I'm usually pretty good at figuring things out, though now my detective work is more likely to involve finding my husband's glasses or wallet, than finding my husband.
I felt pretty excited, and a bit sneaky, when by some stroke of luck I managed to overhear the chef at the Northeast Social, a great gastro pub in Minneapolis, MN, telling a neighboring table his ingredients for his salad dressing.
Let me preface this by saying that it was the most exquisitely dressed salad I had ever eaten. Each bite of roasted beet, candied pecan, goat cheese and greens offered a sublime creaminess, hint of sweet and subtle acidity. The dressing was solid, holding the tender leaves together in a tall pile. I tasted a morsel of dressing carefully, letting it dissolve on my tongue. I said to my husband, “I think this might be made with butter.” But what else was in it? I had to find out.
Well, it didn't take great detective skills to overhear the chef—that was pure luck. But to recreate the same flavor at home did take some investigative work—and a dash of mad scientist. I repeated the chef's words to myself, “butter, sugar, lemon juice and shallot.”
As soon as we arrived home I hauled out my food processor and minced a small section of shallot, then added about ½ stick of butter, a squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of sugar. Pulse. Oops. The butter separated from the acidity of the lemon and the shallot gave a kick that overpowered the gentle butter flavor.
Then I remembered—he said browned butter! Determined to recreate this delicious dressing (I did call them for the recipe, assuring them I would post it on my world famous blog, to no avail), I tried again.
This time I melted four tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. I browned it slightly. Quick, the shallots. Oh, s*!t, don't let them burn. I rapidly poured it all into a Pyrex cup. The warm butter mellowed the shallots without burning them. Now add the sugar? Sure. One tsp. Stir. Let solidify. Stir again and add lemon. One squeeze. Not enough. Two squeezes? Perfect! It tasted exactly like the dressing I had at Northeast Social, with a delicated frosting-like quality. I gently mixed it in some greens, added some goat cheese and cranberries, and devoured.
I think there might be two futures for me—detective, and mad scientist.
Brown-Butter Shallot Dressing
1 small shallot (1-2 inch piece) finely diced
2 tbsp lemon (to taste
sugar (1 tsp, or to taste)
5 tbsp butter
Brown butter in saucepan watching carefully. Remove from heat and add in shallots and sugar. Stir and let cool. Add lemon. Stir, taste, adjust and use!
Originally I made candied pecans as they had at the restaurant, but they are not pictured. And I highly recommend the roasted beets, too.