Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My vinaigrette.

Every cook needs a classic vinaigrette in his or her repertoire. Much like roasting a chicken or making an omelet, whipping up a vinaigrette is one of the basic foundational skills of good cooking. To do it, you need decent knife skills (if you include shallot or garlic, that is), a good sense of proportion and the ability to season properly.

It's the simplest of the classic sauces and is a great opportunity to make your own mark. Every cook I know has his or her own formula, typically representative of his or her entire oeuvre.

My vinaigrette is no exception. It includes several of my favorite ingredients (shallots, sherry vinegar, mustard, honey), and I'll eat it on almost anything. I use my vinaigrette on simple green salads, my summertime composed salad, my green bean and new potato salad, on top of grilled chicken or name it, I'll put this dressing on top of it.

It took me a while to land on this recipe; for years, I used white wine vinegar and olive oil, but about four years ago I fell in love with sherry vinegar and never looked back. The honey tempers the tang of the vinegar without diluting its flavor, and also helps to emulsify the dressing without using too much oil. Mustard is a classic ingredient in vinaigrette; in addition to being yet another emulsifier (hence its appearance in most homemade mayonnaise recipes), it adds a winey, earthy flavor to the proceedings. And canola oil is light, neutral and far cheaper than grapeseed.

I hope you like this dressing - and I hope you'll share your own signature vinaigrettes in the comments below!

Queenie's Vinaigrette

1 large shallot, minced
2 tsp. good Dijon mustard (I use Maille.)
1 tsp. honey
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the shallot, mustard, honey, vinegar and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir with a small whisk to combine.

Whisking constantly, pour the oil into the bowl in a thin stream. Continue whisking until the mixture is emulsified. If using immediately, taste and adjust for seasoning.

Otherwise, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. The dressing will keep (and will actually get better for the sitting) for up to 10 days.

Makes enough vinaigrette to last one person at least a week.

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