Still in keeping with my current fascination with spices, and as a sequel to this post on 10 Tips on Marinating Meat, I'm posting here my research on how to put together a marinade recipe. I'm a newbie here, obviously, and so let's go foray together into the world of marinades.
A myriad of marinade recipes can be found online but in general, the ingredients in a marinade can be classified into 3 broad groups -- aromatics, acids and fats. A good grasp of these basic marinade components is essential to learning an array of marinade recipes from different regions and ethnicities.
Acids in the marinade serve to partially break down the proteins on the meat surface so that the rest of the marinade ingredients can penetrate deep down into the inner layers of the meat. The following are the acidifying ingredients that are typically used in marinades:
Vinegars. Italian dishes make use of flavored vinegars such as balsamic vinegar. Europeans use wine and wine vinegar in their marinades while in Asia, rice vinegar and coconut wine vinegar are common marinade acidifiers.
Fruit juices. Lemons are universal marinade fruit juices. Other less common fruit juices used in marinades are pomegranates in the Middle East, and limes, grapefruits and oranges in America. Here in the Philippines, lemons are the mainstay.
Soured or cultured milk products. Yogurt and soured milk are being used in many parts of the world not only to acidify marinades but also to impart a creamy flavor.
The aromatic component of marinades refers to the blend of herbs and spices used. Aromatics serve to impart the dominant and distinctive taste of the marinade. Herbs also as rich sources of nutrients and antioxidants. Here are the common aromatics used in different parts of the world:
- Asian marinades typically use much of soy sauce, ginger, garlic and lemograss.
- Chinese marinades commonly use garlic, ginger and green onions.
- French marinades make use of what is known as mirepoix which is a combination of minced onions, celery and carrots.
- Latin marinades have an abundance of chilies, cumin, garlic and lime juice.
- Other aromatic herbs and spices that can be sneaked into marinades include oregano, parsley, bay leaf, allspice, peppercorns and juniper berries. Hints of sweetness can be imparted by nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar.
- Intensely-flavored aromatics that are good for marinades include Tabasco sauce, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and fish sauces (such as the Filipino patis).
Fats do more than just lend a rich mouth-feel to cooked meats. Fats serve to seal off the surface of the meat so as to minimize moisture loss during grilling. Fats also trap moisture within the meat to make it tender and juicy.
- Olive oil is commonly used in Mediterranean marinades as it penetrates deeper and faster into the meat.
- Flavored nut oils are especially good oils to use and include sesame oil and hazelnut oil.
- Yogurt is both an acidifying and fatty component as it has dairy fat.
To wrap it all up, a marinade recipe should have all three components present to make your meaty dishes sing. There should be acids to facilitate penetration of the marinade into the meat, aromatics to lend flavor and fats to make the meat tender and oozing with yummy juices.