The Purpose of a Marinade

We began the first of our two part series, Beef PhD, last night and spent the class learning about the various kosher cuts of beef and the different cooking methods used to show each of these cuts in their best light.  (Not everything is coming up prime rib and roses.)

We discussed cuts from the shoulder and chuck and how to braise them to obtain maximum flavour and tenderness.  Next week we will tackle brisket, which cuts to use for successful grilling, and the king of roasts, the prime rib.

One of the topics that came up was ‘marinade’.  What makes a good one and how do we use it in the dish itself?  (Rather than dumping it down the drain after we take out the meat.)  A marinade’s purpose is twofold.  It is meant to infuse flavour and also to tenderize tough cuts.  It does this by softening the connective tissue in the meat with some kind of acidic activity, such as with dry red wine, which also serves to complement the flavour of the beef.  Even though lemon juice or vinegar is acidic, you wouldn’t use as a marinade because it would overpower the meat’s delicious flavours.  (It wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate to marinate tender cuts of meat such as steaks from the rib, or even a rib roast, because the meat is already so very tender.)

Speaking about flavour infusion, the other ingredients should also serve to enhance, rather than mask.  It is sensible to include the aromatic vegetables; onion, garlic, carrots and celery in your marinade, as well as any fresh herbs that go with beef, such as parsley, bay and thyme.

There should always be a little oil in the marinade because fat carries flavour and how else can we get the flavours talking to each other?

If you are thinking ahead, plan on marinating your beef anywhere from four to six hours, on the counter, turning the meat every so often.  Or, you can refrigerate overnight, making sure you lift the meat out of the liquid and dry it very well with paper towelling before cooking.  Remember, damp meat doesn’t brown.  It’s the initial browning, whether in your heavy skillet, or on the grill, that sears in the flavour and tenderness.

Reduce the marinade by straining it and simmering in a saucepan to make a lovely sauce to serve with your beef and you’ll be well on your way to obtaining your Doctor of Delicious, a Beef PhD.

Let’s change the world one recipe at a time,

Nancy Weisbrod

Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

Following is a recipe for a marinade that can be used on any less-than-tender cuts of beef.  Here it is used with a shoulder roast

Beef Braised in Red Wine

Serves 8 – 10

4 pound cut of beef for braising

1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, trimmed and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, cut in half

1 Tablespoon thyme

2 bay leaves

¼ cup minced parsley

2 whole cloves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 – 4 cups good red wine

½ cup olive oil

2 – 3 cups beef stock or water

Place half of the vegetables and herbs in the bottom of the marinating dish.  Dry the meat well with paper towelling and rub with the salt and pepper.  Place the meat on the vegetables.  Spread the rest of the vegetables and herbs over the meat and pour on the wine and olive oil.  Let the meat marinate from 1 to 6 hours on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator.  Turn and baste the meat occasionally.

30 minutes before cooking, lift the meat out of the marinade and dry with paper towelling.  The meat will not brown if damp.

Heat another 2 – 3 Tablespoons of oil in a heavy casserole with a tight fitting lid.  Brown the meat well on all sides.  This can take up to 15 minutes.

Set the meat aside on a plate.

Pour the marinade into the casserole and boil it down until partially reduced (this boils off the alcohol).

Add 2 – 3 cups of beef stock or water to come half way up the meat.

Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Cover tightly and set in a preheated 325 oven.

Let the roast braise for 2 – 2 ½ hours.

Turn the meat occasionally while braising.

When the meat is tender, lift it out of the liquid.

Strain the liquid through a sieve into a saucepan and press the liquid out of the vegetables.

Simmer until the liquid is reduced and syrupy.  There should be approximately 2 cups finished liquid.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Slice the meat against the grain into thin slices, arrange on a platter and spoon the gravy over all.



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