June 24, 2013

Tips for summer marinades

Executive chef offers advice on grilling favorite meat, fish

By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Hopefully, this should rub you the right way. 

Scott Murray, executive chef and owner of Anthony’s Restaurant and Bistro in Plattsburgh, offers a few tips on getting the most of the summertime marinade cooking season. First up, Murray offers an explanation of some culinary terminology.

“Marinade means to pre-rub your product and give it some time to, what I would say, cure for any length of time — all to infuse extra flavor,” he said. “And a marinade can either be wet or dry. Basically a rub is a dry marinade or a mixture of spices.”

Murray’s latest menu features a barbecue pork butt.

“When you talk barbecue, that normally means a seasoning of some sort and then some smoke is introduced as opposed to simply grilling,” he said.

Before smoking the pork, Murray adds a dry rub and lets it sit overnight.

“But it won’t be dry then,” Murray said. “The salt will draw some liquid out of the meat, and the moisture will moisten the dry rub. It almost creates a paste because you’re rehydrating those once-dry spices.” 

And that’s all in the name of flavor. When you do see that moist paste, do not remove. Murray says that’s the result you’re going for.

Meats, poultry and fish are all game for a good rubdown. Murray applies dry marinade rubs to the likes of pork butt, brisket, pulled pork, bison flank steak and salmon.

Barbecue dry-rub ingredients can go from complex, with up to 15 components, to simple, with as few as four to five ingredients.

How much rub should you add?

“It is a generous amount,” Murray said.

Murray takes a large pan, adds the spices and then rolls the meat in the mixture.

“The moisture of the protein will catch as much as it should have,” he said.

Fish will generally take a lighter rub. Murray opts for a mix of salt, pepper, sugar, coriander, garlic powder and dill. He lets it sit overnight. 

A full overnight marinade is best, but if you’ve got only a couple of hours before dinner, Murray says a simple mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika will give a little extra appearance, crustiness and flavor.

“The thing you have to be careful about is burning your spices on a live grill,” Murray said. “You don’t want it to burn, you want it to caramelize.”

For example, Murray said he takes the dry-rubbed bison flank steak “and then we douse it with a chimichurri sauce when it goes on the grill.” Chimichurri is an Argentinean original of blended parsley, olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, cumin, salt, garlic and hot pepper sauce.

“The rub will give you nice grill lines, and it won’t burn because it’s been rehydrated.”

The cooking time depends on the size of the meat portion. A flank steak should take about eight minutes to cook. A bit longer for a pork butt.

“You can’t cook a larger piece of meat through on the grill without burning the spices,” Murray said. “So I would sear the pork butt on all sides on the grill to get the smoke and grill marks, and then move that to a low oven.”

Above all said, is it possible to mess this up?

“I’m not a proponent of that philosophy,” Murray said. “I believe that in the culinary world, you do what tastes good. If you cook something and you enjoyed it, it’s not wrong. You’re not making a mistake if it tastes good.”