Vinaigrette (known as French dressing in Britain) is a classic base of vinegar and oil that lends itself to any number of variations. It is a world favorite when simply drizzled over any salad.
Vinaigrette is a basic sauce that combines two or more ingredients. In many cases, an emulsifier, or binding agent, such as mustard is added. Vinaigrette is most often used as a salad dressing, but it is also a highly flavorful sauce for hot dishes as well.
The name is derived from vinaigre, the French version of vinegar. It is literally a mixture of vinegar and oil. While these are not classified as a “stable” emulsion, they can easily be re-blended when shaken (the oil will rise to the top).
There is some debate about this classic French blend being one of the “mother sauces.” In truth, it is not part of the original quintet of sauces as established by Georges-Auguste Escoffier, the iconic resource for professional chefs. Vinaigrette, as well as mayonnaise, seems to have been added at a later date and is often called a “contemporary mother sauce.”
• Prepared vinaigrettes may not always use the highest quality ingredients and will have added preservatives.
• A homemade vinaigrette should be refrigerated and used within four days.
• The finest part of working with a base sauce is that it can be added to in any way desired. The classic recipe is simply one part vinegar to three parts oil. Adjust the ratio for individual taste. Salt and pepper are included to balance and complement the acidity.
• From this base, the choices are endless. In fact, any citrus can be included or used to replace the vinegar.
• Keep a whisk handy for easy blending when the oil and vinegar begin to separate.
• If using olive oil, let the vinaigrette come to room temperature before stirring. Olive oil tends to solidify if refrigerated.