Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sweet-n-Spicy Marinade: Saying Goodbye to Summer

Even though it's officially the last day of summer, we are hanging on to the last remnants of the season here in Northern Virginia, where it could reach the upper 80's today.  We've had some great weather the past week.  Luckily, my friends' gardens are still producing, and I am fortunate that they are generous, because it gives me a chance to use ingredients I wouldn't normally buy. For example, one of them gave me a couple of habaneros. I have never used them before, but I knew they were hot - they have heat, but still have a light, citrus-y flavor.  I thought a sweet and spicy marinade might be good.  I added honey and a little water to keep the heat from getting to be too much, and a little smoked paprika for depth.  I think it's a great combination of heat and sweet.

This marinade was good with chicken (marinated for about 3 hours), but I think it would taste great on shrimp, too.  Maybe even tilapia for fish tacos.  Be careful when marinating seafood, because the acid from the lime will start to cook the fish/shrimp, ceviche-style.

Another note: I would recommend grilling or broiling over pan-frying, just because the honey in the marinade will start to burn on the pan before the meat is done.  Here is a gnarly picture of the pan as I was cooking the chicken:

The chicken itself didn't burn (it tasted awesome) but when the marinade hit the heat, that honey made it really dark.

Sweet-n-Spicy Marinade


1 habanero pepper (could use jalapeno if that's what you have)
1 lime
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 bunch of cilantro, stems and leaves, rinsed
1/2 cup olive oil
(you could also add a little soy sauce or salt, if you like)

Cut the pepper in half and remove seeds and ribs inside the pepper (most of the heat of the pepper is held in the ribs, secondarily the seeds).  Drop pepper halves into a blender.  Cut lime into quarters, squeeze juice into blender, then toss the rest of the lime in.  Peel and coarsely chop garlic, add to the blender, along with honey, water, oil and cilantro.  Cover blender and puree all ingredients until nearly smooth (there should still be small bits, and that's okay).  Pour marinade over protein of choice.  I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but shrimp or tilapia would be good (no more than 20 minutes -- the lime juice will start cooking the meat - kind of like ceviche).  Pork would also work. Marinate pork or chicken for about an hour, but a little longer isn't going to hurt, either.

The family liked this one -- even my younger son, who is usually sensitive to spicy stuff.  The flavor of this is not punch-you-in-the-face spicy. It's subtle and light and doesn't linger on your tongue too long.  Hope you like it!

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