Let marinades do some of the cooking for you

January 10, 1993|By Gerald Etter | Gerald Etter,Knight-Ridder News Service

To understand marinades is to put an extra cook to work in the kitchen. While you're relaxing, or off catching up on chores, the marinade you've put together is doing some preliminary cooking for you.

The process makes whipping up a meal fast and easy.

But can a technique be considered fast if the food must sit in the refrigerator for half a day? No doubt about it, says Jim Tarantino, author of "Marinades" (Crossing Press, $14.95).

"It's fast because the amount of real time and effort you need to finish the dish is minimal. There's nothing simpler than emptying a jar of savory seasoning on a filet of fish or breast of chicken in the morning and letting your refrigerator do the cooking.

"Come evening, you have a dish that's bursting with flavor, ready to be grilled, broiled, steamed or sauteed."

Mr. Tarantino has put together what might well be the authoritative piece on marinades. His oversized paperback also covers the related areas of dry rubs, pastes, flavored vinegars, infusion oils, and spice and herb mixtures. The writing is easy to understand, and Mr. Tarantino has presented his subject in such a way that the reader can go out and create new marinades for signature dishes.

Mr. Tarantino calls the principle that makes a dish work the recipe's "engine." "Once you understand what drives the flavors, you can improvise," he says.

The first part of the book explains how marinades do and don't work, and how ingredients interact. Mr. Tarantino also explains how to make your own vinegars, flavored oils and spice #i combinations. There is also an in-depth look at how to stock a larder.

Next, the book takes you on a marinade tour of the world. These are basic marinade recipes that include the types of foods that suit them best and the time for marinating.

The book also deals with marinades within the food groups of seafood, meat, poultry and vegetables. In this section, the marinade portion of the recipe is given as a separate entity from the rest of the recipe. "This," says the author, "enables the reader to use another recipe in its place if they like the technique, or use the marinade recipe elsewhere if they wish."

In grilling recipes, Mr. Tarantino also includes instructions on how to prepare the same dish indoors. There's also information on stocks, mail-order sources and a marinade-food mix-and-match chart.

This apricot marinade makes a perfect glaze for chicken wings and spareribs, and is one of Mr. Tarantino's favorites for Cornish hens. In refrigerator, marinate chicken breasts 4 to 6 hours, pork ribs 8 hours to overnight, and pork chops 3 to 4 hours.

Apricot marinade

Makes 2 cups.

1/2 cup diced dried apricots or 1 cup fresh apricots, peeled and diced

1 cup dry white wine or fresh orange juice

1/2 cup apricot preserves

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

2/3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns

In a heavy-bottom enamel saucepan, simmer the apricots in the wine for about 30 minutes (or microwave on high for 8 minutes in a microwaveable container). Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the preserves until dissolved, then let cool to room temperature.

In a blender or food processor, puree the apricot mix, mustard and vinegar. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil a little at a time through the feed tube. Stir in the soy sauce and peppercorns.

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