Help me re-create my ex's über secret family salad dressing recipe.
March 9, 2007 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Contacting the ex is completely out of the question, but holy mother of croutons her salad dressing was fantastic. She is of Russian-German descent and grew up in the greater Chicago area. Her German grandmother gave her the recipe, supposedly. I have researched German salad dressing to no avail. While telling the truth was not her strength, I cannot find the recipe anywhere, which lends credence to the family recipe story. I have tried and failed to re-create it on my own, many times. The ingredients that I know are in the salad dressing are: aromat (which knowing now that it is MSG, means I will probably leave it out, but might hint at when the recipe was originally created) green onions, tarragon vinegar, one raw egg, fresh cracked black pepper, salt, sugar. I would guess there is garlic in it too, but I am not certain. After reading this post, I'm pretty sure it's not this. I don't remember dill being a strong flavor in the dressing. I've experimented with adding various spices and using olive oil/vegetable oil and cannot get it right. It looks a bit like Caesar salad dressing, but darker in color and less viscous. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Thanks in advance.
posted by luminous phenomena to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
(I swear there were carriage returns when I typed it out. So sorry!)
posted by luminous phenomena at 8:46 PM on March 9, 2007

You know, I really thought you were using salad dressing as a euphemism.

Leaving the MSG out is going to make a big difference. It really changes the flavor of things. Is it possible that you've been on the right track and that the missing piece is the aromat?
posted by aladfar at 8:57 PM on March 9, 2007

which knowing now that it is MSG, means I will probably leave it out

Yet, that's probably adding a whole lot of the fundamental flavor to the dressing. MSG adds umami to the dish, one of the basic flavors the tongue can recognize. Umami is the detection of glutamates, which occur naturally in a whole lotta foods -- parmesan cheese and tomatoes are heavy on the glutamates. So, consider a substitution of something, rather than leaving it out. Or consider that the MSG scare is really just an urban myth -- there is no real chemical difference between MSG and glutamates found in common foods. Parmesan cheese doesn't give you migraines, does it?
posted by frogan at 8:57 PM on March 9, 2007

[gawd, I so totally borked the formatting on this question *cringe*]

Yes, I avoid MSG because of migraines, now. Back then it wasn't much of an issue.
posted by luminous phenomena at 9:00 PM on March 9, 2007

According to this link, one of the ingredients of Aromat is yeast extract (along with some other stuff.) Maybe toy with some nutritional yeast as an additional ingredient?
posted by macadamiaranch at 9:09 PM on March 9, 2007

Yeah, I can't imagine leaving the MSG out and still finding it as fantastic. That said, sounds like a flavored mayo/aioli basically. Are you sure it was a whole egg and not just a yolk? Usually it's just a yolk. Mayo can be seasoned with whatever you like. The vinegar would water it down some which would make it less viscous than more familiar caesar dressings. How is it darker? Homemade mayo is more yellow (yolk again) than the jarred stuff.

Germans apparently make and have a name for aioli.
posted by birdie birdington at 9:57 PM on March 9, 2007

According to this link, one of the ingredients of Aromat is yeast extract (along with some other stuff.) Maybe toy with some nutritional yeast as an additional ingredient?

Yeast extract guessed it...chock full of glutamate.
posted by TungstenChef at 10:56 PM on March 9, 2007

This is a job for Vegemite! (No, it isn't!)

There has to be some sort of commercial preparation you could use. Vegemite probably isn't the right answer, but there must be something else.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:30 PM on March 9, 2007

n'thing the advice that if you leave out the aromat it's going to be very hard to get the flavour you're looking for. If you need to be reassured that it's not going to eat holes into the brains of you and all your future children, you can try this article.
posted by louigi at 12:59 AM on March 10, 2007

Umami isn't just the sensation of glutamate. It's the sensation of a variety of free amino acids and nucleotides. Your idea that eating a normal food-quanity of MSG (especially just in salad dressing, which will be small in mass compared to, say, soup) is probably imaginary. But if you insist that you cannot eat MSG, try adding something like inosine to the salad dressing, combined with something meaty (like a little demi-glace or super-reduced chicken stock). That combination of some free amino acid with free nucleotide 5'-phosphate is a powerful umami one- it's what's in Maggi seasoning and a lot of other umami-based sauces.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:01 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ugh, your idea that it is causing headaches is probably imaginary. Too early in the morning.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:02 AM on March 10, 2007

"Knorr Aromat is a finely balanced blend of herbs and spices, carefully selected to bring out the best in your cooking. You can use Knorr Aromat seasining(sic) just like salt and pepper - either in the kitchen whilst cooking or on the table as a condiment. Try it with vegetables, rice, pasta, salads, or rub it into meat or poultry before roasting or grilling - it will give your food a typically Swiss flavour."

From here.

I think you're stuck sucking up the delights of MSG.

Seconding the nutritional yeast if you're dead set on avoiding it. The ingredients also remind me of what's in vegetable stock cubes.
posted by kmennie at 5:30 AM on March 10, 2007

No help, but your question would make an interesting opening paragraph for a short story/novel.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:17 AM on March 10, 2007

Here's a partial ingredient list for Aromat. Alas, they don't elaborate too far on "spices and natural flavors," but the list does confirm your suspicion that there's garlic (and onion powder) involved.

Lactose also has a distinctive flavor and it's high up on the ingredient list — it might be part of what you're missing. You can't really buy it at the supermarket, but homebrewing supply stores will sell it if you really want to experiment, or you could play with adding dairy — maybe some buttermilk? — to the mix.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:48 AM on March 10, 2007

Here's a different approach... I searched German sites for recipes containing the ingredients you mentioned. It sounds like a fairly simple and common recipe to me (like many of the things I had when I grew up in Germany). So here is the page I found with many salad dressing recipes containing eggs, aromat, vinegar, etc. They're all fairly similar, so that's reassuring.

If you don't read German, Essig = vinegar, Oel (O-umlaut l) = oil, Ei = egg, Salz = salt, Pfeffer = pepper, Senf = mustard, Kraeuter = herbs...

Maggi, which seems to be used often, is a liquid seasoning commonly used in Europe. You may have used it. It adds umami, and I would suggest subsituting soy sauce, which is similar and adds umami as well, if you can't find Maggi. Also, for the above MSG discussion, you could try soy sauce instead of the Aromat.

You probably won't need it, but if any of these recipes seems like it's leading you in the right direction but some of the words don't make sense, I'll check this post for follow-ups.

Good luck!
posted by laskagirl at 10:14 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, I should mention that the page I got was Swiss. But I'd think the recipes were similar.
posted by laskagirl at 10:16 AM on March 10, 2007

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