Creamy Dressing #1: The All-In-One Caesar Dressing
Creamy Dressing #2: The Big-Deal, Upscale Ooze
Creamy Dressing #3: The White, Literally Creamy One

Salad Days

FILED: January 23, 2007

Funny how things come together sometimes.

Of late, I've been on a rant against balsamic vinegar—that mostly industrial, always sickly sweet brown stuff that everyone seems to want to put on salad these days. My feelings reached critical mass lately—boy, was I critical of this mass—when one more "vinaigrette" in a French restaurant had the color of caramel and the taste of molasses.

I've long had my own personal balsamic fighter: good wine vinegar, the sour stuff, un-sweetened, brimming with complexity. But in the wake of the widespread war on salad that's being waged by the purveyors of balsamic, I was in a rebellious mood, perfect for expanding my repertory of non-balsamic dressing opportunities.

And it was in that frame of mind, on a cold winter day, that I started dreaming about creamy dressings, yellow or white.....non-sweet!.....that could ennoble salads and other cold items.

Nice day for a.....white dressing!

Sure enough, as if I had channeled these things, a bunch of top-notch options started to swim into my life. I'm now going to describe them to you, one by one—and I sincerely hope that you find a way to put the balsamic aside, at least temporarily, and give these creamy, soul-pleasing salad winners a try, perfect for the firm greens of winter:


Creamy Dressing #1: The All-In-One Caesar Dressing

This beauty was sprung by a recent dinner party on my calendar: I was serving a French bistro meal to a couple with a well-known passion for Caesar Salad. Now, I could have just slipped in a Caesar after the raw oysters, and before the hanger steak—but I decided to stay closer to the French spirit and create a real wintry French salad (with frisée, and other firm greens) with a Caesar-like vinaigrette, as a kind of compromise. Bingo! This new dish not only fit perfectly into the Gallic line-up, but it has become one of my favorite salad dressings of all.

Creamy Caesar Dressing
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 extra-large egg yolks
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 anchovy filet
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & black pepper

1. Puree garlic with egg yolks, vinegar and anchovy in work bowl of Vita-Prep, or other strong blender. With motor running, add olive oil in a thin stream. When the all the oil is added, add Worcestershire sauce with motor running. Taste for seasoning, adding salt & black pepper if necessary.

NOTE: If you wanted to get even more Caesar-y about it, a few tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano would bring you there.

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Creamy Dressing #2: The Big-Deal, Upscale Ooze

This keeper is a child of New Year's Eve 2007. I was staying with friends in France and had purchased some excellent salmon roe for part of our New Year's celebration (the prices of sturgeon caviar right now, even in France, are beyond obscene). But when I bought it......I didn't visualize what I was going to do with it.

As the big night rolled around, I looked in the fridge.....and necessity mothered invention. What I came up with was a high-wire restaurant act, with a tasteful tower: grilled-bread base, salmon tartare layer mixed with shallots and tarragon, frilly greens moistened with white truffle oil, creme fraiche, and an egg-based drizzle sauce that was also used to make three-star drips all around the perimeter of the plate.

It is the drizzle sauce that I wish to preserve—which is made in a whole new way. I've made it again, back in New York, and discovered that you don't have to create an architectural project in order to enjoy it. Just last night, I mixed truffle oil and tarragon into the sauce, then dripped it over broad slices of salmon sashimi. Wow! For a minimum of effort—you score big-time fancy restaurant points!

Fancy Egg Yolk Drizzle With Tarragon And White Truffle Oil
2 extra-large egg yolks, raw
1 tablespoon lively Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon good white truffle oil (or more, if you love that taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (yellow part only; a micro-plane works best)
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh tarragon leaves
salt & pepper

1. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl for 30 seconds. Whisk in the mustard until completely blended. Drip in the olive oil and truffle oil while whisking, then whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest and tarragon. Taste for seasoning.

NOTE: Though I love this on tartares (salmon, smoked salmon, even beef), it would be killer on a warm lobster salad as well!

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Creamy Dressing #3: The White, Literally Creamy One

Lastly, there was my plane ride back from Iceland the other day—during which I happened to be paging through one of my favorite trashy English celebrity magazines, which, surprisingly, runs excellent recipes at the back of the book. This week's article was touting a chicory, frisée, ham, Gruyere and raw mushroom salad with a "cream and mustard dressing." I was, of course, intrigued—and the fact that Raymond Blanc, the two-star Oxford chef, had purportedly created the recipe, didn't hurt either.

Well, I'm not positive about the raw mushroom thing, and I don't think you need a complicated salad to enjoy this dressing.....but I can tell you that it is a wonderful, off-beat dressing, unlike anything I've seen in America. It comes out of the Vita-Prep, or the blender, very thick and shiny, looking almost like mayonnaise—but, when you taste it, it's light and airy, with a wonderful cream taste accented with vinegar. I put it on some strong-tasting greens—including some terrifically spicy mustard greens—and the combination was memorable. Here's an American adaptation of the recipe:

Cream And Mustard Dressing
3 ounces heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
5 tablespoons grapeseed oil
salt & pepper

1. Place the cream, mustard and vinegar in the bowl of a Vita-Prep or a heavy blender. Whir until well-mixed. Adds the oil in a thin stream with the motor running, Season to taste with salt and pepper.

NOTE: Part of the charm of this dressing, to me, is its simplicity. However, it is a fantastic base for any other flavors you want to lay on it: garlic, blue cheese, herbs, chipotle, etc.

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