4.10.06

Balsamic rage


Last week José asked for fried eggs with chanquetes in a very basic elemental place in Sevilla. The egg came dribbled all over with balsamic glaze.
J, a calm fellow, just shrugged and dunked his bread in the yolk.
I am all rage, and strong arms had to forcibly restrain me from throwing those eggs at the cook´s head. I´d ordered the rice, it wasn´t my problem, but really, in what stupid parallel universe does anyone think a fried egg is improved by a brown squiggle?

This has got to stop. I will now be beaten into submission by this stupid fad. I´ve had it.

Listen: balsamic vinegar is not a neutral ingredient. As well as acidity, it has a bunch of other flavours (wine vinegar, grape must, sulphites E22o, caramel colouring E150D, anyone?).
It should not be thrown about any old how. It can be a wonderful product, but it can also be pretty intrusive and pointless. If I had my way, I´d forbid the wanton use of this substance to all except
A. Italians. they invented the thing, they know what to do with it
B. good chefs. Ditto about knowing

I also think it´s fine to carry a small quantity for personal use at home.

Otherwise, people opperating bars or restaurants, de-glue your hand from the neck of that bottle with the Duke of Modena on it. Morever, don´t, I repeat, DO NOT, reduce it to a syrup and doodle on plates.
If you´re artistic, or think you may be, ask for help. There are other substances for you to try out, like charcoal and paper. Hopefully, you won´t expect us to eat those.

The worst thing is, we have excellent vinegars here. We should be selling them to the world, bottled prettily and labelled with the Countess of Chinchón, or whatever, and spending the hard cash on Ferraris. Instead, where are we? Buying stupid cheap balsamic from those clever fellows in Modena, who already have too many Ferraris anyway.

So listen, keep to Sherry vinegar. It´s the best we have to offer, and understandably, it´s the one best suited to traditional Spanish cuuisine. Anything else is pure daftness.
If you must waive your kids´ college education and spend millions on cute little bottles, then go for PX vinegar. It´s Made from Pedro Ximénez, a generous dessert wine made from raisins. It´s good, it´s pretty, it´s expensive, it´s sweet and heady and I daresay it may even reduce marvelously well. Just the thing for you arty types.

And now, enough ranting. I´ll give you my recipe for a killer vinaigrette, so we can all compare notes.
If anyone makes this with so much as a drop of balsamic, I´ll combust, die, become a ghost, and hide in your store cupboard, howling forever. Be warned.

Take an empty, clean jam jar. Put a heaped teaspoonful of Dijon mustard, and another one of honey. Mix well, maybe even put it a few seconds in the microwave. Add vinegar, the good stuff, from Jerez, to double the volume of mustard and honey. Add salt. Be generous. Now add olive oil, also the good stuff, to double the volume of vinegar.
Add a good pinch of cumin (this is optinal, but excellent if you´re serving your salad with cheese) and a couple of spoonfuls of water.
Screw the jar tight, and juggle it vigorously until it looks creamy and perfect.
This vinaigrette will keep for weeks in the fridge, and will truly make your salad preparations a thing of minutes.

26 comentarios:

Paulova dijo...

Wonderful, just wonderful! Couldn't stop laughing all the way through it... Keep it up! I'll try out your "vinagreta", it sounds great... :-D

Guru dijo...

I can´t believe J. ate the eggs!!! puaj! puaj! puuuuuuaaaaaaaaaaj!

I´m doing your vinagreta this weekend. I like the idea of keeping it in the fridge.

Ellie dijo...

Wonderful post, not so wonderful experience. I utterly agree, balsamic vinegar *is* a wonderful ingredient, but only when used sparingly and with consideration to the other ingredients in the dish. Chefs here seem to be pouring it over every dish that leaves their hands, wrong wrong wrong!

In regards to your vinagrette, I have no sherry vinegar, but I have a red wine vinegar - is this useable?

Callipygia dijo...

As for the vinaigrette, I make mine quite similar 'xcept in lieu of your honey I use a good quality raspberry preserves- honest to god. Next time, I'm trying your way.

Julie dijo...

Love the illustration, love the rant! I've decided I prefer sherry vinegar to balsamic; I barely touch the balsamic these days.

I am trying your vinaigrette with tomorrow night's salad.

Il Duca di Modena dijo...

Sei una essagerata, cara mia.

lobstersquad dijo...

Paulova: it´s a hard world out there for vinegar, I´m glad you understand.
Guru: can you beleive he ate the stuff? saint, or idiot, I don´t know
Ellie: red wine vinegar will be fine. As long as it´s a good strong vinegar, and as long as it ain´t balsamic, all will be well.
Callipygia: intrigued by the raspberry, will try, thanks.
Julie: good for you, sherry is just so good.
Duca: va fa....

Lego y Pulgón dijo...

Yes!!!!! I'm beginning to get scared!!! What is it with the black vinegar, as my Pulgon names it? Why is it EVERYWHERE? Beware!

Aaron dijo...

Where can one buy this XP vinegar? I sounds lovely.

LE BLOG dijo...

VIVA EL VINAGRE DE JERÉ!!!

Danielle dijo...

That is simply the most charming illustration I have seen in ages and ages.

Anónimo dijo...

Poor José... all he wanted was some Chanquetes & Eggs.

Luckly he han ximenita to fight four his rights!

Besos

Muguiro!

ann dijo...

what are Chanquetes?
and yes, I hear you about the balsamic!
It's everywhere! Like bad shrimp! Someone must stop these eeediots ruining good cuisine!!
Sherry vinegar rules!

Melissa dijo...

That is too funny! Times have certainly changed. When I lived in Spain I doubt there was a bottle of balsamic vinegar to be found in the entire country, and now it's being drizzled on everything?

Your vinaigrette sounds delicious - I'll definitely give it a try.

Lisa dijo...

Great post! I agree with you about the overuse of balsamic. Sherry vinegar it is! Thanks for the great vinaigrette recipe, too.

Brett dijo...

Ximena, I've been away from blogging for too long. I have so much reading to catch up on. This post made me laugh out loud! On my last few trips to Spain, I noticed the same thing and wondered what the fascination with balsamic vinegar is, especially in the north in the Basque region. Chefs in the US went through that phase in the nineties, but it's mostly died out. I'll take aged sherry vinegar or PX any day over the Count of Modena.

lindy dijo...

Amen. Balsamic can make all sorts of other things taste and look really nasty, too. Feh. I have seen it mixed in coleslaw, if you really want to be ill.

nopisto dijo...

Great post, one of the big mistakes of the spanish chefs is the using of aceto balsamico something that they don't understand starting from the use of the fake version.

And I do agree that the sherry vinegar is one of our culinary gems.

Rebecca dijo...

I'm looking forward to tasting some Spanish vinegar when I visit Spain next month; maybe even bringing some home. I have been using something called white or golden balsamic vinegar in my vinaigrette lately and it's sweeter and not so strong; I get a lot of compliments on my salads and requests for the dressing recipe. I want to try yours, though, it sounds really good.

carlanga dijo...

Can't agree with you more ximena. The abuse of balsamic vinegar has gone over the top. Unluckily I can't find XP in my corner of the world, but I'll surely try it out next time I'm in Spain.

Anónimo dijo...

That illustration has made my day, no actually my week. You go! Take a stand on the gratuitous use of ingredients.
It was the same here in Sydney- we went through a rocket and a sun-dried tomato phase. Not everything goes with certain ingredients, even if they are in vogue at the time.

neil dijo...

There are some ingredients that I just don't get and balsamic is one of them. I've had a little bottle in my cupboard for years and years, everytime I use some I always think it's going to be a while before it comes out again. I know they use virgins to crush the grapes and wood from thousand year old trees for the maturing casks in which this brooding substance sits for centuries before bottling, but on the plate it's like the dinner party guest that never shuts up and no-one wants to sit next to, so overwhelming. Now Jerez vinegar, that's a thing of real beauty, the perfect guest that can be seated anywhere. It's the vinegar we get through the most of.

Sam dijo...

you are more patient than I am.
I had it with balsalmic 10 years ago.
Been drinking, oops I mean making vinaigrette, with Sherry vinegar ever since.

maybe it is time for a malt vinegar revival?

andrea dijo...

I hate any vinegar, the smell of it reminds me of something that went wrong and someone decided to make some use of it. I can give you a thousand suggestions of delicious salad dressing vinegar-less, of a delicious life without it!

Anónimo dijo...

CAPIRETE - Premium Aged Sherry Vinegars.

www.sherryvinegar.com
www.vinaigredexeres.com

Amour2u dijo...

La receta suena deliciosa...!!!! Gracias por compartir, muy lindo tu Website, pareces tener muchos talentos, ciao, Siena4u

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