Meet Your Best Friend, Marinating
Have you thought about the concept of marinating? I mean really thought about it?
Consider the fact that you can throw a bunch of ingredients together in a bowl or bag — even kind of artlessly if you want to — then add your chicken, your meat, your beans, whatever; and magically, as you go about your day (or, even as you sleep!), whatever is soaking in that marinade is just getting better and better. You are doing exactly zero work, and yet, your dinner is getting more tender, more flavorful, more ready to cook. I’m sorry, but that’s awesome.
Grilling chicken gets a bad rap for drying out on the grates, but, with a little help from that marinade, can be the best thing at the barbecue. Here’s how:
Step 1: Choose Your Marinade (see below). Then, in a medium bowl, whisk or blend together all ingredients. Add to a Ziploc bag, along with chicken (either thighs or breasts that have been pounded to even thickness, or sliced in half horizontally). Marinate for a minimum of 8 hours or up to 24, flipping in the fridge a few times if you can.
Step 2: Grill. When you are ready to cook, heat a grill to medium-high, and brush with a tiny bit of olive oil. Let any excess marinade drip off the chicken before you place on the grill. Depending on thickness, grill pieces about 5-6 minutes total (a little longer for thighs), flipping halfway, until chicken is firm but not rock hard to the touch.
Marinade 1: Lemon-Herb
This is my back-pocket marinade because I always have what I need to make it. The secret is the mayo, which serves to lock in the moisture of the chicken.
2 tablespoons mayo
1/4 cup olive oil
squeeze of honey (not too much)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
juice from half a lemon
fresh rosemary, thyme, or torn basil leaves (or a combo)
Marinade 2: Vietnamese-Style Marinade
I’ve made Andrea Nguyen’s traditional Shaking Beef recipe (from Vietnamese Any Day) too many times to count, mostly because the marinade is so flavorful — sweet, salty and funky. Lucky for us, those same ingredients work with chicken, too. Here’s my slight adaptation.
1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, smashed
dash of sesame oil
1/4 cup neutral oil
Marinade 3: Yogurt-Herby Marinade
The difference with this one is that you need to process all the ingredients in a blender, then set aside about a 1/4 cup of the marinade (before you add chicken), so you can use it as a dip for serving later. (Just store in fridge.) Feel free to play around with the spice — I like garam masala, but sometimes swap in curry powder or loads of freshly ground black pepper. The key here is the yogurt, which breaks the chicken down and gives it an excellent tang.
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 large onion (coarsely chopped)
1/3 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves (peeled) coarsely chopped
juice from one juicy lime
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger (peeled and chopped) kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
What are your favorite marinades? Please share.
P.S. Our favorite summer meal, and a quick dessert to bring to any party.
(Photos by CWP, LLC/Stocksy.)