Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lime-Cilantro Marinade

Marinades make meat much more flavorful, which makes it easier for us to eat* (as well as more enjoyable)! This is especially true of my two favorite things to grill: steak and salmon. This marinade works equally well for both of those meats, although you would marinate steak for 2-3 hours (especially thicker cuts), but salmon only needs 30-60 minutes (it's much more delicate).


  • 1/2 cup olive oil (regular, not extra-virgin)
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 jalapeno chili
  • 2 cups whole cilantro (stems and leaves) loosely packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


Peel the garlic. Cut off the stem end of the jalapeno and discard. Split the jalapeno body down its length and chop into 1-inch long pieces. Put everything in a blender and puree on medium until all the vegetables are minced and it has a uniform consistency, about 15-20 seconds. Marinate the target meat for 1-3 hours and cook as usual (I like grilling).

* It is a common misconception that a marinade "tenderizes" meat. I quote Alton Brown's seminal cooking tome, I'm Just Here for the Food:
Sure, acidic liquids can dissolve proteins and even plant cellulose, but the effect is localized to the surface of the target food...
The reason that marinades seem to tenderize has more to do with flavor than any actual textural alterations. Most marinades contain salty, sweet, acidic, and spicy components. When these compounds are drawn into meat via capillary action, they strongly season the meat. Then you cook it, slice it, and put it in your mouth. Immediately the salt and acid flavors divebomb your taste buds, which in turn tell your saliva glands to start pumping. By the time you're onto your third chew your food is thoroughly lubricated, and since saliva contains enzymes like amylase, the meat is already well on its way to becoming an easy-to-digest goo. Marinades may not actually do much in the way of tenderizing meat, but their use does help us to tenderize it.

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