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Making a great vinaigrette


thecuriousone
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The vinegar mother originally came from MarcoPolo...

Doing fine thanks. Living behind the sink in the laundry. Of course she doesn't get the diet of fine wines she was used to, but is doing an excellent job of converting everyday red wine into usable, fairly sharp vinegar. I just fed her half a bottle of Mas des Bressades Cuvee Tradition, Costieres de Nimes, 2003.

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...doing an excellent job of converting everyday red wine into usable, fairly sharp vinegar. I just fed her half a bottle of Mas des Bressades Cuvee Tradition, Costieres de Nimes, 2003.

Hey, glad to hear it, Jack. My mother does have rather expensive tastes [bottles left over after tastings, fortunately, otherwise she'd be drinking us out of house and home]. Funny thing is, this vinegar, no matter how long it's left, is never very sharp at all. On the contrary, it's incredibly mild and deeply smooth. While that's great in vinaigrettes (I hate anything too sharp for salad dressings), it could be a tad sharper and more forthright for other uses (as in cooking poulet au vinaigre, for example). But there we are: it seems vinegar is what it is, adapting to each place in which it is kept, and taking on a character and life of its own.

Here's a picture (the bottle in the middle is an attempt at white wine vinegar and shows the mother clearly):

vinegar.jpg

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  • 3 years later...

A friend emailed me about making a "good Italian dressing" with less oil that wasn't "vinegary," and, well, I couldn't help but write an essay in response:

Getting the dressing to hold together (to stay emulsified) is the trick. An emulsion is just beads of one thing suspended in another. In salad dressing, that means beads of oil suspended in water. An emulsified dressing tastes smoother and more evenly seasoned. In addition, a well-made emulsion holds for days, even weeks, without separating. [For more on emulsions, click here.]

To achieve and sustain your emulsified dressing, you want to mix the non-oil ingredients as thoroughly as possible before you add any oil at all. If you have a stick blender, that's the easiest thing to use; if not, use a whisk or make a lot in a blender (it'll keep). Once you've gotten the non-oil ingredients very well blended, add the oil -- no joke -- one drop at a time, every second or so, blending with rigor. Count to 20 or 30 drops out, and then move to a thin stream. You'll see the dressing thicken after a bit, and that means you can go a little faster. It's the first small portion or so of oil that matters the most: go slowly!

Getting and maintaining the emulsion can be aided by emulsifiers. Soy lecithin and xanthan gum are two that you'll often see on commercial dressings, though there are many others. (Xanthan gum also helps stabilize the emulsion, so that Paul Newman's salad dressings don't look like they're mostly pure oil -- which of course they are -- but are just healthy, natural "dressing.") At home, you can use egg yolks, mustard, and garlic as emulsifiers. They should be added before the oil, since they're crucial to the liquid environment in which the oil will emulsify. That non-oil liquid can hold a remarkable amount of oil once you've got your emulsifier in there and use elbow grease/a bit of technology. (Mayonnaise is just egg-yolk vinaigrette with a much higher oil:vinegar ratio.)

That brings us to seasonings. Once you get away from a 3:1 or 4:1 oil:vinegar ratio, you're going to be having challenges with your acidity. Choose a low-acidity vinegar (rice vinegar is a good example) to pair with something stronger like red wine vinegar (go half-n-half and see how that works). Also add a good pinch of sugar if the dressing's too acidic: it shouldn't taste sweeter, just less vinegary and rounder in your mouth.

The main non-liquid ingredients in what people think of as Italian dressing are oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, onions, cheese, salt, and sugar. Some have celery salt, dried basil, anchovies, and onion powder. I've never heard of rosemary in Italian dressing, and as you noted it's a bully in the mouth. I'd never, ever put basil in a dressing: it turns black from the acid and is better torn (not cut; cutting ruptures cell walls and makes it black as well) into bits and tossed with the greens.

If I were trying for something with the balance you seem to be going for, I'd try:

1/4 c vinegar (half rice, half red wine)

1/2 t French mustard

1 anchovy fillet (optional but gives depth, not fishiness)

1 clove garlic, mashed with 1/2 t sugar to a paste

1/2 t black pepper, ground

1 t dried oregano

3/4 c canola oil (or maybe a mix that includes olive oil)

1 T grated dry Italian cheese (parmesan if you've got it)

1 T minced/grated onion or shallot (shallot is better)

pinch salt (only after tasting at the end!)

Blend everything up to the oil for a minute or two. Drop in 20-30 drops of oil while blending/whisking, then add in a dribble, then a thin stream until dressing emulsifies. Add the rest of the oil in a still-thin stream, but you don't have to be as careful now. Blend/whisk in the cheese, onion, and salt (if needed, which you will if you chickened out on the anchovies). The cup or so of dressing should last indefinitely.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Hi,

I always place my will mixed ingredients, no oil, in the freezer for 10 minutes or so. The extremely cold emulsification will incorporate the oil and hold for days.

I make mayo the same way, extremely cold mix and chilled oil. It breaks some rules but works. (That's how they make commercial mayo.)

Tim

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I know this is an old thread, but it's a good topic. Most everything has been touched on, but I'll reiterate that a pinch of sugar or even some honey has a huge effect on the balance and flavor. Someone else also brought up keeping a vinaigrette emulsified for a while...if you use a REALLY good EVOO, it will solidify when it reaches a certain temperature. I used to be able to keep vinaigrettes on the cold table in a constant state of semi-emulsified and it would only require a couple of ladle stirs to bring it back completely. This works especially well if you used a hand mixer or blender/food processor to make the vinaigrette initially.

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I like a bit more sharpness in my vinaigrette hence I go for a 2/1 or 2.5/1 oil to acid ratio. one thing I do is to add some water, usually 1/3 of the amount of acid. I find this makes the vinaigrette lighter on the palate. my granny tought me that, but I recently have seen Ramsey doing it. Thief!!!

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Just skimmed through the pages and I am not sure if some of these points were already mentioned:

You can have the best dressing in the world but if your lettuce is not dried properly, your dressing will be watered down, taste bland, dressing will not adhere to your lettuce and your garnishes will get soggy.

Try seasoning your lettuce with salt and pepper before tossing with the dressing. Or you can always overseason your dressing to make up for the lettuce and the garnishes.

Emulsified dressings need less acid than a typical none emulsified types of vinaigrettes.

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The best vinagrettes I've ever made was using the fat from the bottom of a pan of roasted chicken. The depth and roundness of flavour was incredible.

I second this and would go even further. I keep a container of "confit fat" consisting of duck, goose and chicken fat along with some olive oil that has been used and reused for poultry confit (usually with lots of thyme, garlic and porcini mushrooms). Whenever I want a special vinaigrette I go to that for the fat instead of olive oil.

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For a standard vinaigrette, I regarded that as a thoroughly solved problem decades ago and have not changed my mind since.

My models were common recipes for vinaigrette and the standard, quite yellow, vinaigrette at a French restaurant at the SW corner of Wisconsin and M Street in Washington, DC.

Sometimes I ate dinner at Lincoln Center when they had some strange oil and vinegar; they were really different but good; I don't try for such things. I am staying with the position that vinaigrette is a solved problem with a fantastic solution and refuse to try for something better: Nearly anything else in cooking is much more deserving of additional attention than a fantastic, simple, standard vinaigrette.

I use oil to vinegar ratio (by volume) of 3:1. NO, I do NOT just 'pour' and hope. Instead, I do MEASURE these volumes, ACCURATELY.

For the oil, I use just virgin olive oil, not extra virgin. I'd rather use Canola oil than extra virgin. For the vinegar, I buy red wine vinegar, e.g., Progresso. My experience is that in the US the acid content of such vinegars is quite standard. I do remember a rumor that actually the best tasting red wine vinegar comes from native American grapes and not vinifera! No way am I going to use Balsamic vinegar in vinaigrette.

For the emulsifier, I rely on Grey Poupon Dijon mustard and use much more of it than suggested so far, e.g, for 1/3 C of vinegar and 1 C of oil, will use at least 1 T of mustard and can use much more, e.g., 1/4 C. I've tried dry mustard powder and do not like it nearly as well as Grey Poupon.

Yes, I thoroughly mix all the ingredients except the oil and then add the oil slowly while mixing. The notes in this thread on how the emulsification works are much more thoughtful than I have considered: For the mixing, I just use a stainless steel wire whip in a round bottomed stainless steel bowl. I've never seen the need to start adding the oil as slowly as drop by drop. E.g., I am willing to start with 1 T and whip; add another 1 T; etc.

I have used a blender when making, say, 1 quart of vinaigrette, and then sometimes I added the oil very slowly as the blender was going full speed. In this way the resulting vinaigrette was beautiful and a 'ribbon' on the surface would last a few seconds; okay, but I never saw a big advantage.

The other flavorings can be salt, pepper, garlic, shallot, thyme, parsley, anchovy.

I've never tried sugar, honey, sour cream, etc. and refuse to!

Of course, for a Caesar dressing, I include a nearly raw egg which, of course, helps with the emulsification.

For the greens, I wash those, tear into chunks, spin to nearly dry in a salad spinner, and then chill, e.g., wrapped in clean cotton towels.

When the greens are chilled and crisp, place in salad bowl, pour over a LITTLE dressing, toss a LOT, taste, and repeat until the greens are THOROUGHLY coated with MINIMAL dressing.

Actually, for my standard green salad, that is ENOUGH. That is, can STOP there. Such a salad is appropriate between the red meat course and the cheese course.

I would never drink wine with a salad with vinaigrette.

French bread and some good sour cream butter? SURE!

If want more in a salad, and sometimes I do too, say for a lunch, then add the small stuff, e.g., freshly grated hard cheese, bacon bits, sliced scallions, etc.

Then add the larger stuff, e.g., artichoke hearts (likely marinated in vinaigrette), tomato wedges (likely dipped in vinaigrette), chunks of cooked meat (maybe already coated with vinaigrette), hard boiled egg, croutons, etc.

If toss now, then will usually end up with all the added small and large stuff at the bottom of the salad bowl -- not good.

Then serve and EAT. Just serving the salad will usually provide enough additional mixing.

Vinaigrette is a sauce with many uses besides just salads based mostly or entirely on lettuce: Vinaigrette is a good first choice for pouring over sliced, cold meats, e.g., roasted chicken, over celery, carrots, anchovy hearts, hearts of palm, chick peas, etc. With some good bread, some extra vinaigrette is terrific.

Question: In the back of the refrigerator I have a bottle of Caesar style vinaigrette I made last summer. I wonder: Is it standard food chemistry that the vinegar has necessarily stopped bacteria growth so that that batch is still safe to eat?

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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When I need to make large quantities in a hurry, I cheat. A little, no more than 5ml, of liquid lecithin will act as an emulsifier. Once the emulsion starts, it goes smoothly. And, there is less tendency for it to break.

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I find that both honey and mustard act as emulsifiers. I like using honey in vinaigrettes because it helps to provide a balance against the acidity.

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On my question

"Question: In the back of the refrigerator I have a bottle of Caesar style vinaigrette I made last summer. I wonder: Is it standard food chemistry that the vinegar has necessarily stopped bacteria growth so that that batch is still safe to eat?"

in my post #37 here with

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1583156

for an answer, some simple Google searching indicates that there are lots of bacteria and even at least one worm that can live in vinegar, even mostly pure vinegar. So, that the usual vinegar in vinaigrette will keep the mixture sterile seems hopeless.

So, the answer to my question has to be, "No, standard food chemistry does not say that the vinegar in vinaigrette will keep the mixture sterile."

So, if make vinaigrette, then likely should keep it refrigerated and use it quickly.

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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  • 5 months later...

i really don't know why but the vinaigrettes i make never seem to turn out the way i want them. there's clearly a secret to be discovered somewhere. the tomato salads served at better lunch places here usually comes with a really delicious parsley vinaigrette and once i had a purely amazing chervil vinaigrette for a grilled white asparagus + pata negra salad at a michelin starred place here in town.

now i know the secret is supposed to be "really good evoo + really good vinaigrette", but is that really it? that doesnt' seem to be enough to put it over the top for me. does anyone have any suggestions? i usually just whip together some evoo, some white wine vinegar, s+p and some herbs.

more specifically, i want to make this salad for new years eve consisting of artichoke hearts, radishes, shaved black truffle and aged comté cheese. does good quality truffle oil sound like a good idea to use for the vinaigrette base? what else should i put in there?

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Well, one of the methods I have always used to ensure great taste, is to dissolve the salt in the vinegar 1st, then add your other seasonings, and the oil should go in last. Yes, great EVOO will make a huge difference, but sometime you don't always want that olive flavour to be so stong - so mix the evoo with half sunflower, or a straight evo to lessen that fruity flavour. It is usually the quality of ingredients, so buy not only the best oil, but also vinegars - I like using champage vingar, or I've even mixed a very dry white wine with the vinegar itself.

I'd be careful with the truffle oil, it's extremely strong and could overpower everything else. I would suggest this oil only drizzled on top of the salad, and not used in the dressing itself.

Rememebr the classical french ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil - although I usually will mix 1:2.5 or 1:2.0 as I like it to have some bite. This is all subjective according the oils and acids used.

Cheers

GB

i really don't know why but the vinaigrettes i make never seem to turn out the way i want them. there's clearly a secret to be discovered somewhere. the tomato salads served at better lunch places here usually comes with a really delicious parsley vinaigrette and once i had a purely amazing chervil vinaigrette for a grilled white asparagus + pata negra salad at a michelin starred place here in town.

now i know the secret is supposed to be "really good evoo + really good vinaigrette", but is that really it? that doesnt' seem to be enough to put it over the top for me. does anyone have any suggestions? i usually just whip together some evoo, some white wine vinegar, s+p and some herbs.

more specifically, i want to make this salad for new years eve consisting of artichoke hearts, radishes, shaved black truffle and aged comté cheese. does good quality truffle oil sound like a good idea to use for the vinaigrette base? what else should i put in there?

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  • 5 years later...

From the Kansas City Star in 2011

 

Hearty Italian Vinaigrette

6 Tbsp. Olive oil

2 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. chili sauce

1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 cl garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh parsley

1 tsp. Italian Herb Seasoning

1/2 tsp, sugar

1/4 tsp salt

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

Italian herb seasoning with fresh herbs  Use 1/3 to 1/2 tsp. instead of 1 tsp dried Italian Herb seasoning. 

 
1 part oregano

1 part basil

1 part  thyme
Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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