Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Restaurant Re-creation: Northeast Social's Brown-Butter Shallot Dressing

I've always thought I'd make a good detective. I remember quite a few yeears back when I tracked down an ex-boyfriend at a hotel in Oklahoma. We were living in Arizona, and he had gone on the road with a bike racing crew. He called me from Oklahoma one night, and left a message telling me simply that he had made it to that city (can't remember which city now). I wanted to call him back (not sure if that was mutual!) so I set to work finding him. Ten minutes later his hotel room phone was ringing. Poor guy. You know how I did it? I called the Chamber of Commerce, which eventually led me to his hotel.

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.


Brownieville Girl said...

Possible new career as a food detective!!

I look forward to trying this when salad season returns - Thanks.

mr. pineapple man said...

nice to meet your blog! great recipes~

Pam said...

Oh, this is a unique dressing to try! It sounds delicious!

My Little Space said...

Oh wow, Othelia, you're our hero! Our personal F.O.C. detective! I am really appreciate your work. Thank you for the recipe. Hope you're having a wonderful day.
Cheers, Kristy

Carolyn Jung said...

I love brown butter on pasta and in baked goods like shortbread. Never thought to use it to toss on a green salad. But I bet it is awesome. ;)

Claudia said...

I have some restaurants I need to send you to - maybe you can overhear more chef's. This is a different salad dressing - so rich and creamy and then the lemon touch. And anything with shallots makes me want a bite. I'm recreating a salad from L'Acqua in White Bear Lake this week. Maybe. We'll see.