A classic vinaigrette may be simple, but there's nothing basic about it. This dressing may contain as few as three kitchen staples or include a complex mixture of herbs and seasonings. Either way, a vinaigrette done right brings tang, saltiness and depth to an ordinary bowl of lettuce or a plain chicken breast. Once you've learned to make a vinaigrette, you can improvise for any purpose without need for a recipe. The key to mastering the art of making a vinaigrette is knowing the proper ratios and how to adjust ingredients to suit your tastes.
Things You'll Need
- Shallots, onion, scallions, garlic or ginger
- Mustard, honey, tomato paste or mayonnaise
- Vinegar or citrus juice
Mince shallots, onion, scallions, garlic or ginger, or a combination of these ingredients, very finely. Make the pieces as small as you can so that you don't later bite into large, raw chunks. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
Add an emulsifier to the bowl. Use mustard, honey, tomato paste or even mayonnaise; these ingredients help the oil and acid blend so the vinaigrette won't separate later. Adjust the amounts based on your tastes and the strength of your emulsifier; for instance, you may only need 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of sweet honey or spicy mustard per 1 cup of vinaigrette, but you can use as much as 1 tablespoon of a mild emulsifier such as tomato paste.
Pour acid into the bowl. Use balsamic, cider, rice or wine vinegar, or add lemon, lime or orange juice. Vinaigrette recipes commonly use a ratio of 1 part acid to 3 parts oil, or about 1/4 cup of acid per cup of vinaigrette. Whisk together all the ingredients in the bowl.
Drizzle in oil very slowly, whisking the mixture constantly. Use olive oil or a flavorful nut oil. Continue whisking until you've added all the oil and the mixture is opaque, shiny and slightly thick.
Dip a spoon or a piece of lettuce into the vinaigrette and taste it. Add more of any ingredient until you're pleased with the balance; it should be tart and creamy but not overpoweringly acidic or oily.
Add salt and pepper, one pinch at a time of each. Stir and taste the vinaigrette after each addition until you're satisfied with the taste.
Store vinaigrette in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use it within three or four days.
- Photo Credit Ragne Kabanova/Hemera/Getty Images
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