Less is more when it comes to marinating chicken, fish

WHAT'S COOKING?

January 18, 1995|By Rita Calvert | Rita Calvert,Special to The Sun

Q: I tried a recipe for chicken breasts marinated in a vinegar and oil dressing. It said to marinate several hours or overnight. After marinating overnight and then cooking, the chicken was very mushy. What went wrong?

A: Acidic ingredients such as vinegar, citrus juices or even pineapple juice tenderize the meat by breaking down the structure of the surface proteins. When a delicate product such as chicken or seafood is used, the sole purpose of the marinade is to flavor. The marinating time should be no longer than two hours. Since the poultry or seafood is thin, a longer marinating time would cause a breakdown of the entire item; making it mushy. For a less-tender item such as a beef roast or flank steak, a longer marinating period is necessary to break down the tough fibers.

Q: How can I make vinegar from some old red wine?

A: I can give you a basic overview for this procedure, but you'll need to do some more research to get details on the aging barrel. First, you will need a starter of a bottle of unpasteurized red wine vinegar. Let some air get to it to form a scum on the top to start the fermentation process. Pour this vinegar plus your red wine into an oak barrel (at least 2 gallon-size) and let it rest on its side for 3 to 4 weeks. Sample at this time to see that the liquid tastes more like vinegar than wine.

Draw off the amount of vinegar you want to bottle and leave a bit to continue the fermenting process. If you want to pasteurize the bottled vinegar to stop the fermentation process, bring it just to the boil before bottling.

Tip: If you're out of light brown sugar, just add 2 tablespoons molasses to 1 cup sugar. For dark brown sugar, add 3 tablespoons molasses per cup of white sugar.

We'd like to hear from you. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies are not possible, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column. Send your questions to: What's Cooking, c/o Food & Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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