Marinating in Liturgy

Sometimes I don’t have a recipe. I have an idea of what I want, but I don’t want to go find a recipe that both ticks the boxes of what I want and also meets my requirement of I-have-all-the-ingredients/substitutes. This happens to me a lot when it comes to marinades. I don’t buy bottled mixes (I don’t plan that well and they are expensive) and, as we have discussed previously, I’m not that great at following recipes. So sometimes, I’m making up a marinade.

The beauty of a marinade is that it is basically a chemical formula that can be customized to fit your flavor profile: you need an acid to break down the tough fibers of the meat (eg vinegar, citrus juice), a fat to absorb into the meat and to bind the flavors to the protein (eg oil) and whatever other flavors you wish to incorporate. So = 1 part acid, 2 parts fat, 1 part everything else. And voila! A marinade to make your food yummy! So for an easy Asian marinade, I went with the below combination:

Asian Marinade

For 2-3 pounds of meat

1/4 c rice vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 c soy sauce
2 c oil
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs ground ginger (fresh minced is even better)
1 tsp red pepper flakes

  1. Whisk together all ingredients and pour over meat. Refrigerate in a non-corrosive container (eg. ziploc bag, stainless steel, glass or ceramic) for at least two hours, overnight is ideal.

To me, growing up with kitchen chemistry is much like having grown up in church. I mean that somewhat literally– my mom is the daughter of a food chemist and my dad is a Presbyterian minister and has been since before he even met my mother. Following God’s call for my father’s ministry, we moved around a number of times, starting from scratch each time. While that process was sometimes challenging, just like beginning to cook without a recipe, I started to learn that we were never truly starting from scratch. God was preparing a congregation to meet us and preparing us to become a part of that new congregation.

Our congregations were fairly similar to one another– midsize family churches with some young families and just as many shut-ins, with traditional, liturgical worship services with remarkable organists and always a Church Martha. And even after I moved out on my own and started choosing my own churches, I chose the same sort of church. In many ways, I am a creature of habit.

What I’ve realized is that whenever I became a part of a new church, I didn’t have to start from scratch in figuring out what I wanted and needed. There is a basic formula which has flexibility in the flavors, but not in the chemical makeup (fat and acid). The flavor of my church was variable (the music, style, chairs vs pews) but the core was not (theology). I have found that the liturgy somehow seems to combine these two in just the right way for me. Continue reading


Spiritual Spoon-Feeding

Thanks to the military, my husband’s schedule is never a sure thing. Aside from long nights and phone calls at 4 am to confirm the paperwork he signed or to call him in to evacuate planes, there’s the constant change in shifts. After nearly a year on the midnight shift (similar to the traditional third shift), he spent about six weeks on days (the traditional first shift) and was recently moved to swing shift (basically second shift) for a few weeks. Once those weeks end, he will be some sporadic days of work and appointments, then some leave and then off to deployment in the desert for four months. Life married to the Air Force, even in our ‘easy’ corner of the world, stateside with minimal danger and longer station assignments, is hardly predictable or consistent.

All that is to say that the last few weeks while he has been on swing shift have been challenging. Our time together is minimal because I’m usually in bed by the time he gets home and he is still asleep when I get up in the morning. We usually have about half an hour together before I go to work. And then he is gone when I get home. It should be no surprise that I highly value the time spent around a dinner table and this schedule makes this impossible. It has put quite the damper on my cooking spirit! When I was single, I still cooked for myself quite a bit, but now that I’ve got someone that I get to cook for, lacking that is such a bummer!

So tonight I insisted on cooking (a bit) and putting together some of my favorite flavors to make:

Barbeque Chicken with Cornmeal Mush

(fancy people call it polenta)Barbeque Chicken with Cornmeal Mush (Polenta)
1 c yellow cornmeal*
3 c beef or chicken broth (water also works)
2 c cooked, shredded chicken**
1/4 c barbeque sauce (recipe below, or your favorite bottled sauce)

Toppings of your choice, such as:
pickle slices
pickled jalapeños
sliced raw onions
cole slaw/raw cabbage

  1. Bring the broth or water to a boil in a shallow saucepan. Once at a boil, whisk in the cornmeal bit by bit, whisking rapidly until smooth. Stir quickly and regularly to avoid clumps. Allow to cook over medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes, depending how thick you’d like it. Add a dollop of butter or margarine, if you like it a bit creamier.
  2. Toss the chicken with the barbeque sauce (below) and spoon over the cornmeal mush. Allow each person to top with pickles, peppers, cole slaw, etc as they prefer their own barbeque. The cornmeal mush is like the cornbread!

Kansas City-style Barbeque Sauce (adapted from Food Network)
Yields 1 quart
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c ketchup
3 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs corn starch (+ 3 Tbs water, whisked into a cornstarch slurry)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp liquid smoke

  1. Bring the oil to temperature in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Before it bubbles, add the onions and garlic, cook until transparent.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch slurry and liquid smoke. Add a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the liquid smoke, then slowly incorporate the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce. Allow to cook for a few more minutes, longer if you like it thicker (it will thicken as it cools, as well).
  4. Strain, if desired.

*polenta works, too, but it is effectively the exact same thing, just a little more finely ground and about three or four times more expensive
**I use shredded chicken quarters that I boiled to make chicken stock a few days ago (quarters are pretty much the cheapest cut of chicken and have lots of dark meat flavor!)

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