October 2011

Balsamic

by SARAH TAYLOR / recipe by CASEY LANE / photographs by PEDEN+MUNK

  • The first step in Lane’s balsamic roasted cherries.
  • La Vecchia Dispensa 10 Year
  • Lane in his element.
  • Lane’s duck-liver torchon with cherries.
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These days, reading the words balsamic vinaigrette on a menu can test the resolve of even the most dedicated gourmet. All too often, the substance in question arrives at your table as a mass-produced, insipid reflection of the authentic, artisanally made varieties that first earned the condiment the adoration of diners. Could it be the king of vinegars has lately lost its luster? To chef Casey Lane of the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, traditional Italian balsamic is deep and complex. “It’s one of the more intriguing products in theworld,” he says, “because it changes throughout its maturation.” Indeed, as premier balsamic vinegar ages, it evolves into something greater—a velvety, full-bodied, slightly woody elixir that is simply a wonder to ingest. For Lane, “It develops a soul with a richness that comes from having lived a full life.”

For those ready to experience true balsamic in all its glory, Lane recommends La Vecchia Dispensa 10 Year, made by Modena.“It’s far and away the best,” he says enthusiastically. His balsamic roasted cherries showcase the distinctive qualities of the elixir in its prime. They’re a stunningly flavorful, ruby-hued accompaniment to the Tasting Kitchen’s hearty duck-liver torchon. They’re also superb alongside roast pork, duck and any other rich protein.

BALSAMIC ROASTED CHERRIES

1 pound Bing cherries, stem on, pit in
¼ cup olive oil (ideally a more peppery variety)
1 tablespoon cracked pepper
1 tablespoon fleur de sel
4 sprigs thyme
1 cup La Vecchia Dispensa 10 Yr

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, toss cherries with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss with thyme sprigs. Arrange in a single layer in a stainless-steel or glass roasting pan. Pour vinegar on top, cover with foil and roast for about 8 minutes. Remove foil and continue roasting until cherries are wrinkled and balsamic is reduced to a syrup, about 15 minutes. Yields 8–10 portions.

VIDEO: See Casey Lane in action in his Tasting Kitchen >