One way to add flavor to meat is to use a marinade. A marinade is made by combining an oil, an acid and spices. Historically, people used marinades to both tenderize and flavor meat. More recently, however, it has been discovered that marinades don’t really have an effect on how tender the meat is. The cut and quality of the meat and how it is cooked determines how tender it will be. In fact, if certain meats are left in a marinade too long the tissue will break down and the meat will be grainy. Even after soaking several hours, marinades only soak into the outer layers of the meat, not clear through, so it is important that you use a high quality piece of meat to really get the best flavor. Remember that, for steaks, the more marbled with fat the piece is, the more natural flavors you will have.
Now, here’s where the fun starts. You can use any combination of your favorite oil, acid and spices to make your marinade. I prefer a high quality olive oil, and am able to purchase them at a local gourmet olive oil and vinegar shop, The Olive Twist. The acid can be a vinegar, wine, liquor or citrus juices. Some of my favorites are balsamic vinegar, a Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, whiskey, tequila or lemon/lime juice. Which I use, depends on the type of meat and the flavor I’m trying to achieve. For example, for jerk chicken, I would use olive oil, lime juice, rum or tequila and Caribbean style spices such as all spice, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, nutmeg, habanero chiles, and thyme. More often than not, my marinades are a combination of what I have on hand.
A warm day last weekend, contributed to a craving for steaks on the grill (which my former husband would eat six days a week, with Mexican food on the seventh day, if meal planning was up to him!). So, a quick trip to the grocery store for beautifully marbled ribeye steaks cut an inch thick, and some potatoes and salad ingredients, and we were ready to cook! I chose a whiskey marinade because we had some tasty Jameson Irish Whiskey on hand. I decided to keep it simple, but because of the strong flavor of whiskey, chose to use garlic and pepper to compliment it.
(amount of each ingredient would vary depending on the quantity of meat, this was for two 16oz steaks)
1/2 C your favorite Whiskey
1/4 C Olive Oil
1 T minced fresh garlic
1 T course ground black or rainbow peppercorns
1 T dried parsley
Mix all of the ingredients in a large zip close bag. Add the steaks turn and massage so that the marinade covers the meat. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours, turning bag occasionally.
To get a flavorful char on the meat, make a dry rub using the same spices you used in the marinade and apply to the steak before grilling. Grill to your preference. For me, that means a quick 5-6 minutes per side on a medium-high grill for a medium rare steak. Sooo tasty!!
- ½ C your favorite Whiskey
- ¼ C Olive Oil
- 1 T minced fresh garlic
- 1 T course ground black or rainbow peppercorns
- 1 T dried parsley
- Mix ingredients in a large sealable bag
- Add meat
- Massage to cover the meat
- Place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours
- Turn meat occasionally
Sitting here with my tummy very full, I was thinking it’s funny that most people associate the Reuben sandwich with St. Patrick’s Day. I suppose it’s because of the main ingredient – corned beef. However, the Reuben actually originated in the United States as a deli sandwich, and though the inventor of this delectable concoction is debatable, he was most probably German…not Irish. At our house, we typically enjoy corned beef, cabbage and potatoes on day one, and then Reubens and homemade potato chips with the leftovers. This weekend’s busy schedule had us going straight to the Reuben sandwiches today.
Here’s how I make my melt in your mouth Reubens: Prepare the corned beef. It should be amazingly tender when it’s ready. Have you ever eaten a Reuben sandwich at a restaurant and when you take your first bite, the entire piece of corned beef pulls out because it’s too tough to bite through?? That won’t happen here!
Heat a non-stick skillet, or my favorite, a cast iron skillet over medium heat. I love the flavor of real butter and olive oil, so I butter the bread on one side and also drizzle a little olive oil in the skillet just before I toast the sandwich. Build the sandwich. I suggest bread, cheese, dressing, sauerkraut, corned beef, more cheese and bread. Having the cheese on both sides helps to “glue” the sandwich together and having the moist ingredients in the middle keeps the bread from being soggy.
Toast until a deep golden brown on each side and the cheese melts. Let sit for a minute or two before cutting in half for easier handling (I say that, but it will still be simply so tender and ooey gooey that it will be a wonderfully messy eat!) Serve with chips and enjoy!! Now I can’t wait until leftovers tomorrow!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Even if I weren’t Irish, I would love this day for the corned beef alone! I’m prepping a corned beef brisket for a day of soaking in a steamy meat hot tub with a mix of spices that will have the beef super tender and amazingly flavorful later today. This is going to be a two-part blog: the first part will focus on the brisket spices and the second will share how to make the perfect Reuben sandwich…Mmmmm! My mouth is watering as I type!
- Corned beef spice mix: 2T mustard seeds, 2t coriander seeds, 2t whole cloves, 1t ground ginger, 1t ground nutmeg and 2T mixed peppercorns whole & roughly ground, 2-3 bay leaves whole & crushed and one whole clove of garlic.
- Place the corned beef brisket in a crock pot with all of the packaged juices. Add an additional cup of water. Sprinkle the spices over the brisket. Cook in the crock pot for at least 5-6 hours (6-7 hours if frozen) until the beef is fork tender. In the meantime, enjoy some Jameson or Guinness or both!! Later we'll use the perfectly cooked corned beef to assemble a tasty (and not really Irish) Reuben sandwich.