– Don’t be afraid to substitute. Make that Recipe youir own! Dominate it! Finish the check!
– More than a few friends have been horrified by my casual approach to marinades. However a fluid based on booze, salt and sugar is about as antiseptic as you can get: I just don’t worry about the meat going bad once it’s in the marinade. (And I’ve never given anybody food poisoning yet.) It also helps to buy meat from a butcher instead of a bulk food warehouse.
– Marinating in whiskies is among the most difficult to get right. Too long in the marinade and the oak barrel flavours become too strong. I tend to use the strongest whiskies (e.g. Makers 46, Lagavulin) when I want a quick marinade that the meat will only be in a couple of hours. My rule is: THE LONGER THE MEAT IS IN THE FLUID THE MILDER THE BOOZE.
– My favorite fluid, hands down, is Amontillado Sherry: Great acidity, lovely flavours, a bit of sweetness, and marination for an extra day makes it better.
– Red wine in recipes is particularly tricky. I almost always start with an unoaked inexpensive red like Naked Grape, and if the recipe works sub in wines I think that might improve it. With spicy sauces a good cabernet sauvignon is often best. With subtler recipes (eg. coq au vin) pinot noir and chianti seem best.
– Substituting half or more of the vinegar in a recipe with sauvignon blanc usually works well. Even when adding to marinades with whisky or red wine. (In fact I find it works especially well if the recipe calls for red wine and vinegar.)
– My standard substitution for all recipes for sugar is maple syrup.
– My standard substitution for chilis and cayenne is chipotle. Chipotle needs to be used with a bit of caution as it can overpower a recipe. I usually start with half as much chipotle to the recipe as recommended for cayenne.