Tender Cuts

One thing I’ve learned about meat is that even the toughest cut can be tender to the bite if it’s marinated correctly.

But if you’re going to use a marinade on meat, it should be low-acid. My favorite is one that contains sesame oil, teriyaki sauce, honey and orange juice as well as some rosemary, garlic and onion. The recipe calls for a cup of teriyaki and one-third cup each of honey and orange juice. I’ve found that using any more orange juice can make the meat tougher than it was to start.

An exception would be a fairly tight-textured cut of meat such as flank steak, which can survive a more acidic marinade. Since the marinade only penetrates a fraction of an inch, it won’t toughen the meat.

Another thing you should remember when marinading meats and seafood is that you can boost your intake of antioxidants by choosing sauces that contain foods, herbs and spices such as hot peppers, allspice, sesame and ginger, all of which have high antioxidant properties.

Foods rich in antioxidants play an essential role in preventing cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, inflammation and problems associated with cutaneous aging, studies have shown.

Although marinating meat reduces antioxidants levels of herbs and spices by 45 percent to 70 percent, there still is a benefit over cooking meat plain with no marinade, according to a University of Western Ontario study.

And according to the American Institute of Cancer Research, marinating can reduce the production of potentially cancer-causing compounds in grilled meat. Marinating meats before grilling them may reduce the amount of heterocyclic amines that can form on meat exposed to high cooking temperatures. AICR studies have shown that in some cases, even briefly marinating foods can reduce HCAs by as much as 92 percent to 99 percent.

Speaking of  tougher cuts of meat, here’s a grilled flank steak sandwich recipe that’s the beneficiary of a ginger-soy marinade.

Ginger-Soy Marinated Flank Steak Sandwiches
FOR THE MARINADE:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce, or more to taste
4 scallions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
1¼ pounds flank steak
FOR THE SANDWICH SPREAD:
¼ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
FOR THE SANDWICHES:
8 ¾-inch-thick slices crusty country-style bread
1 tablespoon extra-virgin oil
3 cups loosely packed watercress or arugula
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, brown sugar and soy sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the oil, ginger, chili-garlic sauce and scallions.
Place the steak in a shallow glass dish. Add the marinade and turn to coat the meat well on both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours, turning once.
Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, honey and chili-garlic sauce. Set aside.
Brush both sides of the bread slices lightly with olive oil.
Grill the steak until the underside is well browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the steak over and grill about 4 minutes longer for medium-rare. While the steak is grilling, place the bread slices around it to toast, about 1 minute per side.
Let the steak stand for 5 minutes, then cut it across the grain into thin slices. Spread a thin layer of the chili-garlic mayonnaise on each toasted bread slice. Arrange the steak over 4 of the slices. Top with watercress or arugula and the remaining bread slices.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 520 calories, 174 calories from fat, 19 grams fat (6 grams saturated, no trans), 58 milligrams cholesterol, 47 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 780 milligrams sodium.

Do The Jerk

As if people who love to grill using marinades and barbecue sauces need another reason to continue this popular pastime, researchers at the University of Western Ontario in London have obliged them.

A new study published recently in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis has found that sauces and marinades are a rich source of antioxidants (cancer-fighting agents) if they contain spices and herbs.

The Canadian researchers tested seven popular brands and flavors of marinade containing herbs and spices as the main ingredients. These included jerk sauce, garlic and herb, honey garlic, roasted red pepper, lemon pepper garlic, sesame ginger teriyaki and green seasoning.

The study found two varieties contained the most antioxidants. The jerk and sesame/ginger/teriyaki combination outperformed the other five sauces tested because they contain substantial quantities of ingredients such as hot peppers, allspice, sesame and ginger.

The researchers did offer one caveat, though: Marinating meat before cooking reduces antioxidant levels by 45 percent to 70 percent. But the lead study author says despite the antioxidant loss after marinating and cooking, the sauces still provide benefits.

The researchers offered a couple of ways to get around losing some of effects of the antioxidants — choosing sauces with the highest antioxidant levels before marinating and cooking, brushing the sauce on just before serving the meat or consuming it without cooking. They also said some marinades can be used as a salad dressing.

Besides their cancer-fighting properties, antioxidants also play a huge role in preventing cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, inflammation and problems associated with aging.

Following is a grilled chicken recipe that fits right in with study’s findings. And not a bad way to start the grilling season, I might add.

Grilled Island-Style Chicken
1½ cups Jerk Marinade (see recipe)
1 3½-pound) broiler fryer, cut into serving pieces (or 3 pounds breast, leg and thigh pieces)
Discard excess fat from chicken and put pieces in a large, self-sealing food storage bag. Pour on 1 cup marinade and rub it in, lifting the skin and pushing marinade under where possible. (If you have sensitive skin, wear rubber gloves.) Seal and refrigerate at least 2 hours and as long as 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Heat grill to medium-high; oil the grates. Lift chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off (discard marinade). Place on grill and cover. Cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is blackened in spots, about 10 minutes.
Move chicken to a cooler part of the grill. Grill, covered, basting from time to time with remaining ½ cup marinade, until chicken is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 649 calories, 62 percent of calories from fat, 39 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 167 milligrams cholesterol, 40 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 420 milligrams sodium.

Jerk Marinade
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon dry leaf thyme (not powdered)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 inches fresh ginger, washed and cut into chunks
½ Scotch bonnet pepper or 3 or more jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: About 1½ cups.

Tender Cuts

Last week, I completed the last of three beginning cooking classes for men as part of an East Grand Forks Community Education program.

There were nine students in my class, and we had a lot of fun. Over the course of three weeks, I talked about (and demonstrated) recipes for sauces, soups and meats. In the third and final session, I talked about meats, specifically how to prepare different cuts and the many ways they can be cooked.

The highlight of the night was cooking up some round steak, elk tenderloin, chicken breasts and pheasant breasts and thighs on a Foreman Grill. I had marinated the meats overnight, so it was really tenderized. If you have a tough cut of meat, marinating it is the way to go. 

One of my students, Troy Newhouse of East Grand Forks, e-mailed me recently and asked for the marinade recipe, which I had given out in class. It seems he misplaced his copy.

The recipe, which follows, is very simple. Ideally, you should leave the meat in the marinade for at least 12 hours, although I’ve found it works OK with as little as four hours. Also find another marinade recipe, which I plan on adding to my repertoire. It contains balsamic vinegar, one of my favorite ingredients.

Meat Marinade
1 cup of terriyaki
1/3 cup of orange juice
1/3 cup of honey
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary
Mix all ingredients. Place meat in marinade and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least at 12 hours before grilling.

Grilled Strip Steak with Olives and Feta
4 strip steaks (or other favorite steak), about 6 ounces each
MARINADE:
½ cup canola or olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
TOPPING:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
½ cup sliced mixed green and kalamata olives
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
Cut several slits on the fat side of the strip steaks so they don’t curl when grilling. Place the steaks in a plastic bag. In a small bowl whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Pour half of the marinade over the steaks in the bag. Seal bag and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight. Cover and refrigerate the other half of the marinade.
Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Remove the steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade. Let steaks sit at room temperature while you make the topping.
In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the onions and saute until soft. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, olives and feta and saute 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Oil the grill grate. Place the steaks on the grill and grill 5 minutes or until you get good grill marks. If desired, turn on an angle and cook 1 to 2 minutes to get nice cross-hatch marks. Turn and continue grilling until the steak is cooked to the desired degree of doneness. It’s best to have an instant-read thermometer. For medium-rare, the internal temperature should range from 125 to 130 degrees. Cover with the topping and drizzle with remaining marinade, if desired.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 422 calories, 49 percent of calories from fat, 23 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 7 grams carbohydrates, 45 grams protein, 641 milligrams sodium, 112 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

Grill Mates

I like to make a lot of things from scratch. For instance, I don’t very often use barbecue sauce from a bottle. I usually put my own together with ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, Tabasco and brown sugar. The same goes for marinades. My favorite is a combination of teriyaki, honey and orange juice.

However, in hectic times, such as days when there is a lot of canning and gardening work to be done, ‘ll go with  something store-bought.

That’s what I did today. I pulled a couple of pheasants out of the freezer and put them in a marinade mix made by McCormick’s, the spice guys. The company’s Grill Mates line of marinades are pretty tasty and easy to throw together. For example, the one I used for the pheasant breasts, called Hickory BBQ, is just mixed with a little vinegar and oil, and it’s ready to go.

The meat has to marinate only for 15 to 20 minutes before it was ready for the grill. I chose to keep it in the sauce a little longer, and the result was pretty tasty, especially when combined with some new potatoes and fresh garden beans. I especially loved the hickory flavor. It reminded me of a Jamaican jerk.

Speaking of Jamaican jerk, here’s a recipe for some grilled island-style chicken, which is flavored with a jerk.

Jerk Marinade
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon dry leaf thyme (not powdered)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 inches fresh ginger, washed and cut into chunks
½ Scotch bonnet pepper or 3 or more jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: 1½ cups.
Grilled Island-Style Chicken
1½ cups Jerk Marinade (see recipe)
1 (3- to 4-pound) broiler fryer, cut into serving pieces (or 3 pounds breast, leg and thigh pieces)
Discard excess fat from chicken and put pieces in a large, self-sealing food storage bag. Pour on 1 cup marinade and rub it in, lifting the skin and pushing marinade under where possible. (If you have sensitive skin, wear rubber gloves.) Seal and refrigerate at least 2 hours and as long as 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Heat grill to medium-high; oil the grates. Lift chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off (discard marinade). Place on grill and cover. Cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is blackened in spots, about 10 minutes.
Move chicken to a cooler part of the grill. Grill, covered, basting from time to time with remaining ½ cup marinade, until chicken is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 649 calories, (62 percent from fat), 39 grams fat (9 grams saturated, 16 grams monounsaturated), 167 milligrams cholesterol, 40 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 420 milligrams sodium.