In keeping with last December's "bite-sized steps to a nutrient dense diet" this month's challenge is to develop the habit of marinating your meats, especially red meats. August is a busy and lazy month. As such any new "challenges" should be low-key. Marination is not time, nor labor, intensive, but like so many aspects of traditional cooking, it is forethought intensive.
For example, I have a pot roast that I punctured all over with my meat thermometer marinating in homemade buttermilk right now. It has been marinating for nearly two days, and I plan to cook the roast tomorrow. Some things take less time. I typically marinate steaks or ground meats at room temperature in olive oil and vinegar with spices for 15-45 minutes on the counter. Lamb shanks and some roasts I leave in a nice red wine for 12-24 hours.
The science behind marination is that raw and cultured mediums (buttermilk, extra virgin olive oil, vinegars, wine) will start eating, or pre-digesting, the meat for you which leaves less digestion work for your body to absorb the nutrients. Additionally, it imparts flavor and tenderizes the meat making it more satisfying on the palate. Marination is a not-so-secret technique of all good cooks. Biting into something flavorful, tender, and easy on the stomach later leaves any guest wanting to eat from your table again.
There is also creative joy when blending various herbs and spices to compliment meats. One of my favorite discoveries is cumin, fennel, salt and pepper in an olive oil base on lamb or pork chops. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes on the counter and then scrape off the fennel and broil them (or pan fry) for 4 minutes a side (estimated for a 1" thick cut).
Challenge for the month:
Plan for marination. Try something new or use your nose to create a new blend that gets your mouth watering in anticipation. Do you already have a favorite marinade? Please share it!