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What's the marinade's mystery ingredient? Miso.

What's the marinade's mystery ingredient? Miso

In Hawaii, fermented soy bean paste-- miso--is a favorite marinade and seasoning for barbecued foods. It adds a rich flavor and helps develop an appealing brown surface on the grilled foods. Here we offer a simple miso marinade and a choice of meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables to use with it.

You may have tasted miso at a Japanese restaurant. It's the cloudy substance that swirls up from the bottom of the clear broth called miso soup.

Miso tastes like a cross between peanut butter and a gravy base sauce like the British Marmite or Australian Vegemite. Miso comes in buff to brown tones. The darker the color, the richer and meatier the flavor.

Shopping for miso. Japanese markets and some health food stores sell miso. Stored airtight, it lasts almost indefinitely in the refrigerator.

In Japan, more than a hundred misos are available, but few appear in American markets. Those available here are mainly of two kinds--aka (red) miso and shiro (white) miso. A third that's often seen is a blend of the two, called awase (combination) miso. Variations on the three include mild miso with less salt, sweet miso with millet jelly, and miso soup mix that also contains concentrated dashi (fish stock) and kelp.

Since most of the labels are written in Japanese, color is the best clue to the kind you are buying. In general, lighter misos will have milder flavor, darker types are stronger. If you want to buy mild or sweet miso or miso soup mix, you'll probably need translating help.

Miso Marinade Stir together 1/3 cup aka, shiro, or awase miso, 1/4 cup mirin (sweet cooking sake) or cream sherry, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Basis Miso Barbecue

Coat meat, fish, poultry, or vegetables with miso marinade, preceeding, as specified for each of the following foods.

To barbecue, ignite charcoal briquets on the fire grate. When lightly covered with gray ash, spread coals out in a single solid layer; you should have enough to extend at least 2 inches beyond perimeter of the foods when they are placed on a grill 4 to 6 inches above the coals. To check grill temperature, place your hand close to grill. For hot coals, you should be able to hold your hand there for only 2 to 3 seconds; coals are barely covered with gray ash and may have low flames. For medium coals, you will be able to hold your hand at grill level 4 to 5 seconds; coals are well covered with ash and may glow with heat. To maintain even heat, scatter 10 to 12 briquets over coals when you first spread them out, and every 30 minutes thereafter until foods are cooked. Cook foods as directed, following; to keep moist, brush with salad oil and extra marinade. Extinguish flames with water spray. Serve with shredded pickled red ginger, if desired.

Miso Grilled Meats, Poultry, Fish

Beef. Use 2 pounds boneless beef steak-- top round or sirloin, cut 1 inch thick, or flank steak. Cook steak whole, or if desired, slice across the grain in 1-inch-wide strips 1/8 inch thick. Mix with 1/2 cup miso marinade, preceding; cover, and chill at least 3 or up to 24 hours. Lift from marinade. Thread ribbons of beef onto bamboo skewers so they lie flat.

Place steaks or skewered meat on grill over hot coals (see barbecue directions, preceding). Barbecue, turning once, until browned outside but still red in center (cut to test), 8 to 10 minutes for steaks, 5 to 8 minutes for strips. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Chicken. Use 2 pounds boned chicken breast halves (5 to 7 oz. each). Mix with 1/2 cup miso marinade, preceding; cover and chill at least 3 or up to 24 hours. Lift from marinade.

Place breast halves on grill over medium coals (see barbecue directions, preceding). Barbecue, turning once, until meat is white in center (cut to test), 10 to 12 minutes total. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

iFish. Use 2 pounds salmon steaks or firm-textured white-fleshed fish, cut 1 inch thick. Mix with 1/2 cup miso marinade, preceding; cover and chill at least 3 or up to 24 hours. Lift from marinade.

Place fish on grill over medium coals (see barbecue directions, preceding). Barbecue, turning once, until fish in center is no longer translucent in thickest part (cut to test), 8 to 10 minutes total. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Pork. Use 2 pounds boneless pork chops (loin, rib, shoulder), cut 1 inch thick. Mix

Corn on cob. Pull off and discard husks cover and chill at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours. Lift from marinade.

Place chops on grill over medium coals (see barbecue directions, preceding). Barbecue, turning once, until meat in center is white (cut to test), 10 to 14 minutes total. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Miso Grilled Vegetables

If you like, offer a variety of grilled vegetables; you'll need about 1/4 pound total per serving.

Bell peppers. Cut large bell peppers in half lengthwise; stem and seed. Inside each pepper half, rub 1 1/2 tablespoons miso marinade, preceding.

Place peppers on grill over medium coals (see barbecue directions, preceding). Cook, turning once, until tender when pierced, about 15 minutes.

Corn on cob. Pull off and discard huska and silks from ears of corn. Rub 1/2 to 2 tablespoons miso marinade, preceding, over each ear.

Place corn on grill over medium coals (see barbecue directions, preceding). Cook, turning often, until lightly browned all over, 12 to 15 minutes.

Eggplant. Cut stem ends off slender Japanese or regular small eggplant. Cut Japanese eggplant in half lengthwise, regular eggplant lengthwise into 1 1/2-inch-thick wedges.

To blanch, bring about 3 quarts water to boiling in a 5- to 6-quart pan. Add eggplant (up to 1 lb. at a time). When water returns to boiling, cook until eggplant is barely tender when pierced, 2 to 3 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon; drain and set aside. Repeat with remaining vegetables. (If done ahead, cool, cover, and chill up to 24 hours.)

Rub 1 1/2 tablespoons miso marinade, preceding, all over each piece of eggplant. Place eggplant on grill (see barbecue directions, preceding) over medium coals. Cook, turning once, until browned and eggplant is very soft when pressed, 10 to 15 minutes.

Mushrooms. Mix 1 pound mushrooms (1-to 1 1/2-in. caps) with 1/4 cup miso marinade, preceding, to coat. Thread mushrooms through stems onto slender skewers.

Place mushrooms on grill (see barbecue directions, preceding) over medium coals. Cook, turning as needed, until browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

Onions. Peel medium-size onions and cut in half lengthwise. Blanch to soften slightly, 3 to 4 minutes (see eggplant, preceding). Cut onion halves in half again. Allowing about 2 tablespoons miso marinade, preceding, for each onion, rub onion quarters with marinade.

Place onion quarters on grill (see barbecue directions, preceding) over hot coals. Cook, turning once, until well browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Sweet potatoes. Scrub sweet potatoes (about 12 oz. each) and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wedges. Blanch (see eggplant, preceding) until barely tender when pierced, 4 to 5 minutes. Allow 3 tablespoons miso marinade, preceding, to coat each potato.

Place potatoes on grill (see barbecue, preceding). Cook over medium coals, turning once, until browned and soft when pressed, 10 to 15 minutes.

Photo: Which kind of miso--aka, the darkest one, or shiro, the palest? These and other variations of ferrmented soy bean paste are made from the same elements as Japanese-style soy sauce. The darker the color, the stronger the taste

Photo: Like peanut butter in consistency, miso even comes smooth or chunky. Its flavor recalls a vegetarian version of a rich meat stock, with a hint of nuttiness

Photo: Hot off the barbecue, miso-marinated salmon goes with sesame-dressed salad
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 1986
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