Sunday, November 20, 2011

Special Touches: Champagne Vinaigrette & Herb-Garlic Butter

In the grand scheme of a meal, a special dressing or butter may not seem like a big deal, but trust me when I tell you that it is.  In fact, I think everything that brings a meal together--from the quality of the ingredients to the finishing touches--are quite special.  They exemplify the effort (i.e. the heart and soul--and love, in my case) that goes into preparing a delectable meal.

In the case of a vinaigrette and compound butter, you can single-handedly elevate a dish from routine and ordinary to extraordinary and unforgettable.  And recipes like my classic Champagne Vinaigrette and Herb-Garlic Butter will help you do just that. 

When I share with others that I've been making my own dressings (Vinaigrettes, Blue Cheese, Caesar, etc.) for years, they often look amazed.  (And I get it--especially with the non-foodie types.)  However, I then share how easy they are to make, as well as the fact that with the home-made stuff you know--and control--exactly what you're eating.  The added health benefits--along with the fun of creating something delicious on your own--means that you really have no reason not to make your own!  This is equally true with compound butters.

The flavor profiles for vinaigrette and compound butter are as varied as your tastes and imaginations will allow, but for today's purposes, I'm sharing two of my all-time favorites that never fail to satisfy--and solicit the abundant "oohs and aahs" that every dedicated cook loves to inspire. 

So whether you're looking to dress up salad greens and grilled vegetables, or wake up pasta, fish or roasted meats, adding these special touches will take you there--and beyond.

Happy Eating!

Champagne Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar*
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture while steadily whisking until the oil is fully incorporated and the dressing emulsifies.  Store dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for on-going enjoyment.

*Cook's Note: If you don't have champagne vinegar on hand, you can substitute a good white wine vinegar for an equally delicious vinaigrette.

Herb-Garlic Butter
1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine butter, herbs, garlic and salt.  Refrigerate (or freeze) until butter has become firm again.  Remove from refrigerator, serve and enjoy! 

P.S.  Tell me, what special touches do you like to add to your dishes?

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