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Every week, Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.
Today: How to cheat just a little to get perfectly emulsified, creamy vinaigrette—without cream or mayo or magic.
At one end of the salad dressing continuum, you'll find bottles of wine vinegar and olive oil set on the table for DIY sprinkling, maybe snuggled in one of those cute little caddies. On the other, heftier end of the dressing continuum, there's a jar of mayonnaise.
This continuum isn't a straight line, but a rainbow or a parabola, with every movement away from the endpoints an improvement of experience. Start climbing up from the oil and vinegar side and you'll see a classic vinaigrette—oil whisked into vinegar, with a little mustard to hold it together. Caesar surely comes next. By the time you tumble down to the other side, you've passed Green Goddess and Thousand Island and most of the salad bar at Sizzler.
Right at the pinnacle, I would argue, is this genius vinaigrette from Chef Eric Korsh of North End Grill. It's as bright as any standard vinaigrette, but more voluptuous; as smooth as ranch or blue cheese, but more sprightly and refined, and very unlikely to weigh down your lettuce (or your mouth).
Korsh settled on his method (which I'll get to in a moment) after feeling unsatisfied trying to work hand-chopped fresh herbs into a dressing for baby Sweet Gem lettuces. "It wasn't doing it for me." Korsh told me. "There's the standard 3-to-1 vinaigrette, which I love—it's an ideal from a flavor profile standpoint. But it usually breaks out on the lettuce."
To help the emulsification hold—and give the dressing more viscosity and richness, without adding any dairy—he plunked a soft-boiled egg into the blender, too. The egg was just cooked enough to firm up a little (and put aside nagging raw egg concerns), but not so much that it left any discernible cooked bits. Instead, the dressing was bracing but perfectly creamy and smooth.
After boiling the egg, all that's left is to tear up some dill so there aren't any scraggly pieces, and measure a few sundries directly into your blender, which will handle the rest. The partially cooked egg is so effective at emulsifying that you can keep the dressing in the fridge for several days without it separating. (Korsh credits powerful modern blenders, but you don't need a Vitamix—I've made this in various decidedly lower-end models.)
This version of the salad calls for farm lettuces, sheep's milk feta, scallions, and chives, and needs nothing else. It has followed Korsh for the past six years, through three restaurants. But he's also done variations of the dressing with other herbs like chervil or chives, and on other salads like barely-cooked Ruby Red shrimp and raw celery root.
This template would also make for an excellent potato salad, chicken salad, or wedge—anywhere that you might think you need to involve a thick, mayo-based dressing, but would rather not this time. Egg salads or salads with more soft-boiled eggs plunked on top—far from being overkill—might be the best ideas of all.
Adapted from Eric Korsh and North End Grill
Serves 4, with leftover vinaigrette
For the dill vinaigrette:
1 large egg
1 cup (25 grams) picked dill fronds (from about 1/2 bunch)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (19 grams) Dijon mustard
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) Champagne or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the farm lettuces salad:
Lettuces of your choice (see note)—enough for about 6 cups torn, washed and spun dry
1 cup crumbled fresh sheep's milk feta
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chives cut into 1-inch lengths
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom