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Easy marinades, rubs add elegance to dinner

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Meal planning can be a bore. If you add watching your carbohydrates, it can be downright daunting. Sometimes I find that planning on what to eat is as much of a project as cooking what I eat. It does not have to be.

Every restaurant chef learns: after you create a good recipe and perfect it, you vary the way you use it and the food you prepare with it. After years in the kitchen, I have

Courtesy of Decadent Diabetic
Easy marinades can change flavor depending on the protein it’s used with, such as this chicken.

figured out that what works for one protein usually works for others.

Think about the menus in many Asian/American restaurants. They have chicken lo mien, pork lo mien, or shrimp lo mien. It is the same base and flavorings just changing up the proteins. Each has its own special flavor.

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Most of us eat the basic three protein groups: Chicken, beef and pork. There are enough of us that also enjoy fish. Figuring out how to keep them interesting can be as simple as devising a couple of marinades or rubs that can be used interchangeably with any of those proteins.

A marinade is as easy to create as a salad dressing. There is no mystery, just combine some of your favorite flavors, making sure there is also a fat and an acid in the mix, stir them up and soak your chicken, beef and pork in it. Fish works better if the marinade is spooned or brushed over it just before cooking.

Here are two very different and super easy marinades that I use with minor adjustments for chicken, pork, beef and fish. This is so easy to make and keep on hand that you get days and days of not having to think about creating something to cook. Each protein changes the flavor enough that you may not realize that it all came from the same formulas.

Different cooking methods change the flavors even more. Grilling it outside in good weather makes it taste entirely different than roasting it in the oven or pan searing it.

I use these marinades interchangeably for chicken, salmon, shrimp, beef and pork, and by tripling the amount of oil in the balsamic marinade, you can use it as a salad dressing. These are basic recipes. It is enough for two chicken breasts, two salmon fillets, a two-pound pork roast, four pork chops or two steaks.

The trick is to use the best ingredients you can afford. I personally like to use a sweet syrupy balsamic like Ariston, which is finally available here in Albuquerque.

After you try my versions, start adding to them to create your very own “world famous” version.

Chef Ward Alper retired to Albuquerque after being a professional chef in Boston and New York City. He blogs as “The Decadent Diabetic: Taking Back My Life and Table,” thedecadentdiabetic.com.

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BALSAMIC MARINADE

Carbohydrates: 2-3 g. per serving

3 tablespoons Ariston or any syrupy balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Juice and zest of ½ lemon (for fish and/or chicken)

2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence

1 medium shallot minced

2 garlic gloves, grated or minced

Salt and pepper to taste (or your doctor’s advice)

Combine and shake in a jar or whisk in a bowl before brushing or spooning over the protein.

In a nonreactive container (glass, plastic or ceramic) marinade beef, chicken or pork for at least one hour, but overnight is best. Fish should only be in the marinade for 45 minutes to one hour. Remove from liquid and pat dry before cooking. You can strain the marinade, bring to a boil, reduce by half, and use as a simple pan sauce.

Dry the protein before cooking.

ASIAN MARINADE

Carbohydrates: 2-3 g. per serving

3 tablespoons soy sauce (“lite” will still work here)

2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice blend

½ teaspoon ground ginger

2 garlic cloves grated or minced

1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine (optional)

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine and shake in a jar or whisk in a bowl before brushing or spooning over the protein.

Dry the protein before cooking.

This works on the grill, in the oven, in a skillet or in a wok. If using a wok, be sure to cut the protein into bite sized portions.

For chicken: On the grill at medium low setting 15-17 minutes per side. In the oven at 350 degrees F 45-50 minutes, turning once. In a sauté pan at medium setting 12-15 minutes per side.

For salmon: On the grill at medium low setting, 8-10 minutes per inch. In the oven at 400 degrees F, 10-12 minutes per inch.

For pork roast: In the oven, 10 minutes at 400 degrees F then reduce heat and cook for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

For pork chops or steak: On the grill at medium low setting, 15-17 minutes per side. In a sauté pan at medium setting 7-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the chop or steak.

EASY RUB

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon chile powder

½ teaspoon Herbs de Provence

¼ teaspoon sugar or sugar substitute

1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all dry ingredients together. Oil the beef, chicken or pork. Apply the rub. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

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