Steeped in tradition, marinades are favorite way world cooks flavor meats Blend different ingredients for different tastes

January 20, 1993|By Steven Raichlen | Steven Raichlen,Contributing Writer/ Universal Feature Syndicate.

From Tokyo to Tbilisi, good cooks use marinades to get flavor into meats. At home, marinating is a simple technique for adding excitement to something as plain as a skinless chicken breast. The soy sauce, mirin and ginger in teriyaki marinade lend a Japanese accent; chipotle chilies, lime juice and oregano in smoked chili marinade impart a strong Mexican flavor; a pungent blend of yogurt, cumin, coriander, chilies and cardamom in tandoori marinade not only spices meat but seals in the juices.

After mixing the marinade, set aside a portion for basting during cooking. Pour the rest into a glass or stainess-steel dish just big enough to hold the meat or fish. The food need not be completely submerged in the marinade, but it should be turned several times to ensure even flavoring. Always keep food refrigerated while marinating.

Fish needs only 30 minutes to an hour of marinating; chicken can be marinated anywhere from two to eight hours, depending on the intensity of flavor you are looking for; red meat is usually marinated overnight. Do not marinate meat too long or it will become mushy.

Be sure to drain or blot excess marinade from the food before grilling or broiling. (Wet food tends to steam rather than brown.) Once the surface is seared, you can baste it with the reserved marinade.


A citrus-and-spice mixture from the Republic of Georgia, this marinade is often used for poultry, but it goes well with swordfish, too.

Georgian cinnamon-orange marinade Makes 1 1/2 cups marinade.

4 large or 5 medium oranges

3 lemons

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 medium-sized onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced peeled gingerroot

3 tablespoons paprika

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 cinnamon sticks

Grate the zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon. Set aside. Juice the oranges and lemons. Combine the orange juice, lemon juice and wine in a saucepan and boil rapidly until only 1/2 cup liquid remains. Let cool.

Combine onions, garlic and ginger in a bowl. Stir in the reduced juice mixture, grated zest, paprika, oil, sugar, peppercorns, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks.

Fresh herb marinade

Makes 1 cup marinade.

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup dry vermouth

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil, dill, rosemary, parsley, tarragon and/or other fresh herbs (The mix of herbs in this marinade is not as critical as their freshness)

3 shallots or 1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 poblano chili or 3 jalapenos, thinly sliced.

Combine lemon juice, vermouth, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in oil. Stir in herbs, shallots or onions, garlic and chilies. Use

with poultry or seafood.

Chipotles (smoked jalapenos) add character to this fiery seasoning. They are usually sold canned in tomato sauce, but you also see them dried. (If you use dried chilies for this recipe, soften them in hot water and add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.)

Mexican smoked chili marinade Makes 1 1/3 cups marinade.

1 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

5 canned chipotle chilies, plus 1 tablespoon sauce from the can

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine orange juice and lime juice in a small saucepan and boil until only 1/2 cup liquid remains. Pour the reduced juice mixture into a blender and add the remaining ingredients; puree to a smooth paste.

The traditional sweetener for teriyaki is mirin (sweet rice wine), but if it is unavailable, use sake, sherry or white wine and increase sugar.

Teriyaki marinade Makes 1 cup marinade.

3 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced (optional)

1 tablespoon minced peeled gingerroot

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup mirin

2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

Combine scallions, garlic, chilies (if using) and ginger in a bowl. Whisk in soy sauce, mirin, maple syrup or sugar and sesame oil. Use with beef, lamb poultry or seafood.

In India, meat that has been marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spices is roasted in a giant urn-shaped clay oven called a tandoor.

Tandoori marinade Makes 1 3/4 cups marinade.

2 cups non-fat yogurt

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled gingerroot

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeno or other hot chilies, seeded and minced

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons paprika

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

Drain yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Place the drained yogurt in a bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients. Discard bay leaves before cooking. Use with poultry, lamb or seafood.

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