The Vinaigrette Ratio

Please welcome guest author Michael Ruhlman as he demonstrates how to apply a basic ratio to making vinaigrettes. ~Elise

First things first. I am a huge fan of Elise and am honored to be here on this blog. Elise, thank you!

Some of you know I’ve just published a book called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. It’s all about proportions and how knowing proportions for fundamental techniques liberates you in the kitchen. Here is a perfect example of a culinary ratio, one that’s fairly standard: The 3-to-1 vinaigrette, or 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar. That we are willing to pay three or four dollars for bottled salad dressing when a delicious vinaigrette costs just pennies to make yourself, is an example of just how far away from the kitchen our processed food system has taken us.

A ratio is just a baseline. Maybe you prefer a very sharp vinaigrette with just two parts oil. If you use lime juice as you acid, you may need more than 3 parts oil. I think the standard 3-to-1, though, is just right.

In the dressings below, I use a neutral oil so that flavor of the ingredients comes through. But if you have an olive oil you love, that works great too. It’s all a matter of what flavors you want. Replace it with a tasty nut oil, and your vinaigrette is transformed again (replace the canola with walnut oil in the first recipe here, add some chopped walnuts and a dash of honey for a superlative walnut vinaigrette).

Embrace a single ratio, and you will walk away with a thousand vinaigrettes. Here are three examples, all based on mixing two tablespoons of sherry vinegar with six tablespoons of canola oil (for a half cup total), each one building off the other. Remember the better your sherry vinegar, the better the vinaigrette (look for those produced in Spain).

Method

3 Sherry Vinegar-based Vinaigrettes

Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette

This is a great all-purpose vinaigrette for salads, sliced tomatoes or other raw vegetables.

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine the vinegar, shallot, salt and pepper. Give it a stir with a whisk or fork to soften the shallot then drizzle the oil in while whisking.

Tarragon-Mustard Vinaigrette

This is a little heartier than the above, can be used to dress greens, whole vegetables and would make a lovely sauce drizzled over lean white fish.

  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp minced tarragon

Combine the vinegar, shallot, salt, pepper, and mustard. Give it a stir with a whisk or fork to soften the shallot then drizzle the oil in while whisking. Stir in the tarragon just before serving.

Gribiche Vinaigrette

Gribiche is traditionally mayonnaise based, but I like it as a vinaigrette better. It makes a wonderful sauce for roasted pork loin, or any pork preparation. Last week I used it to dress a salad of pancetta lardons and arugula. It's hearty and packed with ingredients.

  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced tarragon
  • 1 hard cooked egg, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cornichons
  • 2 teaspoons capers, roughly chopped

Combine the vinegar, shallot, salt, pepper, and mustard. Give it a stir with a whisk or fork to soften the shallot then drizzle the oil in while whisking. Stir in the tarragon, egg, cornichons and capers.

Vinaigrette mise en place photograph by Donna Ruhlman.

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