Sweet & Spicy Marinade


My grandmother says that chicken is like a blank canvas. You probably won’t get salmonella from eating a blank canvas, but other than that, she’s spot on. Since I stocked my chicken-roasting arsenal over the winter (see Garlicky Rosemary Roast Chicken), I’ve been going “ham,” making chicken at least once a week. Now that I’m more comfortable de-gutting, cleaning, and generally handling an eight-pound dead bird, I’ve become more adventurous with my preparation methods.


Adventurous as I may be, all of my endeavors have included a common thread: garlic. Garlic is my lifeblood. I’m fairly certain that 90% of my meals include it in either roasted, sautéed, or raw form. Maybe that’s why Robert Pattinson never asked me out...


In the book Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (my culinary and literary idol), he warns against using a garlic press. He says, “I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out of the end of those things but it ain’t garlic.” In my book, whatever he says goes, so I’ve kept my distance from them. Though I’ve taught myself a thing or two about mincing garlic, the tiny flecks never totally blend in with whatever I’m adding them to, be it salad dressing, stir fry, or marinade.


Cue: my othergrandmother, master chef and yogi (I took a Pop Physique class with this woman a few weeks ago and she can do the splits. THE SPLITS!). Being the supportive grandmother that she is, she reads my blog. Remember when, a few weeks back, I mentioned that a zester would be next on my kitchen wishlist? Well, guess what showed up in the mail a few days later, courtesy of my fairy grandmother?


My microplane zester is my new favorite toy. It comes in handy for zesting lemons, chocolate, ginger, and you guessed it – garlic. Anthony might not be on board with this stuff, but when you’re in college and don’t have a million dollar knife set at your disposal, something’s gotta give.



The great thing about using the zester for garlic is that it minces the cloves super fine (almost into a paste) so that it gets fully integrated into whatever you’re cooking. For me, this means more garlic coverage when I’m marinating, roasting, and basting my chicken.


If you’ve ever roasted garlic, you know a thing or two about that smooth, velvety, creamy flavor that comes with it. But if you’re a garlic fiend like me, you just as much love the bite and burn of the raw stuff. For this marinade, I capture both of these flavors, plus some Asian flare, because, you know, why not?


Though the marinade may seem super spicy when you taste it, fear not. These flavors will all soak into your chicken, leaving you with a crispy skin and tangy meat.


·      5 garlic cloves, minced or “zested”
·      1 teaspoon paprika
·      ½ teaspoon chili powder (for a smokier flavor) or cayenne pepper (for a spicier kick)
·      1 teaspoon fresh chopped or “zested” ginger (or ½ teaspoon ground ginger)
·      ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
·      2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (found in Asian markets or at Trader Joe’s)
·      ½ cup olive oil
·      ½ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
·      3 tablespoons light brown sugar


1. Place garlic and spices in a jar.
2. Using a spoon, a dull knife, or a small spatula, mix until ingredients forms a cohesive, thick paste.
3. Add olive oil, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce. Cover jar and shake until combined.
4. Add ginger (if using fresh) and brown sugar. Cover and shake again.


Check out my Garlicky Rosemary Roast Chicken post for instructions on how to marinade and cook the bird herself, or try it on pork chops or eggplant!