Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Balsamic Chicken

Let's just start by saying, not all vinegars are created equal.  When I was growing up, the only vinegar we kept on hand was white vinegar.  My dad, brothers and sister liked it on chicken and noodles, as well as cooked cabbage.  I found it revolting then, and still so today.  However, it does have a place in my house - I use it for cleaning and it does a bang-up job.  I don't mean to bad-mouth white vinegar, but it really didn't represent the other vinegars well.  Little did I know the wonders of apple cider, red wine or rice vinegars.  It was only after I had been cooking for a few years that I realized apple cider vinegar gives my homemade barbecue sauce a special tang, or red wine vinegar in spaghetti sauce adds a hidden depth and in place of some of the milk in the meatballs, keeps them moist with a bonus little zing of flavor, and that quick pickled cabbage is not NEARLY as good with any other except rice vinegar.  And nothing prepared me for the wonders of Balsamic Vinegar! 

Balsamic Vinegar!!  Did you hear the chorus of angels singing, "Aahhh," as you read those words?  I did.

Never would I have guessed that you could reduce a vinegar down to a glaze, and it would be so sweet and rich that you could put it on ice cream.  Or that, mixed with fruits such as strawberries, cranberries and raspberries, along with olive oil makes a light and tasty dressing for any manner of salad.  Not to mention a simple marinade for fresh tomatoes and basil.  But, balsamic vinegar can do all of those things beautifully, as well as about a million other uses - just let your mind go wild with the possibilities.

Today's recipe is very simple, but showcases that fantastic balsamic flavor perfectly.

Here is the Cast of Characters

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Lawry's season salt
Ground pepper
1 Onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 Teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 Cup, each, chicken broth and balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 Cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

Heat oil on medium heat in a large, nonstick skillet.  Add chicken breasts and onions.  Sprinkle with season salt and pepper.

Cook for about 5 minutes, until browned and turn.  Brown on other side, stirring onions, too.

Add chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, garlic and brown sugar.  Stir to combine.  Continue cooking on medium heat for 20 minutes.

Halfway through cooking time, turn chicken over.  It should be a nice caramel color, as it soaks up the balsamic.

As everything is bubbly along, the balsamic sauce should start to thicken up.  Once it does, turn your heat to medium-low.  You want it thick enough to spoon over the chicken, but not a goopy syrup.

Place the onions on top of the chicken breasts, and top with cheese.

Continue cooking just until the cheese is melted.

Plate the chicken and pour a little sauce over each piece.

This pairs very well with the Caramelized Onion Orzo with Mushrooms.


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