Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Whole Lot of Simple... Is a Vinaigrette

I love simple. A night in watching a quirky comedy with a glass of wine. A light dinner with a friend. A date night at the movies, followed by a meal of bites that becomes a starry eyed evening. A guy turning to you out of the blue to tell you how happy he is just to be with you. A work night escaped early to learn how to preserve and can... and yes, I said that correctly. I'm chasing my dream of ultimate self-sufficiency, and in a way getting back to "simple" basics. And you get the idea anyways. I'm a girl of simple pleasures.
All tools necessary. Oil, vinegar, a whisk, a bowl and salt to taste
Thinking about canning, as well as getting ready for my 4th installment of my little Rotisserie Chicken Series *drum roll please* Chicken Stock... has made me get out and dust off my Institute of Culinary Education Fine Cooking 101 class binder. It's been basically my bible, not so much for the recipes but for the techniques. Roasting, poaching, braising, deglazing. Compound butters, stocks, clafouti. The class taught me all the things I thought I knew how to do (roasting a chicken) and all the things I wanted to know how to make every time I read a dinner menu. If you have the time and the means... take this class. It will change your life in the kitchen.

Vinaigrette's were one thing I came to class thinking I had under my belt. After all, I grew up watching my Grandmother shake up oil and lemon juice and then toss over greens and avocado for nearly every family dinner (to this day still my favorite salad). And who hasn't seen them being whisked together in some cooking show or another. But seeing and doing are 2 completely different things... so with what I write below, I urge you to get out and do. You may have grown up watching vinaigrette being shaken, or cakes baked or briskets roasted... but it's called technique for a reason. It takes practice to perfect.
Separating yolks from whites. The absolute definition of practice makes perfect
So here is what I'm making. It's not my recipe, and tonight I feel I'd rather teach then simply repeat. But if you want a perfect warm spring potato salad... make this. I copied the recipe nearly verbatim (substituted sherry vinegar for champagne) and it was delicious. Light but filling... and simple. The way a good vinaigrette should be when coated against crisp greens and then nestled on top a warm salted potato.

Formula: The oil to vinegar ratio is typically 3 to 1. This isn't a set in stone ratio but your taste buds should clue you in if one or the other is lacking. Don't taste straight from a spoon (or your finger) but as I said above against a piece of lettuce or bread, as this will give you a better idea of how the vinaigrette will taste once in the salad.

Classic Vinaigrette
Yield: 1 c.; 8 servings

3 Tbl. red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 Tbl. Dijon mustard
12 Tbl. (3/4 c.) olive oil, vegetable oil or a combination
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In bowl, whisk acid with mustard until dissolved.

2. Slowly and in a thin stream, add the oil while whisking constantly until oil is incorporated. Taste against bland background (i.e. piece of bread, piece of lettuce) and season as necessary.
Trying to pour in slow thin stream while snapping the picture
Lemon-Cream Vinaigrette 
Beat together 1 egg yolk and 4 Tbl cream. Slowly in a thin stream add mixture to the recipe of the classic vinaigrette. Season with 1-2 tsp of additional lemon juice

Creamy Shallot Vinaigrette
Beat together 1 egg yolk with 2 Tbl wine vinegar, 1 Tbl dijon mustard and 2 Tbl minced shallot. Slowly, in a thin stream add 3/4 c oil and whisk well to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.

Honey Garlic Vinaigrette
Whisk to combine 3 Tbl honey, 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar and 2 minced garlic cloves. Ina  this steady stream whisk in 1 c. oil until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper

To mix it up several different ingredients can be used to help flavor the vinaigrette in different ways. Try out different oils and vinegars:

Oil: sesame, walnut, safflower, flaxseed, grape seed, avocado and of course high quality olive oil can have very different flavors band to brand

Vinegar: Balsamic, sherry, red wine, white wine, rice wine, apple cider, champagne vinegar, etc.

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