Clever chefs are shaking up the salad-topping idea by using vinaigrettes as quick sauces that lend vibrancy to items other than greens. Tom Colicchio of Craft restaurant and Top Chef fame started braising fish in vinaigrette; chef and restaurateur David Burke began reducing vinaigrettes to glaze chicken and lobster; and Dan Barber at Blue Hill Farm created a warm orange vinaigrette to drizzle over fresh figs. One of the most alluring ideas comes from Chef Michel Nischan of Connecticut's Dressing Room—a three-ingredient elixir of apple cider, cider vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil. It is lovely spooned over roast pork loin, drizzled atop turkey paillards—and not at all bad on a salad.
Inspired by these ideas, I began creating vinaigrettes to spoon atop my main courses. Carrot-ginger vinaigrette, made zippy with orange juice and rice vinegar, is a mouthwatering addition to seared salmon atop a tangle of bitter-edged arugula. Another vinaigrette, made from pistachios and lemon and thickened with grated Parmesan, makes simple pork chops taste brand-new.
Dessert vinaigrettes? It's an idea whose time has come. You'll love this riff on Chef Barber's slightly sweet dressing, which I toss with fresh fruit and a chiffonade of basil. It's a whole new world out there.