice would always change as I am a try and taste individual. But I will recommand chopped Oregano, Thyme, or chopped Rosemary, independantly or together. Minced Garlic impart flavour. Spices is up to you. I would say I do like my Lamb because it does remind me of the last words my father said to me but also of my childwood and all the Easters past and gone to the past. I would confess that Lamb chops or cutlets are quite undereated for a BBQ. First, it tends to be expensive but it is worth every mouthfull. If you do a little marinade with them of about twelve hours, use a couple of lemon juice, don't waist the zest of the lemon either, add some olive oil and chopped garlic (very thinely), two or three cloves will do depending on the size of the BBQ guests invited. Then I will say go for summer herbs to chop to add to the marinade: Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Marjoram. When your chops cook upon the BBQ they should all remind you of holidays by the sea. You are here and somewhere else at the same time, transported just by the scent. As a side I can advise to do little veg skewers, think little plum tomatoes, Feta cheese cubes or Halloumi, Courgettes, Sweet peppers, diced of course, you can even add diced aubergine. It is colourful because it is your BBQ time.
Marinated slow roasted Lamb shoulder.
Now it is time for being a chicken which can fly! Or just think of 'Chicken Run' or 'The Great Escape'. Poultry and game birds can gain the 'taste' appeal of a dip for a while in a good marinade. I can imagine a sailor like in old movies saying 'come and talk to me chick, there is a way about you'. Well, let me tell you that there are plenty of ways with the birds, they can fly away from the plate to your mouth in no time at all and you will enjoy every bit of it because they are so versatile. Another tip, you are dealing with chicken, check the provenance of it and that health and safety laws are applied to the country of origine, cheep doesn't mean officially safe for your health if it could be safer for your purse, nowadays we have to learn to be awared consumers.
Norfolk black legs Chicken Marinated and Roasted on a bed of Spring veg.
The birds are versatile which is a happy land or skin to deal with because the marinade will affect and flavour the skin mainly. Little tiny tip, if you want flavour a little inside the flesh, slashing any pieces of chicken will help to do so. You don't have to make it too deep of a cut for that effect. By the way by practice I would say marinating birds are best between a range of twenty minutes to no more than twenty four hours. You don't want a tough bird coming out of a long spicy bath in your teeth, you just need the flavours that can make you sing under the rain happily like Gene Kelly.
Enough for the tips, lets get down to the creation side of things: Traditional, Inovative, Cultural and I miss lots here. An acidic and traditional marinade which works very well with chicken is lemon juice, crushed garlic cloves, thyme, salt and pepper, and a dash of olive oil. Simple yet tried and tested and effective at twenty minutes worth within a marinade. I will only recommend to choose a decent seat salt and cracked black peppercorns. For the Inovative option, it is play with what you like, Taste, test and try. My little one I do like is a Marsala wine marinated Chicken thighs, or drumsticks, wings or legs. Or it could be a mix of all of those if you are doing an intimate dinner party.
Chicken Thighs which were marinated in White Wine, Lemon zest and cooked with Fennel. Seasoned simply.
In the Marinade I put Smoked Sea Salt, Black Peppercorn, whole cloves of Garlic slightly crushed, a little dash of red wine Vinegar. Thyme is my aromatic herb of choice on that number, but if you can get some Oregano as well it add another dimension to the dish. I tend to put one Clove in my Marinade. Then a dash of a decent Olive Oil doesn't go amiss. For the finish Bay leaves, no more than three go in. Being buyist it is very nice because I created that one up... It is simple enough and delivers on flavours. Keep the skin and bones on the chicken to impart more flavour. Now this Marinade can be kept as a sauce but boil it right down if you do so, remove the clove and the Bay Leaves before serving it.
Bay leaves impart lots of flavour in a marinade.
I will leave the Cultural, international to you. It is an encyclopedia out there, a discovery at every step where you can be not only a geographical traveller as much as a time traveller. Listen to your mothers, your grand mothers, and the humans living in this earth which may know far lots that you do know about food, and traditions. Be open minded, be a human and enjoy what the world as to offer. Be part of it.