Last night's entree du jour was ribeye steaks with a balsamic reduction. I've tried doing reductons before and they've turned out horrifically. Luckily, this time it was terrific instead of horrific. I've figured out that I'm my culinary Achilles heels is flavor combinations. I really just don't know what goes together or what flavors and food compliment each other. I feel like I am just randomly throwing shit together like a six year old playing mad scientist.
I mean after all I am the knucklehead who once experimented with putting cinnamon in scrambled eggs. A fact that my wife will never ever everrrrrrrrr let me forget.
So I've learned to review a lot of recipes before I try something new. I don't always follow one specific recipe but try to get an idea of what is most commonly combined.In this case I opted to run with balsamic vinegar and port. I like balsamic vinegar and ...well....port was about the only other thing I could think of to add. I resisted the urge to try soy sauce, worchestshire, or other sauces I had seen a reduction recipe.....once.......about a decade ago.
It turned out to be a pretty good choice. The other thing I did right was to actually allow the liquid to "reduce". My typical MO is to throw the liquids in the pan and three minutes later whine about it not reducing fast enough. This time I was determined to put on my patience hat and wait it out. To make myself feel better about actually having to wait more than 2 minutes for magic to happen I watched a lot of videos on balsamic reductions to see just how sticky and non-runny the reduction should be.
This time I may have still taken it off too early but at least this time I was significantly closer to a reduction than I have been in the past. I did have to cover my nose with my shirt while the reduction was boiling off. The fumes were way stronger than I had anticipated. I'm still not sure if it was the balsamic vinegar or the alcohol in the port that was making my nose burn. The reduction itself turned out quite well. The balsamic gave it kind of a smokiness and acidity. (At least I think it did. Acidity is one of the fancy words I have learned on Top Chef and just been looking for an excuse to use). The neat thing though was the flavor the port brought. As it reduced the sweetness and the fruitiness of the reduction kept increasing. You can actually taste the "grapiness" of the port.
Of course, I have so little background in this I really don't know what I'm talking about. It could have very well been the balsamic that made it sweet and fruity. But I think anyway it was more likely the port. If I truly wanted to stick with only what I knew beyond a reasonable doubt then this blog would sound like Frankenstein wrote it "Reduction Good. Cinnamon Eggs bad."
In tasting it at the end of the night it really was remarkably edible. Not inedible at all. LOL, OK, it was pretty good. When my wife came home from work she commented that the house absolutely stunk and I'm pretty sure it was the reduction that stunk up the place.
I used about 1 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 cup of port, and 2-3 tablespoons of butter. I mixed the balsamic vinegar and port in the measuring cup before adding it to the cast iron skillet. I pre-empted that combination with the butter to help lift the ribeye fond. The nice side effect of doing the reduction in the same cast iron skillet you've cooked you steaks in is that it helps tremendously with cleaning up the skillet. All the stickie bits have already been scraped off.
I was worried about reheating the reduction though. After I had made the reduction I poured it from the cast iron skillet into a small saucepan then into the fridge. For some reason (feel free to tell me why) when I reheated it on the stovetop it almost separated. It separated into a clear watery substance and a fond riddles clumpy dark liquid. After a few more minutes it seemed like it got its act together and was reintegrating.
Overall I would say dinner was a win. Ribeyes from L&M beef were delish as always. The roasted asparagus and fresh made salsa were good too (Salsa was stunningly good according to the wife) and the reduction was more than adequate for the first semi-successful attempt at reductions.