Culinary Tips From Gustare: Techniques for Using Seasons Oils & Vinegars
Coat food in a mixture of Gustare olive oil and/or balsamic and let it rest for a certain amount of time. The purpose of marinating is for the food to absorb the flavors of the marinade or, as in the case of a tough cut of meat, to tenderize it. Because most marinades contain acidic ingredients (4 percent in a dark balsamic and 6 percent in a white balsamic), the marinating should be done in a glass, ceramic or stainless steel container or in a ziplock bag — never in aluminum. For each pound of food to be marinated (meat, poultry, fish, vegetables), use 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic. Mix contents well and distribute evenly over food. Cover container.
For best results, marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or up to 6-8 hours, in the refrigerator. Turn food halfway through marinating time. Remove food from the refrigerator at least 30–45 minutes before cooking and allow it to come to room temperature. Remove from marinade. Brush on any residual marinade during cooking. (Note: When fruits are similarly prepared, the term used is macerate.)
Slowly add olive oil to a balsamic while whisking vigorously. This disperses and suspends minute droplets of one liquid throughout the other. Emulsified mixtures are usually thick and satiny in texture. Emulsifying will allow you to evenly disperse a vinaigrette flavor over salads and fruit. For a vinaigrette, the usual ratio is 1:3 (e.g., 1 tablespoon balsamic to 3 tablespoons olive oil). You will notice that olive oils and balsamics hold together much better and longer in an emulsion than other oils and distilled vinegars.
Brush or drizzle any balsamic on meat, fish, fruit or vegetables. Cook over medium heat in a pan coated with 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil until the naturally occurring sugars in the balsamic become thicker and sticky, helping to brown (caramelize) the surface of the food.
Cook food quickly in 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Authentic olive oils will withstand heat of up to 300–325 degrees.
After meat, poultry or fish has been sautéed in olive oil and the food and any excess oil has been removed from the pan, deglazing is done by adding a small amount of balsamic to the pan and stirring to loosen browned bits of food on the bottom. The mixture often becomes a sauce to accompany the food cooked in the pan.
Bring balsamic to a simmering boil. Whisk constantly while maintaining a slow boil, until 50 percent of the volume is reduced by evaporation, thereby thickening the consistency and intensifying the flavor. Such a mixture is sometimes referred to as a reduction or a glaze and is used to finish both sweet and savory dishes.