Buttermilk is good for much more than just pancakes and salad dressings. When you use it as a marinade, it adds delicate flavor to foods. It also packs a gentle punch of acidity that tenderizes effectively without toughening meat, which often happens with highly acidic marinades. Add extra seasonings, such as herbs and spices, to make a tasty marinade customized to your personal palate.
In addition to imparting a slight tang and delicate creaminess, buttermilk interacts with the protein in meats and seafood to optimize texture. The benefits differ slightly, depending on the type of meat you're marinating.
Although the timing varies depending on the type of food you're marinating -- fish can be soaked for a few minutes or longer, while game meats typically benefit from longer marinating times -- the process remains the same.
Step 1: Mix the Marinade
You can use straight buttermilk, or whip up a flavorful blend of herbs and spices to infuse your dish with tons of flavor. For example, whisk the buttermilk with mustard, hot sauce, paprika, garlic, onion, honey or fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley. Use approximately 1 cup of buttermilk for each pound of meat.
Step 2: Combine it With the Other Ingredients
Trim any excess fat and cut the meat into pieces, if desired. Add the meat or seafood to a resealable bag or a baking dish and pour the marinade over it.
Step 3: Set the Timer
If you're marinating shrimp or delicate fish fillets, you want to watch the clock. Otherwise, you might end up destroying the texture of your dish rather than enhancing it. Firm fleshed fish and meat can typically withstand marinating times of several hours to overnight or longer.
Step 4: Get Cooking
Drain the meat of seafood from the marinade and cook it according to your recipe instructions. Baked, broiled, fried or grilled -- you can use this marinade with nearly any cooking technique.