As summer begins, the familiar aroma of the BBQ grill begins to waft in the air around 5 pm in neighborhoods every- where as the evening meal shifts from the kitchen table to the back patio. Summer weather can be unpredictable here in the Pacific Northwest, so it is not unusual to see someone grilling outside holding an umbrella. After all, we live in Oregon and we’re used to it!
Grilling outdoors merges minimal effort with maximum flavor. A quickly grilled hamburger, Hebrew National hot dog or chicken glazed in a sticky bottled BBQ sauce may suffice, but if you want to get real flavor out of your meat, fish and poultry, employ the marinade.
Any meat or poultry benefits greatly from marinades. Meat and poultry should be marinated for several hours or even overnight. Fish needs to be marinated for only about an hour; this allows flavors to penetrate but doesn’t break down a delicate piece of fish. If you don’t have time for the long marinade, immerse as long as you can, then place marinade ingredients on the stove. Bring to a boil and allow contents to reduce and thicken. Use sauce while grilling over a slower heat as a mopping sauce and finishing glaze.
I commonly use my blender to make marinades. Before adding meat to marinade, be sure to taste and adjust seasonings and NEVER reuse a marinade after adding meat. Leftover marinade can be heated in a pan on the stove and used as a glaze or dipping sauce. Allow marinade to boil for at least 5-10 minutes to destroy any harmful bacteria.
JAMAICAN JERK MARINATED CHICKEN THIGHS
6 green onions
1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 small habanero pepper, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1⁄3 cup packed brown sugar
1⁄2 cup canola oil
1⁄2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Place all marinade ingredients in blender and pulse until smooth. Place chicken in a shallow glass dish. Pour marinade over the top and marinade in refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight. Heat one side of grill to medium high leaving other side off. Remove chicken from marinade and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill chicken over high heat for three to four minutes per side until nicely browned. Move thighs to indirect side of grill and close lid. Continue to cook indirectly for an additional 20-30 minutes.
MARINATED SKIRT STEAK WITH BLUEBERRY CHIPOTLE KETCHUP
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 medium shallot coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds skirt steak
Combine all ingredients for marinade except salt and pepper in a blender and pulse until smooth. Place steak in a shallow pan and cover with marinade. Allow steak to marinate in refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight. About an hour before grilling, remove meat from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Meanwhile make the blueberry ketchup.
BLUEBERRY CHIPOTLE KETCHUP
2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup cider vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons chipotle chilies in adobo or chipotle paste
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool before blending until smooth. Strain through fine mesh strainer to remove any skins or seeds. Spray grill with nonstick cook spray. Preheat to high heat. Grill steaks to desired doneness (about three to four minutes per side for medium rare). Brush steaks with blueberry ketchup for the last few minutes of cooking time. Remove steaks from grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice steak thinly at an angle and serve with additional blueberry ketchup for dipping.
Marinades are made up of some basic ingredients:
Oil: Oil carries flavors and helps to distribute them evenly. Use oils with a high smoking point such as vegetable, canola or grape seed oil.
Sugar: Honey, agave nectar, brown or white sugar, molasses or maple syrup adds a bit of sweetness and enhances browning.
Salt: Kosher salt, seasoned salt, celery salt or smoked Malden salt … I like them all. Soy or Worcestershire sauce is also a salty element.
Acid: Balsamic vinegar; white or red wine; lemon, lime or orange juice will tenderize meat in addition to adding a bright flavor. Be careful when adding fruit acids like pineapple or papaya, because marinating in these too long can cause the fruit’s enzymes to break down protein too much and render meat mushy.
Herbs and flavoring: Most any ground spice, mustard or spice blend can be used successfully in a marinade. Chopped garlic, spring onion, shallots or sweet red onion also add great flavor. Choose sturdy herbs such as fresh rosemary, bay leaf or thyme and save a chiffonade of more tender herbs such as basil or parsley for a finishing garnish, because they tend to burn on the grill. If you like a bit of heat, blend in a fresh seeded jalapeño, serrano, chipotle or fiery habanero pepper.
Lisa Glickman is a private chef and teacher who recently moved to Portland. She has made TV appearances on COTV in Central Oregon and appeared on the Cooking Channel’s “The Perfect Three.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.