Beyond vinaigrette?
December 26, 2007 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Need some great recipes with fancy vinegars.

So for Christmas my folks got me a gourmet goody box. Some pate, imported cheeses, nice chocolates, etc. Included were two bottles of fancy vinegar, one sherry and one balsamic. I'd like to have some ideas for wonderful things to cook with these. I know...... salads....... but I'd like something beyond that. I know my way around a kitchen just fine, but a brief perusal of some cookbooks isn't turning up anything beyond the typical vinaigrettes.
posted by Ragma to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If it is really good balsamic vinegar, a little bit drizzled on vanilla ice cream and/or fresh strawberries is fantastic.
posted by TedW at 10:09 AM on December 26, 2007

The only thing I can think of that I know how to cook that features Balsamic in such a way that it matters whether or not you use a good one is grilled steak.

What you need:
- Steak (NY Strip, get a good one from your local butcher or Whole Foods)
- Your Balsamic
- A Dry Rub of your choosing. Whole Foods has a Southwestern one that I really like.

- Get your grill (whatever type you prefer) going and get it as hot as possible. At least 600 deg F.
- Take the steak and poke a bunch of holes in it with a fork on both sides.
- Pour the vinegar onto the steak slowly. Use your fingers to make sure it gets into the holes. You don't want to put so much that it just runs off--you want just enough to get the dry rub to stick.
- Apply dry rub generously, patting down with your fingers to make sure it sticks.
- Flip to the other side and repeat.

- Cook for 1 minute on the first side, flip, cook 5-6 minutes on the second side, flip and rotate 90 degrees and cook another minute or two on the first side. (rotate so you get a nice square grill pattern on the meat) You'll have to try a few times to get the timing exact for your grill.

Now there will be some nay-sayers that say you should not be poking holes in the meat. This is generally true in that it provides an exit for all the juices that make the steak not dry out. However, remember step one where you got the grill really hot? This does two things. 1) it sears those holes shut (works best on a cast-iron grill, however) and 2) it lets you cook the steak for a short period of time at a high temp so you can have it medium rare and not get any parasites.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:13 AM on December 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sorry jeffamaphone, your recipe actually sounds pretty good, but both of your last points are false. Searing meat at high temp to "seal in the juices" does no such thing (see Harold McGee's experiments on the subject), and the cooking temp has zero effect on killing any parasites in your meat - only the temperature of the meat itself. Hopefully, you don't have any parasites in your meat to begin with, and you're only worried about microbial infection. However, I would not use a high quality balsamic vinegar (not the same as "a tasty balsamic vinegar"), as the heat will destroy the subtle flavors.

Some ideas for quality vinegar:

1) Use it to deglaze the pan after searing as the first component to building a pan sauce. Let it cook off until it doesn't smell acrid anymore, then add your stock, fruit reduction, cider, whatever... The vinegar will add a really nice complex undertone to your sauce.

2) It is unlikely that the "balsamic" is a true aged balsamico - more likely it's "balsamic-flavored". If it's the former, you don't want to cook it. If it's the latter, you can add some sugar and reduce it slowly until it forms a thick syrup. This balsamic glaze is tasty on a number of things. I like to serve it over parmesan chunks with strawberries in season, but it works well as a general sauce.

3) Sherry vinegar is a common component in the sauce for a number of Chinese stir-fries.
posted by Caviar at 11:03 AM on December 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wikipedia: note uses.
posted by bjgeiger at 11:44 AM on December 26, 2007

Caviar is right. Don't cook authentic aged balsamico. It's perfect with parmesan and/or strawberries. Just wait until the berries are in season and you've got quality parmesan.

For either vinegar, here's a great recipe for vinegar roasted shallots.

Check out food sites like Serious Eats and Epicurious for more ideas.
posted by LiveToEat at 11:52 AM on December 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

along the lines of what caviar says, I made a glaze the other night of balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, then drizzled it over a pork loin before roasting. Very simple and very, very tasty.
posted by scody at 1:10 PM on December 26, 2007

Well, it seems to me the holes that I poke get seared shut. If I could find some actual description of Harold McGee's findings, we could see if it applies. But all I can find are people who say that he says that "searing the meat to keep the juices in" doesn't.

As far as temp, yeah, I wasn't clear, but I figured we all know enough about cooking to know that you have to get the meat to a certain temp. The times I gave are the right times for the center of the meat to get to a high enough temperature for my grill. As I said, you'll have to find the right times and temp for your grill. And "parasites" is my generic term for anything that might harm you if not heated enough.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:00 PM on December 26, 2007

And, yeah, most cooking will have an effect on the vinegar that changes how it tastes, rending your choice of vinegar fairly insignificant. My suggestion has, for me, maintained a lot of the flavor of the original vinegar.

How thick is your vinegar? What is it's consistancy? Is it the same as normal basalmic or is it more viscous?
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:22 PM on December 26, 2007

There's a 5-page or so examination in McGee's book The Curious Cook. I don't have it handy, but the argument goes something like this - there are 5 pieces of evidence that water continues to leak out of a seared piece of steak: 1) it sizzles continually, indicating water escaping out of the bottom and being vaporized on the pan 2) the bottom of the pan browns progressively as you cook, indicating that something is carrying proteins out of the piece of meat, i.e.: water 3) you can see droplets of liquid pooling on the top as it cooks 4) when you remove it from the heat, juices pool around it on the plate 5) also on the plate, you can see steam rising from it - water escaping.

He also followed it up with moisture loss testing between pieces of meat initially seared then finished at a low temp and pieces of meat cooked continuously at low temp, both to the same final internal temperature, and found that they lost comparable amounts of moisture, with the seared pieces even sometimes losing more. He determined that the only good indicator of final juiciness given an equivalent starting piece is the final temperature of the meat, which does has a large effect.

Unfortunately, the book seems to be out of print, but you might be able to find it used. You can also use the Amazon search inside the book to look for "searing" and read at least some of the pages in the discussion.
posted by Caviar at 6:02 PM on December 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You don't need the book. Alton Brown did it on film. Searing doesn't help seal in juices. In fact his test had the seared steak lose more juice.
posted by Ragma at 7:57 PM on December 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are two things. 1) Does searing keep liquids in and 2) if you poke a hole before cooking, does searing close the hole? The cited research only applies to #1.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:58 AM on December 27, 2007

The answer to #1 is "no", so #2 is irrelevant.
posted by Caviar at 10:52 AM on December 27, 2007

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