Dinner party hosting hacks are all about helping you elevate your dinner party game. These “hacks” are easy garnishes, sauces, table setting tips, or plating ideas to impress your guests (without too much effort on your part!).
A balsamic reduction is one of my favorite things to teach in my art of entertaining classes because it’s a simple way to dress up many different dishes. You can drizzle it over a plain piece of meat (think steak, pork chops, or pan seared chicken). You can stir it into mashed potatoes, grits, or risotto. You can toss greens with it for an easy salad dressing. You could even add it to dessert! Chocolate and balsamic make a delicious and complex pairing–try stirring some reduction into chocolate pudding or drizzle it on ice cream. You can also throw together an easy dessert with berries, cream, and balsamic. The best part, in my opinion, is that balsamic reduction only requires one ingredient, one pan, and about five minutes (plus you can make it ahead!).
So, what is a balsamic reduction? It’s just balsamic vinegar that’s cooked down (reduced). As some of the vinegar evaporates, the reduction becomes thicker and syrupy. Some of the sharpness of the vinegar is burned off, so the result is much sweeter and more concentrated in flavor.
Wondering how much reduction you need? Ideally, you’ll reduce the beginning volume of the vinegar by half, so a ½ cup of vinegar will yield about a ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of reduction. Two or three tablespoons is typically plenty for each plate. You can always store extra reduction for later!
In a wide pan, bring vinegar to a simmer over medium heat, making note of the beginning level of the vinegar in the pan. Simmer until volume has reduced by half and balsamic has thickened slightly. This typically takes 5-10 minutes, depending on pan size and amount of vinegar. The reduction will continue to thicken as it cools, so it should be thinner than your desired result when you take it off the stove. If you over-reduce the vinegar, stir in more vinegar, a little at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.
Serve reduction warm if using with a hot dish. Allow to cool to room temperature before using on cold dishes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator if making ahead or in the case of leftovers.