Sunday, June 10, 2007

Summertime and the Grilling is Easy: Simple Marinades

A windfall event recently led to reviving a marinade I sort of learned some years ago. Anna and Andrew received a couple sample veal and lamb chops from a new distributor who wants to become one of our deli's vendors. Andrew asked me for a recipe for veal chops over the grill. I then recalled having veal grilled outdoors in the southern French countryside by the family of our French exchange student, Thomas. In their Mediterranean style, they grilled the wonderful local veal and lamb over a low fire of grape vine prunings from their vineyards and seasoned it with locally produced olive oil, lemon juice, wine, sea salt, and rosemary. But I also recalled Christina's Uncle Clark in Pennsylvania grilling chicken breasts over charcoal and basting them with a mixture of lemon juice, white wine, garlic, and salt. So as summer sets in, as it certainly has in Atlanta (it's 95 degrees outside as I write this), here are several variations on simple marinades and bastes for grilling. These are for the lighter meats, veal -- which Americans rarely eat, lamb, pork, and chicken, but minus the herbs they work for shrimp too. In a later posting, I'll suggest some more strongly seasoned marinades and rubs for steaks, burgers, and kabobs.

In general, marinate the meats with unsalted marinades, and sprinkle the marinated meat with salt just before grilling. Salting meat ahead tends to dry and toughen it. At least some oil is needed for the surface of the meat to grill well and not stick to the rack, but most of it will drip or burn off and not be part of the caloric intake. Wine and lemon (or lime) juice both seem to tenderize the meats as well as impart their subtle flavors. White wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, is best for the lighter meat marinades, while red wine is better with the heavier meats like beef or lamb for kabobs. I much prefer fresh herbs over dry ones, and grilling is one of the few settings where I actually like rosemary, which can otherwise be heavy and dominating. Fresh sage, "salvia" in Italian, is used extensively in northern Italian grilling of chicken, pork, and veal. Personally I'll leave basil and dill (both of which I like) for fish or tomatoes, and oregano for strongly flavored kabobs. Lavender in modest amounts enhances lamb, but it's better to eat fresh lamb in the south of France that has grazed on lavender on the hillsides. Since that fabulous meat will not be available soon for most of us, a little lavender in the marinade (dried is OK) will make grilled lamb elegant. Garlic, which I love, goes best in my view with chicken, although a little in the lamb marinade can be nice, too. Real charcoal, which I rarely have, is the best, but briquettes or gas grilling also work well.

Tim's Marinades for Grilling

Basic Provençal Marinade based on that of Silvie Ménard (sufficient for up to 2 pounds of meat):

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3-inch sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from the stem and coarsely chopped
(Sprinkle meat with sea salt to taste just before grilling)

Mix ingredients together, other than salt, and marinate meat at least half an hour, preferably a lot longer, turning frequently. Sprinkle moderately with sea salt when putting the meat on the grill. Baste the meat several times during grilling with the leftover marinade.


For chicken marinade, add 1 large or 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced, and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; rosemary can be reduced or omitted.

For Florentine marinade for grilled pork or chicken, add 1 medium clove garlic, minced, to the basic recipe, replace rosemary with 1-1/2 tablespoons (lightly packed) of coarsely shredded fresh sage leaves.

For lamb chops, reduce rosemary in the basic recipe to a 2-inch sprig, and add 1/2 teaspoon dry lavender flowers.

For shrimp kabobs (peel and devein freshly defrosted [in cool water] or very fresh medium-large shrimp, keeping the tail shells on; put 3 to 4 shrimp on a bamboo skewer -- skewers boiled in water 5 minutes first to reduce burning on the grill), use 4 tablespoons of either olive oil or melted butter and 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice with no herbs, wine, or garlic. Sprinkle skewered shrimp on both sides lightly with sea salt and with a little black pepper, and let sit for 15 minutes before painting the shrimp generously with the marinade. Let sit another 15 minutes before grilling quickly over fairly high heat. Do not overcook the shrimp, but there should be some surface charring, especially on the tail shells, which is desirable. This is one grilling where real charcoal makes a true difference.


Blogger Corrie said...

Thanks for the great recipe! I slightly altered it--used lime juice and merlot to marinate steak (I can't remember the cut now) and lime juice and olive oil for shrimp. Everything was delicious, especially the steak, which was nice and tender with the late addition of salt.

3:57 AM  
Blogger Tim Dondero said...

Corrie: I'm glad your grilling went well. I really like lime too. These marinades also work well with vegetables over the grill, sliced summer squash and zucchini, red bell peppers, poblano peppers, mushrooms, slices of onion, eggplant slices. Tim

9:20 AM  

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