It's one of the easiest and most versatile tricks in the kitchen - balsamic reduction. All it takes is the vinegar, a sauce pan, a whisk and heat and you have a syrupy topping that can be used on anything from chicken to ice cream. I recently discovered white balsamic vinegar which is essentially the same as it's darker counterpart but a little less thick, a little less sweet and, as you would imagine by the name, clear. It's processed in a similar manner with white grapes and white wine vinegar and simmered over low heat to develop the syrup and then aged to enrich the flavor. In my opinion, the real advantage to swapping for the clear version is purely aesthetic; you get the flavor without changing the coloring of your food.
To make a reduction, simply pour the balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan and bring to a boil, whisking often so as not to burn. Reduce the heat to let it simmer until the liquid reduces by half. Word to the wise - stand back when the heat hits the vinegar unless you are looking to clear your sinuses.
Balsamic Glazed Asparagus Spears
14-16 thin, fresh Asparagus spears
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
1 tbsp balsamic reduction
2 slices honey ham
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Snap asparagus spears at the bottom at natural breaking point to remove tough stems. Coat with olive oil and salt and pepper and place over indirect heat on a preheated grill. Baste with balsamic reduction while the spears cook for approximated 6-8 minutes. Halfway thru grilling, divide spears equally and place one slice of ham over each group to warm. Pull from grill and roll spears into a 'log', folding ham over the group and placing seam side down. Top with diced tomato and grated cheese to serve. The sweetness of the ham is the perfect compliment to the balsamic reduction.
Balsamic Glazed Chicken
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tbsp balsamic reduction
Clean and trim the chicken breasts, salt and pepper liberally and place in a shallow container. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and pour over chicken. Let the meat rest in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
Preheat the grill to about 400° and oil grates prior to placing the marinated chicken on the grill. While the chicken cooks (about 5 minutes on each side), baste liberally with the balsamic reduction. Let chicken rest for about 5 minutes prior to serving.
You'll find yourself using this reduction on everything...promise!