Lest you be misled as I was, balsamic vinegar is not made from the balsam flower (which, incidentally, is quite lovely).
Nope, it seems that the word balsamico means "restorative" or "curative" in Italian (can anyone confirm that?), and in my experience, that could certainly be an apt definition. Sniffing the straight vinegar will clear your sinuses right out, and eating anything drizzled with a balsamic reduction will quickly and effectively improve my day, however dreary it may be.
Because of that, I keep a squeeze bottle of balsamic reduction on hand and find myself adding it to lots of things, whether the recipes list it as an ingredient or not. This particular recipe, however, does call for it, and it's an awesome component. The other pieces are pretty fantastic too--herb-coated chicken, melted mozzarella, garden-fresh tomatoes, and lovely, verdant basil join forces to create an incredible meal that comes together easily and tastes amazing.
Balsamic Reduction (Atop Baked Caprese Chicken)
Based on this recipe
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar*
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 boneless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- 1/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
To make the balsamic reduction, add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a slight boil and reduce by half, about 6-8 minutes; set aside and let cool. If it's too thick, add a little more vinegar and melt it in.
In a small bowl, combine olive oil, basil and oregano; season with salt and pepper, to taste; slather onto the chicken.
Melt butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and sear both sides until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Place into oven and roast until the chicken is completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, about 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts.
Top each chicken with mozzarella cheese, then broil for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese has melted completely.
Serve immediately, topped with sliced tomatoes, drizzled with balsamic reduction, and garnished with basil.
*As I'm wont to do, I bought one of the cheapest bottles of balsamic vinegar at my grocery store. By sheer coincidence, America's Test Kitchen did a taste test of supermarket balsamic vinegar not long after that, and the bottle I gotwas actually recommended!