I usually serve the balsamic chicken over a bed of leafy greens with a side of roasted potatoes. BUT the chicken is spectacular in any way it is served. It’s quite good leftover and thinly sliced for a killer chicken sandwich too. I’ve also tossed it with pasta. It’s just one of the best chicken recipes I make. My whole family loves marinated balsamic chicken. :) (Especially my mom – she always asks me to make it when I come into town or she comes my way.)
The key is to make sure you give the chicken long enough to marinate. If you’re short on time, you can pre-slice or even cube the chicken so that it absorbs the marinade more quickly.
Should You Use Chicken Breasts or Thighs?
Well, it doesn’t strictly matter. I personally love chicken thighs marinated and cooked this way. They can be cooked for longer until fall-apart tender, which is nice. I’ve even popped the seared chicken and sauce into a slow cooker to finish cooking without any babysitting needed.
Use a good balsamic vinegar – not the best you have, but one that’s a step up from the cheapest one on the shelf. You can substitute other vinegars too. I frequently sub white balsamic or champagne vinegar for the darker balsamic. And you can use different herbs or omit them completely. Totally up to you.
The last step involves a technique called “mounting.” In short, in this recipe, cold butter is whisked into the hot, reduced marinade. It becomes emulsified, thicker, and glossy. Combining a fat or oil with vinegar can be tricky. Dijon helps as an emulsifier, but whisking constantly as the cold butter melts into the sauce also helps. If the sauce “breaks” or separates, no biggie. Bring it back to a simmer and add a little more cold butter, or pour into a blender. That works really well – just be careful when blending hot liquids. ;)
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup brown sugar or honey
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 1½ cups low-sodium or sodium free chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into four cubes
- Trim the chicken pieces, removing excess fat. Place in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag.
- In a large measuring cup, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard, brown sugar or honey, herbs, salt, and black pepper. Pour marinade over chicken and turn the pieces over so they are well-coated. Cover bowl or seal bag and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes, or up to several hours, or overnight. (The longer the chicken marinates, the more tender and juicy the chicken will be.)
- Heat a large heavy-duty skillet over med-high heat. (You can use a well-seasoned cast iron or a nonstick pan, if desired. Clean up will be easier.) Remove chicken breasts from marinade, allowing the extra to drip back into the bowl or bag. Reserve marinade.
- Drizzle a little olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet and heat until oil starts to shimmer. Sear the chicken for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until deep golden. Lower heat and add the reserved marinade.
- Bring liquid to a simmer, then lower heat. Cover pan, if desired, and cook until chicken has cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. The marinade may start to thicken. If it gets too thick, add a little of the chicken broth to the pan to keep it from scorching.
- Once the chicken has cooked through, remove from the skillet and place on a clean plate. Cover with foil and keep warm.
- Raise the heat to medium- high and add 1 cup chicken broth. Allow the sauce to come to a rolling boil, then reduce heat again. Stir occasionally, making sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. If it's too thin, keep cooking so the extra liquid will evaporate. If too thick, add a little bit more of the broth. Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter, one piece at a time, until completely melted and incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Pour sauce into a serving bowl and keep warm.