Seasoned Secrets

Simple Marinades

May 19, 2009 Published in the July 2006 issue of Portland Monthly

If you’ve bought a high-quality prime rib or a fillet of sashimi-grade tuna, you won’t need to do much to it other than sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top, but if you’re dealing with ingredients that don’t have a lot of fat on them, marinating them first will help their flavors emerge and will also prevent the ingredients from drying out. Just be sure to wipe off excess marinade before placing your ingredients on the grill. We asked the chefs who provided grilling menus to divulge their favorite marinade recipes. Here are a few:

Basic: All the chefs we talked to for this story told us that a mixture of olive oil, salt and pepper is probably the simplest, most reliable and most versatile marinade you can use. It can be slathered onto anything from poultry and beef to pork, wild game, fish, vegetables and even fruit. Your ingredients can sit in this marinade for as little as 20 minutes or as long as one or two days.

Teriyaki: For a simple teriyaki marinade, Ben Dyer, co-owner of Viande Meats & Sausage and a native of teriyaki-obsessed Hawaii, suggests using equal parts brown sugar, soy sauce and water, along with a splash of sesame oil, a little crushed (peeled) ginger, a pinch of red chile flakes and a clove or two of crushed (peeled) garlic. Dyer likes to use this marinade on Korean-cut short ribs (you can buy these at most Asian markets) or flank steak, but he’ll also use it for chicken and pork. Whichever ingredient you choose to marinade, let it sit in the mixture for at least a couple hours.

Classic: Jason Owens of Simpatica Catering likes to marinate hanger or flank steak in the following mixture: 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tsp red wine vinegar; 4 cloves garlic; 1/2 bunch parsley (chopped); 3 sprigs rosemary; 3 sprigs oregano; 1 tsp ground pepper; 1 tsp salt; 2 tsp paprika; 2 tbsp chopped onion. Let the beef marinate for 1 day. The marinade works just as well on pork or chicken. For pork, omit the vinegar; for chicken, substitute lemon juice for vinegar; if you’re marinating pork or chicken, let it marinate for 2 days.

Seafood: Eric Bechard, the executive chef at Alberta Street Oyster Bar & Grill, likes to marinate fish with oil, salt, pepper, fresh herbs and a small amount of fruit juice. Be sure to use fruit juice with low acidity like orange or mango juice; otherwise, it will cook the fish like ceviche. We found that a ratio of 6:1 grapeseed oil to fruit juice worked well. Add chopped fresh (mild) herbs such as tarragon, parsley or chervil, and salt and pepper to taste. The fish only needs to marinate for about 15-30 minutes before it’s placed on the grill.

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