Since I don’t have a grill of my own, I’m no Grillmeisterin, but I adore grilled foods anyway. Who doesn’t? And at least I can provide some nicely marinated meat to throw on my friends’ grills along with a plentiful assortment of veggies. (For this round, I went overboard on the “plentiful” part and wound up with more veggies than would fit on the grill. But no worries — roasted veggies are just as tasty as their grilled counterparts. And you can fit a lot of onions and beets into an oven with three racks!)
Given my lack of experience with the act of grilling itself, this post is much more about marinades than it is about how to grill. The good news? The same marinade works beautifully on a variety of meats and in a variety of cooking situations, from grilling to baking to sauteeing. Take your pick!
Lemon, Garlic & Balsamic Marinade
Makes enough marinade for one pound of meat.
1 pound trimmed chicken breast, preferably free-range chicken
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses* (optional, but adds a pleasant sweet/tart note)
1 T. dried thyme
1 tsp. cumin (or more, if you’re a rabid cumin fan)
Dash of Aleppo pepper OR crushed red pepper flakes (the Aleppo variety has a smoother, slightly smoky taste)
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
This marinade also works well with beef and lamb, so if you’d rather have red meat than chicken, go ahead and use beef or lamb steaks (preferably from free-range animals). If you’re using chicken breasts, butterfly them as necessary to create at least 4 pieces of uniform thickness. (Ditto for the steaks — make them uniform to avoid potential overcooking.) Just remember: the thinner the pieces, the more quickly they’ll cook. I wound up with about 6 pieces of chicken, and it only took 5 minutes to grill them. Sure, there’s an appeal to thicker-cut meats, but since I wanted to capture more of the marinade flavor, I opted for thinner cuts to maximize the marinade-to-meat ratio.
Place the prepped chicken/beef/lamb in a medium glass bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss well with spoons. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours but no more than 6 hours. (If you marinate it long enough, the acidic lemon juice and vinegar will start to “cook” the chicken.) Then grill away! If you’re like me and don’t have a grill, sauteeing the chicken over medium heat in batches works, too.
Assuming you don’t overcrowd the skillet and you’re using free-range chicken, each piece may only need 4 minutes to cook. You want the thickest piece to be opaque when sliced through, but you don’t want to overcook and toughen the chicken. Don’t go over medium heat, and don’t walk too far from the stove. If you’re going with beef or lamb, you can cook it as rare or as done as you’d like, although I would only choose rare if you’re using high-quality, pastured meat.
If you’re going to include veggies in your grilled repast, you can simply toss them with a drizzle of unrefined peanut oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper before placing them on the grill. Again, if grilling isn’t an option, place the oiled and seasoned veggies on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and bake in a 375F oven for at least 20 minutes or until the veggies are starting to turn golden brown and look shriveled. Different veggies take different lengths of time — as do differently cut veggies, since long spears cook more quickly than round disks — so I like to segregate my veggies by baking sheet so that I can pull them out as they’re done.
* Look for this in the Middle Eastern section of grocery stores, or check out an ethnic Middle Eastern shop in your neighborhood. Tamarind paste has a similar sweet/tart flavor.
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