Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.
What Is Balsamic Vinegar?
As early as 900 years ago, artisans in Modena in Italy were making this lovely vinegar, and it was used as a health tonic and given as a token of esteem. It's perfect for bringing out the sweetness in foods, especially fruits. It's stunning with strawberries.
Some balsamic varieties are allowed to age for 100 years. Needless to say, these are exceedingly expensive. Cheaper, grocery store varieties can be vastly improved by reducing them, concentrating their sweetness.
Pan Seared Chicken Breast in Balsamic Reduction Sauce Recipe
There is a lot to adore about this dish. It's fast, simple, inexpensive, and healthy. Quick and easy enough for family meals and elegant enough for company, this fabulous treatment for chicken is savory and rich. It gets its primary punch of flavor from the searing of the chicken over relatively high heat and finishes with a just touch of butter to maximize the flavor.
The sauce goes together in moments, finishes reducing while the chicken rests, and uses only three ingredients. Assemble the minimal ingredients ahead of time, and this dish will allow you to still enjoy your guests or family while you cook. That's a rockstar recipe for any day or occasion!
Tips for Success
A couple of things to keep in mind.
Purchase Skin-On, Bone-In Breasts to Cut Costs
if you wish to cut the cost of this dish as much as possible (although it's very low to begin with), purchase skin-on, bone-in breasts and debone them yourself. I found this particular batch for $1.38 a pound and did exactly that. The entire package was less than $6 for four good-sized pieces. The remaining ingredients were less than another $1.50—and this served six people for an entire cost of about $7.50 for a terrific dish. True—you do need to watch the sales, but it can certainly happen, and skinning and boning the chicken yourself can really help.
Buy Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
Don't go crazy on the balsamic vinegar, but make sure you get one that is good because you'll concentrate the flavor for the sauce, so it does need to be a quality product. It's not necessary to use a 30-year-old variety, but make sure you find a good 5-7 year one at least. A really good, aged balsamic vinegar is worthy of being a sauce by itself - you don't want to reduce those. Use the good stuff on strawberries with ice cream. Give the plain vinegar a taste before you use it if you aren't familiar with the brand. Make sure you like the flavor and that there's none of the bitterness that can happen with some of the less expensive brands. This part might take a bit of trial and error. I've found some inexpensive varieties that are really good and some are just plain awful. If you end up with one that just isn't good, substitute red wine vinegar for the balsamic. Don't concentrate on unpleasant flavors.
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On the other hand, give the plain vinegar a taste before you use it if you aren't familiar with the brand. Make sure you like the flavor and that there's none of the bitterness that can happen with some of the less expensive brands. This part might take a bit of trial and error. I've found some inexpensive varieties that are really good and some are just plain awful. Go the online and find a relatively inexpensive brand with a good rating, then give it a try yourself. If you end up with one that just isn't good, substitute red wine vinegar for the balsamic. Don't concentrate unpleasant flavors of a cheap balsamic vinegar you don't like - it's just not worth it.
That's it! This one is all kinds of yummy. Give it a shot, and you'll be hooked!
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-6)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup chicken broth (homemade if possible)
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan and heat well.
- Sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces with the garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper. Once the oil and pan are very hot, add chicken to the pan. Allow it to sear on the side without moving it for about 8-9 minutes depending on the size.
- Flip the chicken once, and sear the second side for another 8-9 minutes. Both sides should now have a beautiful, deep, rich golden-brown crust. Remove to a platter and allow the chicken to rest.
- Add balsamic vinegar and chicken broth to the hot skillet, whisking well and scraping up the fond—the brown bits from the bottom of the pan—with the whisk. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and allow the sauce to reduce by about a third, or until it thickens slightly. Add the butter to the pan and whisk in.
- Taste, and adjust sauce for salt and pepper, seasoning to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken on the platter, and top with freshly chopped parsley. All done!
Hey! What's a Pan Sauce, Anyway?
A pan sauce is exactly what it sounds like, and it's nothing to be afraid of. After you sear off a piece of protein—chicken, pork, steak or fish, use the 'fond' to make a sauce. Fond is simply the French word for foundation, and it refers to the brown bits left in the skillet after something is seared.
After you cook the chicken, the brown bits in the pan are 'deglazed' with the balsamic vinegar. This just means you add liquid to the hot skillet, and scrape up all the brown bits, which then incorporate into the sauce. Those brown bits carry an incredible amount of flavor, and instead of leaving them behind, turning them into a sauce elevates a simple dish to one that's restaurant-worthy.
Once you've tried this recipe, try the technique with other ingredients. Swap out the vinegar for white or red wine, cider vinegar with pork, red wine for a steak, or broth for a piece of fish. It's a method that will elevate your dishes, and you'll quickly make it a favorite.
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© 2010 Jan Charles