Ask a chef what their favourite culinary “secret weapons” are, and you may hear of a magical marinade that takes proteins and vegetables to new heights. We’ve informally surveyed chefs and caterers about what’s new on the marinade front and found that, while some like it hot, others want a seriously savoury boost.
The guajillo chile is a favourite in Mexico, due to a tangy sweetness some say tastes of dried cranberries. The dried chiles can be rehydrated and used in a guajillo adobo or marinade, combined with red wine vinegar, avocado leaves (another Mexican staple), cumin seeds, oregano, crushed garlic and grated onion. Toronto-based Santo Pecado’s caterer/owner Paola Solorzano uses this to marinate everything from pork, chicken and beef to meaty mushrooms.
Gochujang, the quintessential Korean condiment, is a fermented red-chile paste that’s both spicy and sweet/tart. You’ll find it seasoning tubs of Korean kimchi and spicing up bowls of rice-based bibimbap. This umami-rich ingredient is usually paired with tamari, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and honey to create a deep and delicious marinade for everything from cauliflower steaks to kalbi (Korean beef short ribs).
The vinegary tang and salty kick of pickled-vegetable brines — be it dill pickles, green beans or olives — is coveted by some chefs. Try marinating chicken, seafood or fish in a pickled-veg brine before deep frying or cooking and watch flavour and juiciness go through the roof.
Pro tip: save some brine to add to vinaigrettes, Bloody Caesars or even homemade pizza sauce.
Written by Mary Luz Mejia