Chef Johnny Gnall shares a professional tip for making the best salad dressings: Emulsify them! The oil and vinegar won’t separate—at least, not for a while.
“A velvety, fully emulsified dressing can really make a big difference when it comes to presenting a salad,” says Chef Johnny.
“Its creamy texture and body cling better to the salad ingredients, making each bite that much more flavorful. Even the look is nicer: Emulsified dressings have a really lovely sheen that is nothing short of sexy.
“But most people don’t bother to create emulsified dressings at home. Perhaps there is simply a lack of familiarity with the process; or maybe people just don’t know what they’re missing.
“At any rate, there’s no need to whisk your arms to exhaustion when you make vinaigrettes. Simply grab the blender!”
Here’s the easy process from Chef Johnny, including four salad dressing recipes. Two of them—Champagne Vinaigrette and Truffle Vinaigrette—are just right for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
The biggest factor in getting a dressing or vinaigrette to emulsify (and stay that way) is some patience early in the process.
This vinaigrette was not emulsified, and
has separated into two layers. Photo by
Elena Thewise | IST.
It’s all about incorporating the oil and vinegar together gradually. Here’s an example, using champagne vinegar and champagne (or other sparkling wine) to make a glamorous champagne vinaigrette:
The result should be a smooth, unified dressing with a nice, velvety mouthfeel. Without any stabilizers (chemicals like xanthan gum, which professional chefs often use), it will not stay emulsified forever. So for best results, wait until close to serving time to emulsify the dressing.
Use this recipe as a template for any vinaigrette. Substitute balsamic vinegar for the Champagne vinegar, use cider or wine vinegar with a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard, or the variations below.
For more salad flourish, try these gourmet vinaigrette recipes from Chef Johnny.
The traditional vinaigrette ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar; the recipes above are written as such. But the important thing to keep in mind is that you are the only one who knows exactly how acidic and how viscous you want your dressing to be.
More oil will mute flavors but add body and mouthfeel; more acidity can be helpful if the salad ingredients have stronger flavor (think chicories or heartier greens).
Just pay attention to the dressing as you work and add ingredients in small increments at first. Once you become comfortable with the process, you’ll get the feel of exactly how much of each component you want.
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