Monday, September 09, 2013

Basic French dressing

When I was in Navy cook's school in 1971, French dressing was the term for vinaigrette dressing. The 1963 edition of The Professional Chef says, "French dressing is a temporary emulsion of oil, acids (usually vinegar) and seasonings." It has since evolved to mean a catsup-based dressing, similar to the bottled dressing made by Kraft.
The 4th edition of Professional Cooking provides the same formula to young culinary arts students. The recipe is titled, "Basic French Dressing or Vinaigrette." Both cookbooks contain a number of variations to the basic recipe.

Lightly coat the salad leaves with vinaigrette, about two to three tablespoons dressing for pound of lettuce greens. Use just enough dressing to coat the salad without the dressing pooling in the bowl.

Here's the recipe from the 1963 cookbook:


1/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 cup salad oil

Dissolve seasonings in vinegar. Combine with oil and mix vigorously. Mix well at time of service.

Makes 1 cup.

I like to play with the basic vinegar to oil ratio. While a 1:3 ratio is traditional, I usually work with a 1:2 ratio. The addition of 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and several finely minced garlic cloves add much more interest to the dressing. Trying different vinegars (sherry or balsamic, for instance) and oils (oil or any variety of nut oils), along with your favorite herb combination will make this a camp favorite. A touch of sugar or honey tempers the sharpness of the vinegar.

Here's one of my favorite vinaigrettes:


1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl until dissolved. While whisking, stream oil in until dissolved, stirring constantly. Adjust oil to taste.

Makes 1-1/4 cups tablespoons.

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