What’s sweet and dark and tangy all over?
Man, I love riddles.
I also love balsamic vinegar. Some people find the potent liquid to be a little harsh, but I say: the bolder, the better.
Unless you’re reducing it on your stove. Woof. Good luck getting that smell out of your kitchen.
(I don’t know about you, but I’m really not a fan, so I like to buy my balsamic glaze premade!)
I’ve discovered that the uses for pungent, fruity balsamic can stretch over the course of an entire day.
Vinegar for breakfast? Oh yes, I did.
First, the obvious: an Italian-style omelet or Benedict (pancetta, fried eggs, arugula) that’s just begging for a dark, syrupy drizzle of aged balsamic.
But what about a balsamic-based sunrise meal for those with a sweet tooth?
Well, did you know balsamic and strawberries go together like Bert and Ernie?
Whether it’s a crumbly breakfast cake or a flaky scone, strawberries and balsamic make a mean mouthful for morning-time.
For lunch, who doesn’t crave a crisp salad lightly dressed in a zippy balsamic vinaigrette?
And for dinner, chicken, balsamic, and mushrooms are just about as elegant of a threesome as Peter, Paul, and Mary.
I’m throwing a lot of pop culture references at you today, and I’m not sorry.
P.S. For dessert: try honey and balsamic-roasted figs over vanilla bean gelato. Wow. Sometimes I even impress myself. Or sit down to a slice of cherry balsamic pie!
But back to the balsamic chicken and mushrooms.
Not only does this one-pan meal come together in a snap (after the chicken takes an hour or two to nap in the marinade), it’s chock-full of complex flavors.
As you read through the recipe, you might be wondering why all of the ingredients seem to have their own time slot. Why isn’t this an ensemble meal where everybody takes the stage (er, pan) together, you ask?
I have one word for you: steam!
What in the world does steam have to do with any of this? Let me explain.
In order for an ingredient to properly saute, brown, or caramelize, it’s important that it be given its space.
You get it. You’ve had those days.
Although you gave the chicken a wiggle before dropping it into the pan, it still brought some of the marinade along with it. And you want that. But as you move on to saute the spinach, you need a clean pan with a thin coating that consists only of oil.
After the spinach has done its thing, it’s the mushrooms’ turn. But wait! While the tender greens wilted away in the pan, they purged their excess water.
So, we wipe. We give the mushrooms and garlic a clean slate.
Now, you’re able to brown them successfully before they soak up every bit of that rich sauce. The chicken goes back in, a pat of butter tags along, and before you know it, the entire cast of characters has arrived in flavorful harmony, ready to land on your plate. Serve with garlic knots on the side for a perfect, flawless dinner.
It’s about thyme!Print
Brighten up your dinner with a tart, zesty punch. This tangy chicken is swimming with sweet balsamic vinegar and meaty mushrooms.
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 8 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (cremini or shiitake)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, divided
- 1/2 cup low-sodium or homemade chicken stock
- Balsamic vinegar glaze, for garnish (optional)
- In a large bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, the mustard, the honey, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the chicken to a large resealable bag and pour the marinade over the top. Allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or preferably for 2 hours.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat the pan. Sear the chicken until golden brown and almost cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate.
- Wipe any excess liquid out of the pan and add 1 tablespoon butter. Add the spinach, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove the spinach from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to the pan. When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the mushrooms and remaining garlic. Saute, stirring often, until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon thyme.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high, and deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and remaining tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, scraping up any flavorful brown bits from the bottom. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Return the chicken breasts and their juices to the pan. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, occasionally spooning the sauce over top, about 3-5 more minutes.
- Divide the sauteed spinach among plates and top with even portions of chicken, mushrooms, and sauce. Garnish with balsamic syrup and the remaining thyme, and serve.
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Dinner
Keywords: chicken, mushroom, balsamic vinegar, mustard
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Mince the Garlic and Prepare the Marinade
First, mince the garlic.
In a large bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons of the oil, 3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, the Dijon mustard, honey, the equivalent of about 2 cloves of the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the freshly cracked pepper.
Step 2 – Marinate the Chicken
Add the chicken to a large resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over top. Allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or better yet, for 2 hours.
Step 3 – Sear the Chicken
At 1 tablespoon of the oil to a large skillet, place it over medium heat, and swirl to coat the pan.
Sear the chicken until it’s golden brown and almost cooked through, for about 2-3 minutes per side. The chicken will finish cooking later in the balsamic sauce.
Set the chicken aside on a plate or platter, and cover it with foil to keep warm.
Step 4 – Saute the Spinach
Wipe any excess liquid out of the pan and add a tablespoon of the butter. Any liquid left in the pan will steam the spinach instead of sauteing it, so you want to remove it before you add the greens.
Add the spinach, sprinkle it with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove the spinach from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
Step 5 – Slice and Saute the Mushrooms and Chop the Thyme
Slice the mushrooms and chop the thyme.
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter to the pan. When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the mushrooms and remaining garlic.
Saute, stirring often, until the mushrooms become golden brown, about 2 minutes.
Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon of the thyme. Stir to combine.
Step 6 – Deglaze the Pan and Reduce the Sauce
Turn the heat up to medium-high. Gradually add the chicken stock and remaining tablespoon of balsamic while you stir with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Use low-sodium boxed stock for added convenience, or make your own at home.
Bring the sauce to a simmer, and continue to cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken as it reduces.
Step 7 – Add the Chicken Back to the Pan, Simmer, and Serve
Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter until it is melted and completely incorporated.
Add the chicken breasts and their juices back to the pan.
Turn the heat to down medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, occasionally spooning sauce over the top, about 3-5 more minutes.
Divide the sauteed spinach among plates and then top with balsamic chicken, mushrooms, and sauce. Garnish with reduced balsamic syrup if you have any on hand, and the remaining thyme.
Bring It On, Balsamic
Thought you couldn’t turn to the vinegar bottle for anything other than making vinaigrette to dress a salad? Then this balsamic chicken came a-knockin’ at your dinner door at the perfect time to prove there are so many delicious possibilities!
I used cremini mushrooms for their rich, earthy flavor (without the fancy price tag), but buttery shiitakes would be a gem in this dish as well.
You should be able to find balsamic syrup at your neighborhood grocery store to save yourself the trouble of reducing it at home. Keep an eye out for specialty varieties, like pomegranate or fig, to give an added boost of flavor to your drizzly garnish.
And hey, if you’re up for making your own sticky, concentrated reduction on the stovetop, go for it! You do you.
Got balsamic on the brain? Spread the love with these delightfully tart recipes:
- Creamy Honey Balsamic Dressing
- Grilled Balsamic Vinegar and Garlic Mixed Vegetables
- Hearty, Tangy Pasta with Balsamic Vinegar, Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese
There are plenty of places to drip drizzles of tangy balsamic, and we’d love to hear about how you make use of this fruity and flavorful vinegar. Share your tasty thoughts in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 19, 2010. Last updated: September 2, 2020 at 10:00 am.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”