Let's Turn Marinating Upside Down

I looked up the word "marinate" in the dictionary the other day. The definition: "To steep (meat, fish, or vegetables) in a marinade." Okay. So then I looked up "marinade." The definition: "a savory, usually acidic sauce in which meat, fish, or a vegetable is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it."

This exercise was a half-dumb, half-satisfying way to prove that, technically speaking, marinating an ingredient doesn't need to happen before cooking it. As someone who's been reverse-marinating for decades, I already knew this intuitively, but just wanted to make sure the definition matched my experience.

Cooks in Spain, the Caribbean, and some South American countries have this excellent technique of marinating food after cooking called escabeche. Undoubtedly, many of you already know about it; for those who don't, it's kind of eye-opening. Either way, this chicken dish is the perfect entry point: fast, simple, approachable, and bursting with the bright and tangy flavor that escabeche is known for.

All you're doing here is grilling or broiling chicken breasts until they're just cooked through, slicing them, then bathing them in a hot mixture of sautéed red onions, orange juice, vinegar, and jalepeño (some sliced garlic wouldn't be out of line, either). The longer you let it marinate (up to 24 hours), the more the flavors will sink in; if you're going to do it for more than an hour, put it in the fridge.

This technique is pretty much limitless: cook some meat, or chicken, or fish (or tofu, or vegetables, or beans!), toss it with a vinaigrette (a warm one is traditional, but not required if whatever you're making is already fully cooked), and let it all hang out for a bit so the flavors develop. It's an especially useful trick for summer/grilling season, when we're both flush with simply cooked proteins and veggies that are thirsty for extra flavor, and more than willing to eat things at room temperature. Try it out; I can almost promise it will change your definition of marinating forever.

—Mark


CHICKEN ESCABECHE


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