It’s official. Our small but mighty charcoal grill has emerged from hibernation. Last weekend we grilled veggies and brats. This weekend we decided to make tacos.
These days, with two little kids at home who miss parks and friends more than I can possibly explain, I’ve been searching for any excuse to add the word “party” to whatever it is we happen to be doing. Pizza and a movie for dinner? It’s a pizza party! Picking up toys from the living room? Cleaning party! (I have to admit, this one tends to get eye rolls from my 7-year-old, but every once in a while it works and is glorious). Tacos on a weekend afternoon? Taco party! So I think because I had been the one to call our taco meal a “party,” I felt a little added responsibility to make it special. I knew a marinade on the chicken would easily take our meal to the next level, and it did.
This is a marinade that celebrates flavors of New Mexico, is highly versatile and can be used on all kinds of foods with equally delightful results: asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant, tofu, shrimp, salmon, chicken, beef flank steak, hanger steak, skirt steak, sirloin steak, brisket, pork chops, buffalo, elk, etc.
The technique of marinating is twofold. At the end of the day, it’s about tenderizing and adding flavor. Each food falls on a spectrum of absorbability and toughness, some foods benefiting more from tenderizing like a tough skirt steak and others from the addition of flavor like vegetables. Marinating times depend on the acidity of the marinade itself and the burliness of the food you’re marinating. Some kind of acid is important, especially if you’re wanting your marinade to do some heavy lifting in the tenderizing department. As the acidity of your marinade increases, the time required decreases, otherwise your fish could be at risk for turning into ceviche. Here’s a general guide for marinating times:
Vegetables: 20-30 minutes
Tofu: 20 minutes to 24 hours
Fish and shellfish: 20 minutes to one hour
Chicken pieces: 30 minutes to three hours
Whole chicken: 24 hours
Pork, beef, wild game: 30 minutes to 24 hours
This recipe is so versatile because it’s medium acidity (from the yogurt) and loaded with flavor. After the marinating time is over, what you do next is up to you. You can grill, bake, roast or sauté. My only suggestion? Call it a party, just because you can.
High Desert Everything Marinade
Makes: around 1 cup;
total time: 30 minutes
2 dried ancho chiles
2-4 dried chipotle chiles depending on size
4 garlic cloves, skin left on
1 large lime, zest only
Handful of fresh cilantro, stems and leaves roughly chopped
2 teaspoons honey
½ teaspoons cumin, ground or seeds
½ teaspoons coriander, ground or seeds
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preparation: In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the whole, peel-on garlic cloves and both types of chile. In a separate kettle or pot, bring around 2 cups of water to a boil. The garlic will take longer to brown on all sides, but keep your eye on the chiles. We want them to smell fragrant and slightly brown on all sides but not char. Remove the chiles and place them on a clean board or plate. Remove the stems and seeds (or leave the seeds if you like it hot) and place them in a heatproof bowl and pour over hot water to cover. Let the chiles relax in the hot water for around 20 minutes.
While the chiles are soaking in their bath, prepare the rest of the marinade. Once the garlic is finished toasting on all sides, carefully remove the cloves from the pot and when cool enough to handle, the cloves should slip right out of their skins. Add the garlic cloves to a blender or food processor.
Now add the lime zest, cilantro, honey, cumin, coriander, yogurt, olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Once the chiles are finished soaking, remove them from the water and add this to the blender as well. Blend until smooth. Viola! A marinade that’s sure to make whatever you’re cooking sing.