The Make Ahead Modern Method is all about prepping elements of meals ahead of time. This gets food on the table quick. Some of the best elements to make ahead are dressings. Dressings add the flavor to your fresh stuff. They make the difference between naked lettuce and awesome salad. Plus, they don’t mind sitting in the fridge, waiting until you’re ready for them.
You’ll give any make-ahead dressing its best start in life by emulsifying it as thoroughly as possible. This simply means forcing your fats and liquids to get along and become a smooth, thickened mixture. An emulsifying or stabilizing element, like mustard or plant particles (garlic, herbs), is often added to help the fat and liquid come together.
There are many ways to mix your dressings. You can whisk the oil into the liquid by hand. You can put all the elements in a jar and shake-a shake-a. You can pour the oil into a running food processor. Or you can bring in the big guns and use a blender. All these techniques yield a thickened dressing. But will it stay that way throughout the week?
The amount of force, called shearing power, used to combine the fat and liquid will determine the stability of the dressing. In the Make Ahead Modern kitchen, I don’t like to mess with any dressing right before mealtime (I’m lazy). I need something ready to go when I am. So I prepare most of my dressings on Cooking Day in a high powered blender. The fat and liquid are well-combined. The stabilizing element, like garlic, is so pulverized, its particles keep the fat or liquid from pooling back together. You’ve got emulsified dressing for days.
If the ratio of fat to liquid in the mixture is too even, or “heavy”, the dressing may separate again, no matter how much shearing power used. That’s why I tend to use a bit less oil in my dressing than normal recipes call for. It stays combined longer. Plus, I just like dressing tangy and full of life.
Even if your blended dressing does separate in fridge, when it started well-emulsified, it’ll pull back together in a snap. Just give it a few shakes.
Remember that some fats, like coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, solidify in the fridge. That will cause some separation as well. Just let the dressing come to room temperature or microwave for about 10 seconds, and it’ll be fine. Shake to recombine.
A well-emulsified dressing clings luxuriously to your salad fixin’s, infusing every bite with all the mingled flavors. Break out the blender and embrace make-ahead dressings! It is so worth it.