A home made, true vinaigrette is one of the most powerful pantry items to have on hand. No, not the bottled stuff that you see in the supermarket where the oil is floating on top of the vinegar. This is not salad dressing.
This is oil and vinegar floating on top of each other, and yes, you can make that too. But I want to show you how to make something much much better.
Vinaigrettes are so versatile and have so many other uses than just on salad. With the flavors of herbs and spices, the unctuousness of fat from a good oil, and saltiness and acidity, vinaigrettes work for so many things. Marinades, meats, vegetables and fish.
Have you ever gone to a good restaurant and had a salad with a creamy dressing, without it being Ranch (probably off a Sysco truck) or Italian or something else that tastes like it came from a lab? Something that tastes just acidic and salty enough to make you want to keep taking another bite? Where the lettuce or greens become simply a vehicle for the flavor of the dressing? Where it complements perfectly whatever is in your salad?
That’s what we’re going to learn here.
The takeaway from this is the “how to” of it. By that, I mean that once you understand how to get an emulsion going, you’ll be able to make an infinite variety of dressings. You simply vary the type of vinegar, the type of herbs, and the other seasonings you put in, to get what you want.
The standard vinaigrette ratio is 3 parts oil: 1 part vinegar. And while vinaigrettes can be of the “loose” type where you simply whisk together some ingredients and use, I prefer the creamy type we’ll make here.
You’ll want to adjust your vinaigrette ratio to taste. You may want to add more or less oil (and some water) depending on the acidity and sharpness of your vinegar or acid, or the depth of your fat.
Orange, lemon, or other citrus juices can be substituted in whole or part to develop different flavors. Of course, herbs can be changed too. You can use nut oils, bacon fat, extra virgin olive oil or other oils as you prefer. Finally, the most powerful influence on your vinaigrette’s final taste is the type and quality of the vinegar you are using. You can create an infinite palate of flavors changing up your oils, vinegars, herbs and juices used in your vinaigrette.
For the recipe below, a couple of observations. First, if your emulsion becomes too thick, it’s ok to add a little water. You risk having the emulsion breaking if it thickens and you continue to add oil. Always add your salt to your vinegar first, as salt does not dissolve in oil. And be sure to not let it overheat in the blender or with your hand mixer, as vinaigrettes tend to break when overheated.
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard preferably whole grain
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1 piece smallshallot
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4dried thyme
Combine vinegar, water, salt, mustard, and herbs in a blender or the mixing cup that came with your immersion blender (or a narrow mixing cup that your immersion blender fits into).
Blend on high briefly to combine and thoroughly pulverize all ingredients.
Very slowly, add oil in a thin stream while blending. You should see the oil disappearing into the mixture as the emulsion begins to form.
If mixture thickens too much (like a mayonnaise) as you add the oil, add in additional water by the teaspoon while blending to loosen mixture.
For an even more stable emulsion, get your hands on some xantham gum. Less than a 1/4 teaspoon added to your initial mix will ensure your emulsion is stable for at least 5 days.