Adding Flavor: Marinades, Sauces, and Gravies
Marinades are used to give flavor to meats, seafood, vegetables, tofu, or fruit before it is cooked. They may also help tenderize meats. Choose concentrated flavors that go together. To give marinades rich flavor, start with ¼ to ½ c finely chopped onion and 1 minced garlic clove. Saute the onion and garlic in a small amount of oil or butter. Then add juice, soy sauce, or fruit-flavored jelly. If the food you are cooking is very low fat, but needs to be cooked for a while, such as meat or seafood, you may want to add up to 1 T oil, butter, or margerine.
Basic Citrus Marinade: Add ½ to 1 cup citrus juice (a single kind or try a mixture), 1-2 t honey, salt and pepper and fresh or dried herbs.
Soy Sauce Marinade: Add ¼ to ½ c soy sauce, ½ c pineapple, orange, plum, or tangerine juice, 2-4 T brown sugar, 1-2 T rice vinegar (or other kind), 1 t grated fresh ginger, ½ t dry mustard.
Fruit Jelly Marinade: Add ½ c fruit jelly, salt and pepper, 1-2 T lime juice, if jelly is tart you may want to add 1 t honey.
Italian Marinade: To 3 T olive oil, add ½ t salt, a generous amount of fresh black pepper, 1 t dried oregano, and 2 smashed garlic cloves. Rub on meat and let sit for 30 minutes.
For fruit, sprinkle with lime juice and a small amount of brown sugar, broil or grill.
For spice, add cayenne pepper or minced fresh peppers to any marinade.
Place the item(s) you’re marinating in a plastic bag or container, or a glass dish. Meats may be marinated 1-24 hours, seafood, fruits and vegetables, need just 30 minutes. Drain the marinated food and cook. Meanwhile, if the marinade has been used on meat or seafood, boil the marinade for 10 minutes and serve as a sauce. If you want, make enough marinade to make into a sauce without having to boil it. See info under Sauces for how to make a lighter flavor sauce.
Sauces can be used to glaze food during cooking and/or served with the food. Sauces are usually thinner than gravies and are often thickened with cornstarch. If the marinade is too strong to make a good sauce, add about 1 cup water, broth, or bouillon per 4 people. Add a little cold water to 1 T of cornstarch per cup of sauce, and whisk in. Bring back to a boil and boil one minute. Serve on the side.
You can use the recipes for marinades for sauces, just add the water, broth, or juice, and thicken.
Flavored butter (or margarine) also makes good, simple sauces. Melt the butter in a small pan and add garlic, onion or shallots, and/or fresh herbs.
Three-Herb Chimichurri Sauce for grilled meat or fish
1 packed cup washed, stemmed, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 packed cup washed, stemmed, fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 packed cup washed, stemmed, mint leaves
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 t coarse salt
½ t black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes
1 c extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c distilled white vinegar, or more to taste
1/3 c cold water
Combine the herbs in a food processor and finely chop. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper, and process to blend. Add the oil, vinegar, and water and process to make a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or vinegar if needed. The sauce should be highly seasoned. Use within a few hours. (From “How to Grill” by Steven Raichlen)
Another basic is White Sauce, or Bechamel Sauce
Medium (1 cup)
2 T Butter or margarine
2 T Flour
1 c Milk
¼ t salt
3 T Butter or Margarine
¼ c Flour
1 c Milk
¼ t Salt
1 T Butter or Margarine
1 T Flour
1 ½ c milk
¼ t salt
Melt Butter over medium low heat. Add flour and stir until mixture is light gold in color. Gradually stir in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add salt and other seasonings as desired, substitute broth for half the milk, or add cheese and warm until melted.
Freshly grated nutmeg is a good flavor additive. For use with chicken, try poultry seasoning, thyme, rosemary, or a mixture of sage, thyme, and a small amount of rosemary. Oregano is also good, as is summer savory.
Add fresh or dried herbs. If you aren’t familiar with the flavors of many herbs, try adding small amounts to see what combinations and amounts you like. You can always add more, but it’s difficult to reduce the flavor once it’s there. Many fresh herbs are best added at the end of the cooking time because they quickly lose their flavor and color. Cookbooks and the Internet have good ideas for herbs. Here’s a couple sites: http://www.kitchendaily.com/2010/04/16/ideas-for-using-fresh-herbs/ and http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/essential-ingredients/all-about-herbs-slideshow-00400000001086/
You can make gravy using the same proportions, substituting broth for ½ to all the milk.
Gravies are usually meat based.
If you have pan drippings, scrape them from the pan, adding hot water and using a spatula or pancake turner to loosen the cooked-on bits. If desired, strain drippings. If the drippings contain more fat than you want to use, decant some of the fat. Add enough water or broth to make ½ to 1 c per person. Put ½ c cold water in a shaker. Add 2 T flour per cup of liquid and shake to mix. Or, put flour in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the liquid. Whisk the flour mixture into the hot drippings/broth mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, to lose the flour taste. Stir occasionally. Add seasonings to taste. If the gravy isn’t rich enough, add low salt bouillon or Better than Bouillon. If you are using regular bouillon, be aware that it is very salty, so don’t add any additional salt until you have added all the bouillon. You probably want a stronger flavor than just tasting the gravy seems because gravy is usually served over something like potatoes, which will dilute the flavor.
To end up with interesting gravy variations, add 1-2 T fruit juice or jelly to the cooking liquid. If the jelly is quite sweet, add 1 t lemon juice as well. Also add herbs and spices to the cooking liquid such as a few whole cloves or allspice berries, bay leaves, or tie a group of fresh herbs with cotton string or with chives so you can easily fish out the herbs before you make gravy.