Foolproof Homemade Vinaigrette

Monday, January 18, 2016

Let's talk about salad dressing. On more than one occasion I have had friends as me to make salad dressing when I have visited their homes. While I like to imagine myself a great cook, my vinaigrette is in no way special. So, it always surprises me that people think I make "great" salad dressing.

Homemade vinaigrette is one of the easiest things to make (really!), and it is so far superior to store-bought, bottled dressing that I can't imagine why you wouldn't make your own. Plus, homemade versions are much healthier with far less sugar and sodium than most bottled options. Not to mention, homemade dressing creates less packaging waste and saves you money.

The easiest way to make your own vinaigrette is the jar method. You basically throw the ingredients in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and shake them until they are well-blended. Martha Stewart recommends a ration of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid (usually vinegar, I like red wine or white wine vinegar best). I personally like my dressing a little more tart and err more towards a 2:1 ratio. The beauty of a simple dressing like this is you can tinker bit by bit until you get a flavor that suits your tastes.

I almost always add a dollop of Dijon mustard to my dressing—both for the flavor and to help the oil and acid emulsify. For dressing, I prefer Maille, but I will settle for Grey Poupon (dear Costco, please start stocking Maille!). I add the vinegar and the mustard and a pinch of salt to the jar first and shake them until the mustard has incorporated itself into the vinegar, then I add the oil. If I am making a larger batch of dressing, I'll add the oil in a few stages, shaking after each addition to ease the oil into the vinegar.

You can customize a basic vinaigrette in dozens of way; here are a few ideas:
  • Swap lemon juice for the vinegar
  • Switch in grainy mustard for the Dijon
  • Add a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper
  • Grate in a half a garlic clove with a microplane grater
  • Mince a shallot and toss it in
  • Finely dice an anchovy or two for an umami kick
  • Add a bit of honey, maple syrup, or even sugar for sweetness
  • Chop up some fresh herbs (chives and tarragon are nice options)
  • Scoop a large pinch of dried herbs into the mix 
  • Grate in some fresh Parmesan cheese
Feeling fancy? Carmine's Caesar Salad Dressing is more complicated, but oh, so delicious.


Lulu said...

Can I make a big jar and keep it refrigerated instead of making it fresh all the time?

Laura Fenton said...

Yes, you could make a batch and refrigerate it, but you'll need to let it come to room temperature before using. If you add fresh herbs, garlic, or any other perishable ingredient, it will not last as long, but vinegar, olive oil and mustard (the basics) should last indefinitely.


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