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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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August 15, 2008 2:41 PM

Use your imagination for marination

Posted by Nancy Leson

Bleader Joel Marcus makes a mean marinade -- or so he tells me. He shared his ingredients for making a "secret sauce" for soaking everything from shrimp (ginger and orange juice), to flank steak (apple butter), to beef brisket (Pepsi!) to chicken (brined with salt, sugar and turmeric). And I'm sure he'd agree that the real secret to a great marinade -- and the answer to a quick and easy dinner on a hot day like this one -- is keeping a well-stocked cupboard. I just opened mine. . .

. . .and grabbed a handful of Asian condiments and some cheap sake I keep for cooking purposes (the good stuff's in the fridge, along with an icy martini glass, for later):

Then I poured them out, willy-nilly, into a Pyrex baking dish, using my eye as a measure. Next, I mixed up the marinade and coated some cross-cut short ribs (they sell nice, relatively inexpensive ones at QFC where I bought the beef in the photo below, but I often find them thinner and cheaper at markets like 99 Ranch, Viet Wah or Pal-Do World):

The whole process took about five minutes, tops. As I write, they're in the refrigerator. In a few hours I'll grill the meat, toss the marinade, throw some corn on to boil, make a salad and pour myself a nice cold sake to celebrate the sun -- and the end of the work week. Couldn't be easier.

So, Joel wanted me to ask: what's your recipe for an easy marinade?

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Posted by Amy B.

2:55 PM, Aug 15, 2008

This isn't a recipe - but a question. I'm cooking a banquet for a Girl Scout Camp Staff on Sunday. The meat-option is going to be marinated flank steak (easy and delicious!). I was planning on purchasing Stubb's Beef Marinade and extending it with stuff I have - but now I'm wondering what your ideas might be...


Posted by Kairu

3:12 PM, Aug 15, 2008

I like to marinate chicken wings with smashed garlic cloves, scallions, soy sauce, rice wine (or white wine or beer) and maybe a little sugar (or not). Then I broil them, 3-4 minutes per side, or they can be barbecued.

Sometimes I'll marinate my steak with smashed garlic, rosemary (if I have some lying around), a splash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, maybe a little whiskey.

I like to use gallon-size zip-top freezer bags - it's so easy to throw everything in there, meat and marinade, and mix it together.

Posted by AVID

3:48 PM, Aug 15, 2008

That steak sounds good Kairu.
We let our chicken wings swim around in a swampy mix of: italian dressing kit, made in a cruet or bottle, with your own oil and vinegar, along with lots of garlic, paprika, freshly ground pepper and some wet tamarind (for that special zing!).

Posted by Kairu

11:29 AM, Aug 16, 2008

Amy B. - One of my friends like to make grilled flank steak with a soy-chile glaze. A quick search on the Food & Wine wine website leads me to believe it's the one from March 2004 - courtesy of Tom Douglas - no wonder I love it so much - and can be found at (search for "grilled flank steak" in the recipe search option). If I've got the right recipe, it's very good - sweet and salty and spicy, with the tart zing of lime.

Posted by EdmondsJim

10:20 AM, Aug 17, 2008

Lately I've been working on asada style marinade for cheap cuts of beef such as chuck steak. Lime juice, Tapatio, ground dried chipotle & ancho chiles, some Yucateca green sauce for heat and a bit of Stubb's spicy BBQ sauce to up the smoke a bit. Although it's all eyeballed, it's been coming out great and 3 or 4 days in that the chuck steak is tender and works great for over salad greens with thinly sliced radishes or in warm corn tortillas with pickled onions & fresh cilantro. YUMMM!

For chicken it's usually lemon juice & rosemary w/ black & red pepper.

Pork is usually rosemary & olive oil or Asian sauces with lime but I have done Stubb's spicy BBQ and orange marmalade for something wacky and it works. Pork is where it's everything in the fridge for me

Posted by SeattleMike

4:45 PM, Aug 17, 2008

I like to do short ribs in Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce with some extra added ginger and a splash of a sweeter sake. (I have also added Chinese 5-spice to this, which is also good.)

To marinate, I put everything into gallon sized freezer bags and then - believe it or not - pop them in the freezer! The salt content of the Yoshida's keeps them from freezing solid, but the marinade seeps deeply into the meat. You can also keep them around that way for a while (weeks or a couple of months) and cook them when needed. After cooking a big batch on the grill we'll separate out what we'll eat for the next day or two then freeze the rest. A minute or two in the microwave and it's almost like they just came off the grill. People are always amazed at holiday-season potlucks when we show up with grilled ribs!

What we've been doing for corn it half-husking it (the few outermost leaves) then doing them in the microwave for 6 minutes or so to steam them in the husks. Peel off the husks, rub them down with a stick of butter to get them coated, then they go onto the grill for a couple of minutes - just enough to 'toast' the tips of the kernels. Very easy, and we found that this method eliminates most of the drawbacks to trying to grill the corn in the husks, and they get that great 'done on the grill' flavor.

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