The culinary world is one fraught with pitfalls due in part to the ever-changing palate of the public. Moreover, it is the same public that also tends to be swayed by a pendulum of sorts when it comes to food trends, and right now, one of the most interesting trends is the rise of aged balsamic vinegar.
In passing, it is featured in quick cooking segments on television, and on occasion, it earns a little press because it is different than some traditional food flavorings. However, if you talk to true aficionados of aged balsamic vinegar, one begins to understand how many of our popular opinions about this product are simply misconceptions.
Aged balsamic vinegar is not acrid or bitter (the word ‘vinegar’ makes most people salivate immediately to help cleanse their palate). It is sweet & sumptuous, and it elevates foods to new levels of deliciousness. The process of making aged balsamic vinegar is labor-intensive & requires great attention to everything from choosing the right ingredients to how it is aged. In many respects, it’s best to think of it being very similar to the production and aging of a fine wine. But where wine can be paired with a meal to make it complete, good aged balsamic vinegar can transform a meal.
For those who are just now stepping into this exotic world of flavor, you may be wondering how best to use this elixir. Rather than scour the internet looking for just the right application, here are five new, unique ways to use this beautiful product:
Reductions – Chefs know that when you want to ‘amp’ up the flavor of a liquid, you can reduce it over heat so that it concentrates all of the flavor notes. This reduction all creates an even greater syrupy consistency.
Marinades – Adding a touch of aged balsamic can make a traditional marinade for any meat or fish have depth & complexity.
Palate Enhancement – Because of its high quality & specific flavor notes, even an aperitif/digestif approach is quite doable.
Soda Alternative – Combining a shot of aged balsamic with some soda water makes for a very unique alternative to soda or pop.
Desserts – Since you’re buying a top-quality product already, pair your aged balsamic with some top-tier vanilla ice cream. It’s a simple dessert that will pack a massive punch in flavor for you & your guests.
Now, it must be noted that foodies the world over will tell you that using true aged balsamic vinegar in any format where the flavor is either being cooked down, out, or amplified is akin to blasphemy. In their minds, there was no reason to improve on the flavor because the process, with a history dating back at least 1,000 years, has been perfected to impart all you need in terms of flavor. But when you’ve got such a great weapon in your culinary arsenal, why wouldn’t you want to shake things up a bit to get the most out of it?
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