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LEMME MARINATE ON IT

Tri tip sliced

I’ve always had a rather lengthy list of things that I think are bullshit. It’s a highly scientific process of how something or someone finds their way onto that list. Usually it begins with me furrowing my brow, pointing with an index finger and stating, “That’s bullshit.” And at that point judgment has been passed. This typically happens within the first few moments of me interacting with said bullshit. Again, it’s science, so no need to waste time or over complicate it.

My targets reliably include the newfangled, the unnecessarily novel or the thoughtlessly tried and true. Basically “it’s always been that way” or “it’s never been that way before” are not great reasons unto themselves for anything. And because of that, they are great reasons for a lot of the bullshit we regularly find ourselves surrounded by.

Admittedly, I’m probably overly liberal with the bullshit finger. I have besmirched Facebook, Twitter, social media in general, iPads, smart phones, cell phones in general, the internet itself, entire seasons, entire states… only to be overruled by the relentless tides of progress, geography and time. But it’s food, or more accurately food-like bullshit, that has reached a particularly lofty perch in my great pantheon of disgust. Nearly every jarred, premade or quick fix food should be viewed askance (jarred tomato sauce, in particular, is total bullshit). I’m sure there’s a lot of fine product out there that isn’t getting it’s fair shake. But hey, I didn’t invent the bullshit, I just live by the rules of it. Besides, the factory owners who make that stuff are too busy counting money to care about my patronage or opinion of their wares.

Living by these self inflicted rules has lead me to be admittedly over-leery of marinating. A perfectly legitimate cooking tool that has never really done anything wrong to me. It’s just that the stink of all those pre-made miracle jars of glop taking up supermarket shelf space has me reflexively turning up my nose. I mean, is it really cooking if all you’re doing is opening a jar of what someone else made and dumping it on some meat that someone else raised, killed, butchered and packaged for you? Is it really cooking if what you’re doing is just covering up the flavor of your ingredients with the pungent and the processed?

My answer is no. I cringe every time some fat bastard on cable gets out a long metal proboscis with an enema bag full of apple juice or beer or caramel sauce at the end of it and jams it unmercifully into a piece of pork that has done nothing at all to deserve the alien abductor proctologist routine. All while they’re yammering some bullshit about “flavor profiles” that are actually just moron-speak for muddled crap.

But that’s not necessarily marinating’s fault. I need to remind myself to not lose the forest for all the inbred hillbillies flavor-injecting it. Done sparingly and applied to the right cut of beast, marinating can actually be pretty damn enjoyable. Lofty even. You (and more accurately me) need to look no further than solomo, one of my all time favorites and a high point of quality porker, to get to that answer.

So, at this mature state of summer when my long suffering wife is pleading for something other than salt, pepper and charcoal for dinner flavors, I’m dabbling. My marinades have been mostly sparse and either Italian or Mexican in influence. They tend to come together quickly. And while I’m definitely a salt and pepper, or dry rub, or brine-first kind of guy, they definitely offer a nice change of pace.

Granted that change still has me sweating it out over a fire, coldbeer in hand, planning to slap some beef or pork or chicken down my gullet. After all, it’s summer and a man needs his fire time, there’s an awful lot of bullshit out there to deal with.

Tri tip marinade grill

Balsamic, Juniper and Garlic Marinade

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Lots of chopped garlic
Lots of cracked black pepper
12 juniper berries, crushed
Salt

Combine ingredients. Add a sinewy piece of beef like flank, hanger, tri-tip or skirt and soak for several hours. Remove, season with salt and pepper. Grill, adding some rosemary branches to the fire.

Orange, Chili, Coriander Marinade

½ cup Orange juice
½ cup olive oil
Lots of chopped garlic
2 ancho chilies
2 guajillo chilies
2 arbol chilies
1 tbsp coriander
Black pepper
Salt
Lime

Toast the chilis and coriander. Pulverize them, including some of the seeds for heat. Mix with the orange juce, garlic and oil. Add beef or chicken and soak. Season aggressively with salt and pepper before grilling. Sprinkle with lime juice after.

Yucatan Style Marinade
½ of a malty beer
2 ancho chilies
2 guajillo chilies
2 arbol chilies
A couple cloves
A couple Alspice berries
1 tbsp dried oregano
Several cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp annatto seeds
Black pepper
Salt
Lime

Toast the chilies and tear them into small pieces. Add all ingredients to a sauce pot and bring to a simmer for several minutes. Let cool completely and whir in a food processor till you have a thick liquid. Marinate some chicken thighs in it, wipe off excess marinade and season before grilling. Finish with a little lime and slap it on a corn tortilla for a fine taco.

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3 responses to “LEMME MARINATE ON IT”

  1. Bret Z says:

    Jake, totally agree, pre-packaged marinades are “Bullshit” and dry rubs and brines rock. Another good read and thanks for the recipe.

  2. Bubba says:

    I’d like to try all of the above marinades but I’m fucked here in Paradise as we don’t have access to the various Mexican chilies but I’m going to get that piece of flank that has been hiding in my freezer and put it in some of that Balsamic, Juniper and Garlic marinade…drooling rat now.

    • Jake says:

      I wonder if there’s a local chili that could substitute? It seems like all you really need is something with relatively light heat and some fruitiness to it. The balsamic and juniper is pretty tasty. That’s what I used in the photos. Lemme know how it turns out.