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Saturday, November 26

Gapers Block

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I was picking up a cooking utensil at a specialty cooking store recently when I happened to strike up a conversation with a guy who had just set up his first grill and was excited to be having friends over. I looked at his shopping list:

Steak sauce
Chicken breast
Chicken marinade
Olive Oil

He obviously thought he was doing the best for his friends, by picking up gourmet sauces. I asked him where he was getting his meat and he shrugged and said "Dominick's or Jewel, why?"

"Not that there's anything wrong with them, but if you're going to be spending all this money on sauces it seems a shame to put it on average meat."

"Yeah, but I can't afford to get free range meat. That stuff is expensive!"

I looked at his shopping basket that contained three bottles and would probably ring up close to $50. "You're comfortable grilling, but are you comfortable making sauces? If so, you can easily save $40 here and spend that on your meat."

He looked at me dumbfounded for a second, so I took the opportunity to get down to business and tell him how he could impress his friends with his "cooking" skills, feed them high-quality meat, and spend about the same amount of money. It only seems fair for me to share this knowledge with you as well.

But first, I have to share my opinion on putting sauce on meat. Do it before you cook. Marinating flavors the meat itself and the heat can change the flavor of the spices and herbs. Cooking meat with no flavorings and then putting a sauce on it is going to give you boring meat and an overpowering sauce. If you don't want to cover up the meat with a heavy marinade, at least put a little bit of salt on each side. There's a fairy tale about how important salt is to meat, it's that important.

These marinades will also work with tofu steaks or could be brushed on veggie burger patties before grilling.

Steak Marinade or Sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1/4 cup of dry white sherry, wine, vermouth, sake, etc.
1 8-oz. can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper and salt

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, garlic and onions and sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the rest of the ingredients, one at a time, stirring thoroughly. Season with black pepper and salt to taste. For a marinade, slather your steaks very well and refrigerate covered for an hour or two.

Pour the leftover sauce into a air-tight container and keep it in the fridge for up to three months. Or you could freeze small amounts in plastic bags and defrost as needed. You'll save money and get a preservative free sauce that costs you less than a gourmet sauce and is very impressive and better than A-1. If you'd like to experiment with the flavor, substitute other types of alcohol for the sherry. Bourbon, whiskey, or scotch will give you a carmelish flavor and vodka will give you a crisper flavor.

White Wine Marinade
1/4 cup white wine (dry or fruity, whatever you'd drink)
1/4 cup vegetable oil, (extra-virgin olive oil may be too overpowering for fish or chicken)
1/4 cup minced shallots or white onions
3/4 teaspoon fresh tarragon, thyme, chives, oregano, etc. or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (or add to taste)

Whisk everything together in the container you'll be using for marinating. Put the meat into the container and marinate on the counter for one hour or in the refrigerator for up to four. Leftover sauce will keep for about a week, longer if you use dried herbs. This goes great over tofu, fish, chicken or even pork.

Ingredients too complicated for you? Try this.

Fruity Beer Marinade
12 ounces of beer
1/4 cup of marmalade, jam, or jelly
2 tablespoons of mustard
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of sugar or honey

Whisk everything together, pour over meat and marinate on the counter for one hour or in the refrigerator for up to four. Leftover marinade can be kept for a week or two in a tightly closed container.

There are a few things you need to know about marinating. If you put the marinade in a plastic bowl it is likely the bowl will take on the flavor of the marinade. The alcohol in the marinades tenderizes tougher meats and helps to carry the flavor through the meat. It does the same with a plastic bowl. Don't use non-stainless metal bowls or pans for marinating because the acids in the marinade will cause a reaction and your food will taste metallic. Ceramics bowls can also interact occasionally with the acids and cause the glazing to flavor the food. The safest thing to use is a glass bowl or plastic zipper bags.

The rule of thumb for the marinade to meat ratio is 8 tablespoons of marinade per pound of meat. My personal rule of thumb is to make sure the meat is coated with the marinade -- or make sure the liquid comes halfway up the item and stir or flip once after half an hour of marinating time. This permits even coating/soaking.

It's often nice to have the marinade to brush on the meat as it cooks. If your marinade was used on raw meat, you have to boil it before using it. This will kill any errant bacteria which might make you sick.

Sprinkle a little salt on the meat before coating in the marinade. This makes it evenly seasoned and the salt draws moisture out of the meat (or the tofu) and permits the marinade to soak through the fibers even more.

If you have a bottled sauce that you're particularly fond of, take a look at the ingredient listing and see if you can recreate it with things you have in your kitchen. You may not match it exactly (those preservatives do add flavor) but you may make something similar that will impress yourself, your friends and your checkbook.

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paul / July 6, 2004 11:40 AM

I made some pork loin ribs for a large group last week. Here's how I marinaded them:

I bought enough disposable plastic containers to hold all of the pieces of 2 slabs cut into four-rib-sections. The containers were just big enough to fit the slab sections, so it wouldn't take lots of marinade to cover them. I mixed a couple of cups of orange juice with lots of chopped up rosemary and ginger (probably 5-6 healthy sprigs of rosemary and about two thumb sized knobs of ginger, minced). I added about 1/2 cup of a game sauce I found in a butcher's shop, but this could be substituted with a tablespoon or 2 of kethcup, a couple of tablespoons of molasses and honey, and some hot pepper flakes. Then I added about a 3-4 teaspoons of salt.

This made enough marinade to cover all the ribs in the plastic containers and I could flip them over half way through marination (about 5-6 hours).

After the marination, the ribs and all the marinade went into a big pot, with some extra water and orange juice to cover, and simmered to parboil (about 20 minutes). Then they went on a slow grill, with plenty of soaked wood chips for about an hour and a half. In the meantime half the liquid in the pot was dumped out and the rest reduced (slowly simmered) with the rest of the bottled sauce and some honey added.

When the ribs were done, they were dumped into the pot of sauce, mixed around to coat and served. The meat should fall off the bone, and there should be no leftovers.

robin.. / July 6, 2004 4:50 PM

great marinades! also, here's mine from this weekend and a quartet of swordfish steaks:

sesame oil
rice vinegar
1 clove garlic
sesame seeds

UNREAL. boiled & reduced the remaining marinade with white wine to make a nice, nice glaze. viva la comida!


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