What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Marinade”? Flavourful, aromatic and strong aroma that excites the taste buds. Fine epitome of marinated foods are tikkas, luscious biryanis and barbeques.
A marinade is a sauce, which is designed to flavour and tenderise meats. Marinades are also used to flavour vegetables, especially harder vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, mushroom and even paneer. Typically, food is soaked in a marinade for at least several hours and sometimes several days before it is cooked. As it soaks, the marinated food absorbs the flavors of the marinade, and when it is cooked, the food is more flavorful and complex as a result.
The concept of marinating food is quite ancient, and many cultures have some tradition of marination. Meats have classically been marinated because they can be stringy and tough, and a marinade will tenderise the meat and improve the flavour. Many cultures have a tradition of eating meats from older animals, like mutton, which comes from adult sheep, and these meats would be rather unpleasant if they were not marinated and slowly cooked.
When a marinade is designed as a tenderiser, it includes an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. The acid attacks the fibrous connective tissue between the muscles, softening it so that the meat will be less stringy. As the acid penetrates the meat, it can also carry flavourings along with it. Obviously, the longer the meat marinates, the softer it will be when cooked, although there is a point when the meat will turn to mush, making it useless.
Flavourings in marinades vary widely. They can be spicy, smoky, sweet, bitter, and sour. They can utilise herbs, spices, fruit juices, vegetables like garlic and onions, soy sauce, yogurt, wine, sugar, chocolate, and a wide assortment of other ingredients. A very basic marinade might include vinegar, olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper, and this base can be endlessly revised and updated, replacing vinegar with orange juice, for example, and adding a hint of brown sugar or molasses for a sweet, dark flavour.
Once food has been marinated, it can be cooked in a variety of ways. Many people like to grill marinated foods, but they can also be baked, roasted, broiled, fried, or stewed. Older meats tend to benefit from a slow, gentle stewing which helps to break down the fibrous tissue of the meat.
Grilled Chicken Thighs
● 2 pounds (1 kg) boneless skinless chicken thighs
● 1/2 head garlic, minced
● 1/4 cup ketchup
● 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
● 1/4 cup pineapple juice
● 3 tbsp honey
● 2 tsp palm vinegar (white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar)
● 1 tsp sesame oil
● 1 tsp salt
● 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
How to make:
● Whisk together the ketchup, soy, pineapple juice, honey vinegar, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Set aside 1/4 cup for brushing on the chicken while you’re grilling. To the remaining mixture, add the minced garlic.
● About 5 hours before grilling add the marinade.
● Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill for 6-7 minutes each side, brushing with the
reserved sauce before turning.