To glaze something means to coat it with a glossy substance. The glaze can be sweet or savory depending on what food is to be glazed. Many glazes are made from butter, sugar, and milk or a combination of the three, and sometimes even including different oils. Egg whites and basic icings can be used as glazes also.
Some pastry doughs are brushed with a coating of egg whites, while doughnut glaze is made from powdered sugar and water which the doughnuts are dipped in. Fruit or fruit juices are other ingredients used to make glazes for different kinds of pastries.
Savory glazes can be made from many different liquids such as reduced vegetable or chicken stock, wine, beer, and even water. In the case of wine it’s best to reduce it by at least half to get rid of the raw wine taste. The same goes for beer, it’s best to cook carbonated liquids until they go flat.
Most higher end restaurants use a mixture of stock, butter, and salt to glaze their vegetables. Most people don’t know why the vegetables taste so good at these restaurants. Now you know, and you’re welcome.
When preparing glaze for vegetables, you’ll want to have your vegetables mostly cooked before beginning the glazing process. Bring the liquid (if you don’t have stock, just use water) to a boil in a pan. Don’t use too much liquid though or it will take forever to reduce. Add your vegetables, and some butter and salt. Begin stirring the mixture, and as the butter melts and the liquid reduces they will start to emulsify into a creamy sauce that sticks to the vegetables and coats them.
Be careful though, because the longer you cook the glaze for, the thicker it will become. Eventually it will reach a breaking point where all the liquid boils away. If this happens, the sauce will separate and become ruined. The idea is to cook the glaze until it becomes nice and thick but hasn’t reached the stage where it separates.
I can also tell you that as a semiserious chef, if people really understood how much butter and salt goes into their food, they might just decide to get checkups with their doctor a little more regularly. Next time you’re at Olive Garden, you’ll know why every plate has over 1000 calories. Most good food comes at the cost of lots of calories.
You can and should experiment at home in your free time with some different types of glaze. It’s a lot of fun and you can end up with some pretty tasty concoctions. For instance, I just sliced up some apples and coated them in a frying pan with a glaze made from nothing but cola and butter.