A vinaigrette is a combination of oil
and vinegar that is usually held together - emulsified - with mustard.
Making a vinaigrette is much like making a mayonnaise, except that a
vinaigrette contains no egg yolks. In fact, most of the time, when you
make salads, it isn't necessary to make a vinaigrette - the oil, vinegar
and seasoning can just be tossed with the greens. We generally think of a
vinaigrette as a cold sauce for salads, but vinaigrettes, both cold and
hot, make excellent sauces for meats, seafood and vegetables.
Combine mustard and vinegar in a bowl,
and whisk together until smooth.
Slowly work in the oil. Extra
virgin olive oil is used here, although the delicacy of finer oils is
obscured by the mustard.
The type of vinegar and oil you choose
depends on your taste. Using extra virgin oil for most vinaigrettes, but
sometimes a tasteless oil, such as canola, is better for delicately
flavored ingredients like carrots, the flavor of which might be
overwhelmed by olive oil. Conversely, nut oils could also be used to sauce
endive, curly chicory, cabbage and beets.
Standard proportions for vinaigrette
are 1 part vinegar to 3 or 4 parts oil. It's important to taste as you go,
because vinaigrettes are more or less acidic depending on what acid you
choose. For example, balsamic vinegar is somewhat sweeter, so you'll
probably want to use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. Lemon juice on the
other hand is very acidic, so you'll probably need more oil. The goal is a
tangy, but not biting taste.
If using mustard in the vinaigrette,
start with about half as much mustard as vinegar. Mustard vinaigrettes are
delicious with bitter or strong-flavored ingredients, such as chilled
cooked beets or leeks.
When making a hot vinaigrette, the
proportions of oil to vinegar will change, depending on how much you
reduce the vinegar, swirl in oil to taste.