Friday, May 28, 2010

- Whisking away in Margaritaville: The best salad dressing ever

One of my co-workers left her salad dressing at home the other day, so I shared some vinaigrette that I had stashed in the fridge at work. When she said she'd like the recipe I was shocked (shocked!) to find that I didn't have it posted on the blog. Known in our house as Trellis Vinaigrette, it's loosely based on a recipe from the Trellis in Williamsburg, but it's been ages since I looked at the recipe; I know it by heart.

The all-time Ackert family favorite application for Trellis Vinaigrette is Grilled Chicken Salad ... a bed of leaf lettuce greens topped with bite-sized pieces of grilled chicken (fingers of boneless, skinless chicken breast marinated in white wine and lemon juice for 15 minutes before grilling over a hot charcoal fire), toasted pecans, sliced scallions, boiled (or nuked) red bliss potatoes, and crumbled bacon (a dry cure is best). Some sliced strawberries on top and a generous dose of vinaigrette will do you.

Trellis Vinaigrette also adds great tang and ably moistens deviled egg filling, cole slaw, and potato salad , all of which will no doubt make an appearance on our Memorial Day dinner table, along with burgers and Nathan's hot dogs.

Trellis Vinaigrette 

Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
An equal quantity of apple cider vinegar
Safflower oil, one and a half times the lemon/vinegar quantity
1 heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard for each lemon
Kosher salt

This recipe is all about proportions.  Since you can't control how much juice is in a lemon, that quantity becomes the basis for the rest of the recipe. So juice the lemon(s) and put the juice in a measuring cup.  Eyeball an equal quantity of apple cider vinegar then make note of the combined quantity. For example, if I squeeze 2 lemons, it usually yields about 1/3 cup of juice, to which I add 1/3 cup of vinegar. Place in a steep sided bowl or a lidded glass jar and add 1/4 tsp salt (you can add more later depending on your taste) and one heaping teaspoon of Grey Poupon Dijon mustard for each lemon ... two in the example we're working on here.

Now measure 1 1/2 times that quantity in safflower oil (which is light, wonderful, and hard to find) ... so, 2/3 cup of lemon and vinegar requires 1 cup oil.

Here's where I part ways with cookbook orthodoxy: I do not slowly drizzle the oil into the lemon and vinegar while whisking away (gasp). Instead, I either shake everything together in a lidded glass jar or I put the whipped cream whisk attachment on my hand mixer and beat until the vinaigrette turns thick and creamy.

If it seems watery, I plunk in a little more mustard and/or oil. If it's bland, I throw in a little more salt, maybe even some pepper.

All of this is greatly facilitated if I have a Margarita in hand as I make the vinaigrette. Fresh lime juice, agave nectar, and a good tequila, shaken in crushed ice. Yum ... think I'll go whisk some up right now.

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