Musing: A Broken Dressing (2024)

Musing: A Broken Dressing (1)

My go-to salad dressing is what’s sometimes called in culinary circles a “broken dressing,” that is, a dressing that is not totally emulsified as is, for example, a classic vinaigrette. Growing up in an Italian-American household, we had a salad at the end of every meal, typically iceberg but occasion it was mixed with arugula, frisee, or even escarole. But the dressing was always the same: plenty of vinegar (either red-wine or cider), a splash of oil, a little dry mustard, a pressed garlic clove, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.

When I started to cook for myself in the early 70s, influenced by the likes of Claiborne, Beard, and Child, I started to make the classic vinaigrette that used far more olive oil and considerably less vinegar than my family’s dressing and replaced the dry mustard with Dijon. I mastered it and motivated by compliments always used it at dinner parties. Yet when I dined alone, I returned to my familial broken dressing, but kept the change in mustard.

The other night, however, at a small dinner party, in a rush to get a salad onto the table, I used this dressing on a salad of hearts of romaine. Our guests remarked that they found the dressing light and refreshing. Those comments made me think that maybe my family’s retro dressing is ready for a revival at future get togethers at home.

Here’s my recipe; the measurements are approximate as I only make this dressing by eye.

1/3 cup red-wine vinegar, or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, grated
1/4 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

One final note. Owing to the amount of vinegar, only dress the salad immediately before serving to avoid wilting the greens.

Musing: A Broken Dressing (2024)


Musing: A Broken Dressing? ›

Alternatively, you can create an emulsion with an egg yolk and an acid, like lemon juice, to which you'll then add the broken sauce, a little at a time, whisking constantly. If you choose the egg yolk route, you may need to thin out the resulting sauce a bit with water.

How to bring back split vinaigrette? ›

Tips for Fixing a Broken Sauce or Vinaigrette:

Add an Emulsifier: To re-establish the emulsion, you'll need to add an emulsifier. This could be a spoonful of mustard or mayonnaise for sauces, or a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for vinaigrettes. The emulsifier acts as a binding agent, helping the ingredients stick together.

Why do dressings break? ›

A broken sauce is generally caused by the separation of sauces into two components: a watery liquid and an oily film on top. This happens when there's too much fat or liquid in the mixture. This can happen when there are not enough emulsifiers (which help keep your ingredients together).

How to emulsify a vinaigrette? ›

To make them mix, or to emulsify, all you need to do is whisk with a fork or whisk or puree in a blender. By mixing fast, the oil breaks into the tiniest of droplets so that it has no choice but to mingle with the other ingredients. However, as it is natural, with the passing of time, the oil will separate again.

Can you fix a broken dressing? ›

You can do this by placing a teaspoon of lemon juice (or water) in a clean bowl and adding a small amount of the broken emulsion, whisking to form another, stable emulsion. Once that emulsion forms, drizzle in the rest of the broken sauce, whisking constantly.

How to stop vinaigrette splitting? ›

If you want to keep your homemade vinaigrette from separating so quickly, you can slow things down by adding other ingredients like mustard, black pepper, or dried spices. You can even suspend it permanently by whisking in an egg yolk. These other ingredients also make the vinaigrette thicker and creamier.

What is the stabilizer in a vinaigrette? ›

An emulsifier is used in a vinaigrette to stabilize the oil and vinegar. Common emulsifiers include egg yolks, soy lecithin, and mustard. These ingredients all include lecithin--the stabilizing compound. In many vinaigrettes, mustard is the go-to stabilizer.

Why do dressings split? ›

The water and oil molecules have distinct chemical properties that don't interact well together. You may have seen this if you've attempted to make a salad dressing by shaking together oil and vinegar (which is mostly water), which gives a temporary suspension that quickly separates.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when making vinaigrette? ›

12 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Making Homemade Vinaigrette
  • Estimating measurements for all ingredients. inspiredbyart/Shutterstock. ...
  • Using the wrong oil. ...
  • Using the wrong vinegar. ...
  • Leaving out the emulsifier. ...
  • Skipping the mustard. ...
  • Forgetting to check expiration dates. ...
  • Not using fresh herbs. ...
  • Using vinaigrette only on salad.
Aug 18, 2022

Why does my salad dressing congeal? ›

If you find that your vinaigrette has solidified and/or separated after storing it in the fridge, give it time to come back to room temperature before whisking it up to emulsify the mixture once again.

Why won't my vinaigrette emulsify? ›

Mustard is a powerful emulsifier and will help stabilize it. To build a normal emulsion without any help from mustard or other emulsifiers, you must add the drops of oil a little at a time into the vinegar while whisking or whizzing with a blender or stick blender, allowing them to disperse.

What will permanently emulsify a dressing? ›

Egg yolks or Mayonnaise

Interestingly, I recently found out that raw egg yolks can also be used as an emulsifying agent in salad dressings. The lecithin found in egg yolks has a natural affinity for both oil and water, making it an effective emulsifier.

How to fix a split beurre blanc? ›

If your beurre blanc starts falling apart, the addition of a little cold butter will restore the balance. Alternatively, some folks also add heavy cream to enhance the velvety texture and stabilize the emulsification. Opt for chilled cream to bring the temperature down.

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