Spicy Chicken Marinade
Spicy Chicken Marinade. Marinating is the process used to impart or infuse flavor into meats, fish, chicken, and hard vegetables, like eggplant and zucchini. Contrary to popular belief marinading does not tenderize meat and chicken, that is, not unless you let the food soak in the marinade for so long that it turns into an unappealing mush.
If tenderize you must – a paste made from fresh papaya flesh and a dash of salt spread liberally over both sides of the meat or chicken in a pan or oven heated to at least 140 degrees F and not more than 160 degrees F will do the trick in just a couple minutes. The added benefit is that papaya tenderization when done immediately before marination will make the meat more receptive to the infusion of flavors from the marinade. Be sure to scrape off the papaya paste before marinading unless you want to add the fruity flavor to your marinade mix.
Under ideal conditions, marinade penetrates about 1/8 to 1/4 inch into the food. One thing to consider when the flavor of the marinade itself is going to be the highlight of the dish is to cut the meat into smaller pieces so that you get more coverage from the marinade.
Marinating is traditional in almost every geographic or ethnic cuisine. Much of the characteristic spicy and sour tastes of South-East Asian food comes from marinades. Caribbean foods have intense flavors from a rich blend of spices and seasonings known in that region as Jerk.
Marinating is a chef’s creative outlet. You can add a little flavor or a lot to your basic ingredient depending on your choice of acids and aromatic herbs and spices. The key ingredients are acid (vinegar, lemon juice or wine), oils, and aromatic spices and seasonings. You can experiment with other flavors like brown sugar, chiles, horseradish, ginger, honey, anchovy, soy sauce, hot sauce, fermented fish sauce, and yogurt. The possibilities are without end.
Timing the amount of time the food remains in the marinade is important. Too long and your main course becomes mush. Because the marinade will not penetrate any further than 1/4 inch into firm meat or chicken no matter how long you soak there is no advantage to a long soak against the one big disadvantage of softening (not tenderizing) the meat or chicken.
Fish marinates fairly quickly. Figure a maximum of an hour or so for fillets or shrimp, even less if the marinade is very acidic.
Chicken can marinate longer. Marinate skinless chicken pieces for 4 to 6 hours; chicken pieces with fatty skin intact can go for 6 hours to overnight.
Beef, lamb, and pork typically take the longest: You can go 6 to 8 hours, up to overnight for steaks, chops, and kebabs.
Health experts recommend discarding any unused marinade and not using it as a sauce for the cooked dish. If the flavors are that important to your dish then make a separate batch to be used as the serving sauce.
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