Balsamic Vinaigrette - on the thick side?
- Susnshine Girl Dec 21, 2004 01:16 PM
My boyfriend loves balsamic vinaigrettes from particular restaurants that are thicker rather than runny. That is to say, when you stick a fork in the dressing, a lot of it adheres to the fork - you can almost scoop out a bit with a fork alone. This kind of dressing does not seem to be as oily as others, and never seems to separate.
Any recipes on "thickened" balsamic vinaigrettes? What is the thickening agent?
Thanks in advance for your tips!
If you put balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and some mustard (I use Dijon) in a jar with a tightly-fitting lid and shake it until the mustard is thoroughly incorporated, then add olive oil (start with about 3 x the amount of vinegar and see -- you may want more olive oil) and shake again, you will get a thickened dressing. Something about dissolving the mustard into the vinegar makes the whole thing emulsify (akin to mayo although not as thick). If that's not thick enough, also adding a bit of raw egg yolk (with the usual warning about raw egg) when you add the mustard will get you even closer to mayonnaise consistency.
I can't say why, but I've always found that balsamic produces a thicker dressing than plain wine vinegar without any exta help from me. It just happens.
That said, I've found that a spoonful of dijon mustard usually adds to the "thickness." Of course, you have to also like that flavor. I can't thing of anything else specifically except perhaps a bit of egg yolk. In that event, you have to be careful not to use too much, or you'll end up with balsamic mayo. (And there's also the whole health issue. There are pasteurized eggs out there which I try to use for such things.)
In restaurants, you're probably dealing with a commercial product, so the thickness likely comes from vegetable gum, corn syrup or starch. No benefit to your dressing there at all.
Add a little guar gum powder to your dressing. It is particularly well suited as a thickener/emulsifier in vinaigrette dressings. It requires no heat for thickening, it requires only a very small amount and it adds nothing to the taste. You can find it in most health food stores. I've been using it for a long time and I make all my own salad dressings.
I add 1/4 tsp for 16 ounces of salad dressing. you will get some immediate thickening effect but the you can expect it to gradually thicken some more after it is mixed and sits for a while.
My roommate liked the low-fat balsamic at our neighborhood salad place so much that she asked what they put in it. The man who makes it said that it was just balsamic and mayo so she experimented later that evening. Said that more mayo was necessary than she had anticipated but the result was basically the same as the delis. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the taste since I have a very strong aversion to mayo but she was pleased with it.
It could be the type of balsamic being used, some are very thick (and make great dressing), the thicker ones seems to be more expensive but that may be the taste he is enjoying.
Mythought is they are using a prepared balsamic vinagrette, probably Ken's which has been the standard since introduced a few years ago. It's pretty good and is neither too sweet nor tart, etc etc, believe me they know how to research the market. Oh well, a kitchen can't have 5 different chefs anymore, they have to cut corners somewhere, and with salad dressings or desserts, it's not always for the worst.
Just an idea...
I saw that Trader Joes sells a Balsalmic Vinegar Reduction (it's in a small, thin, plastic bottle). Maybe you can use that instead of regular balsalmic vinegar in your dressing recipe (or make your own balsalmic reduction if you are feeling ambitous).
Like the others, my recipe is pretty standard... 2:1 EVOO:balsalmic vinegar, plus a little brown (or dijon) mustard and salt. If I am feeling adventurous, I will add stuff like hot sauce, or honey, or shallots or garlic...
It's actually very easy to make a balsamic reduction, the most basic being just taking some balsamic vinegar and boiling it in a pot until thick. This is an especially good trick for cheaper balsamics to approximate the more expensive aged kinds that are naturally reduced via evaporation. I like to add some honey and orange zest once it's reduced by half for extra vinaigrette-ready flavor. Watch out that you don't overdo the honey though since reduced balsamic vinegar is pretty sweet as it is. Also good for drizzling on roasted or grilled vegetables or fish.