Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

What makes grilled food taste so good?

One of the world's biggest misconceptions is that grilling is quick and easy. It ain't necessarily so. Cooking on a barbecue reminds me of Asian cooking--it takes a lot of preparation time to get the food ready to face the heat.

As an example: the point of marinating meats before cooking them is to add flavor while making the meat more tender. This is how it works.

A marinade always contains:
1) Acid--such as wine, citrus juices or vinegar. Why? Acid softens the tissues so that meat fibers can separate and the marinade can enter the meat more easily; in doing so, it helps tenderize the meat while letting the flavor penetrate the meat.
2) Salt--or salty liquids such as soy sauce or fish sauce. Why? Salt transports the liquid into the tissues.
3) Sugar--or another sweetener such as honey or jams and jellies. Why? Sugar holds the liquid in the tissues making meats juicier and a little tenderer than nature made them.

Marinades penetrate 1/8- to 1/4-inch in two to three hours. Thin pieces of meat or poultry get the maximum benefit of a marinade in as little as ten minutes. After the tissues fill with liquid, they can't take in any more. So when you are short of time, cut the meat before marinating.

Teriyaki Grilled Meats

Intensely flavored, teriyaki blends the crucial elements: acid (in wine), salt (both acid and salt are in soy sauce), and sugar.

1/4 cup sake or dry sherry
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
2 1/2 to 3 pounds 1-inch thick pieces of fat (trimmed meat, such as beef steaks, pork chops or skinned chicken breast halves)

In a gallon or larger heavy plastic food bag, mix sake, soy sauce, sugar, ginger and garlic. Rinse meat, pat dry, and add to marinade. Seal bag and turn over to coat meat. Chill at least 2 hours or up to 1 day, turning bag occasionally. Lift meat from marinade and reserve the marinade. Lay meat on grill over high heat. Cook to desired doneness. Put on platter and keep warm; let rest about 5 minutes. If desired, pour remaining marinade into pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Serve with the meat.

Teriyaki variations

Follow directions for Teriyaki Grilled Meats making the following additions.

--Chili teriyaki: Add 1/2 teaspoon hot chili flakes to the marinade.
--Teriyaki with orange (very good with chicken or pork): Add 1 teaspoon grated orange peel to the marinade and instead of sake or sherry use 1/4 cup orange juice.
--Teriyaki with cumin: Add 1 teaspoon crushed cumin seed to the marinade.

Sauces & Rubs for Beef or Pork

These are flavor enhancers but usually not tenderizers. Many people make a larger batch and keep it on hand year round to jazz up a bored roast, chop or burger.

Pepper Rub

3 tablespoons ground chilies
3 tablespoons paprika (the Spanish smoked paprika is excellent in this rub)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons pepper

Measure ingredients into a plastic bag; seal and shake together well. Rub well into all surfaces of the meat and let stand 10 minutes before cooking.

Hot Sauce for Beef

1 1/2 cups catsup
Juices from meat plus beef broth (or water) to make 3/4 cup
3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons liquid hot pepper sauce of your choice

Simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 3 cups, 35 to 40 minutes. Brush on the meat about 30 minutes before a roast is done, sooner (of course) for chops and steaks. Serve hot with the meat, if desired. Keeps refrigerated for 2 weeks. Makes 3 cups.

Sauces for fish

Each sauce takes only 5 to 15 minutes to prepare. They can be served with any fish and can be made at least one day ahead.

Artichoke Tapenade

1 jar (6+ ounces) marinated artichokes, with marinade
1/4 cup sliced black ripe olives
1/4 cup drained oil-packed dried tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Whirl all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth, scraping container sides as needed. Makes about 1 cup.

Cracked Pepper Aloli

1/2 teaspoon dried peppercorns
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Coarsely grind or crush the peppercorns. Combine with remaining ingredients. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Herb Sauce

2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup lightly packed Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic

Whirl in a blender or food processor until pureed smooth, scraping container sides as needed. Makes about 3/4 cup.

A little something extra can make a good thing even better!


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