In the Happy Accidents Department, here is a salad dressing variation. Bottled dressing is a treat and, goodness knows, handy — especially if one does not have required ingredients on tap. Still, generally, I like to make my own dressings because vinegar and oil are relatively inexpensive and I can season it to taste. I use a garlic vinaigrette recipe I have been making for years now, drawn from the “Silver Palate Cookbook.” I mix it up in a blender and always keep it on hand to dress salad, add flavor to soup and sauces, and even use as a marinade for nearly any meat, from chicken to venison.
A couple of days ago, on a Sunday afternoon when both the island stores were closed, I decided it was time for a new batch of dressing, having just used the last drop of the last batch. As I assembled the ingredients, which include an egg, mustard, garlic cloves, red wine vinegar and olive oil, I observed that I was low on mustard, had no garlic and was nearly out of red wine vinegar. I suppose I could have given up or visited the neighbors begging the needful. Instead, I thought what the hey, I’ll use what I do have and see what happens. I am telling you about this to cheer on others who do this too, and give heart for the future to anyone who might hesitate to venture mass substitutions.
Here is what happened. I had half as much mustard as I needed. I decided just to use what I had, no apologies or excuses. Instead of garlic I used shallots, which are like a cross between garlic and onion, and I piled them up until they looked like the equivalent of six cloves of garlic. If I had no shallots, I would have used onion. I used what red wine vinegar I had, about a third of what the recipe called for, and topped it off with rice wine vinegar, though I seriously considered malt vinegar, and if I had no other vinegar would have used cider vinegar with a little sugar added. One time I used balsamic vinegar in this recipe and the result tasted fine but it looked like gravy, and I decided against doing that again.
The salad dressing I produced is really tasty. It certainly doesn’t pack garlic punch, but it is a good dressing on its own merits. Here is the recipe. Feel free not to follow it, and make your own variation.
Shallot Salad Dressing
¼ cup or less grainy mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
4-5 cloves shallots
2 cups olive oil
Drop the egg and mustard into a blender or food processor and combine. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper, and blend. Then with the motor running, add the shallots, then add the oil slowly and steadily until all the oil is incorporated.
Makes about three cups of dressing.