I think there are levels of salad dressing mastery. It begins when you stop buying store-bought bottles of vinaigrette in favor of making your own. (This took me some years to really get right!) Then comes dabbling with citrus juice, a shallot or two, maybe even a few attempts at homemade blue cheese dressing. But beyond these levels and sitting atop of the salad dressing food chain (if there is such a thing) is a nutty brown butter dressing. Butter on a salad? Oh yes — hear me out!
If you've never tried browned butter, it's really simple. It's just butter that has been cooked for a few minutes so it can develop a browned, toasted flavor. (See our step-by-step guide here.) Browned butter tastes a little bit like dark caramel, without the sweetness, and we've found it has notes of walnuts, burnt sugar, and toasted bread.
The reason I love brown butter dressing so much is because it seems to complement anything you use it on. I find certain salad dressings have distinct personalities and are best with specific salads. A creamy ranch dressing begs for sturdy lettuce and crisp veggies like carrots or radishes. Delicate greens like arugula do well with a subtle Champagne or sherry vinaigrette, and bold wedge salads can withstand an herb-flecked, chunky blue cheese dressing.
But brown butter works well on cold leafy lettuce salads, warm potato wedges and chunky vegetable salads alike. Its nutty, toasty flavor tones down bitter greens and complements tart citrus. I'd even go so far as to guess that it'd be wonderful in a chicken salad although I haven't tried it for sure. But really, I've never struck out with brown butter.
Have you tried a brown butter dressing you love?
Try a Recipe:
• Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Apples, Hazelnuts and Brown Butter Dressing (pictured) - Anjali Prasertong for The Kitchn
• Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Brown Butter Dressing - A Cozy Kitchen
• Sweet and White Potato Salad with Brown Butter Dressing - Five and Spice
• Warm Summer Vegetable Salad with Brown Butter Dressing - Food and Wine
• Brown Butter Vinaigrette - The New York Times
(Image: Anjali Prasertong)