A good salad dressing is one that doesn't separate. When making salad dressing, some of us shake, some of us whisk, and no few of us cruet. All of these methods, though tried and true, work on some dressings, but at your local kitchen store you can get a gadget that works on all of them: the Bonjour Salad Chef. The Salad Chef is a hand-held blender consisting of a power unit with a touch button on the top, from which emerges a long stem with a set of high-impact plastic blades on the business end, which when engaged spin at extra-high speed to emulsify salad dressing.
Emuslification is a science-fair-sounding word that refers to the suspension of acid in oil. Creating it is a matter of technique: the oil and acid which you mixed in a ratio (approximately two-thirds oil to one-third acid) combine with flavorful ingredients to incorporate into a sauce which maintains its consistency. The only way to create emulsification is effort. For vinaigrettes, whisking is usually sufficient. For a heavy dressing, some shake ingredients together in a lidded jar -- adherents swear that this is the only way to make a creamy dressing such as blue cheese.
I promise I am not typing this from the copy on the box, but the Bonjour Salad Chef does its job perfectly. I have tried it on every kind of dressing I make: lemony washes for arugula, vinaigrettes from shallot to balsamic to pear, hearty olivata for Greek salad, burly Worchestershire dressing for Cobb salad, even red-wine dressing for beef salad. The Chef works best when the ingredients are placed in the bottom of a mid-sized bowl, and the Chef is lowered into them, whisking from the center outwards. Salad dressing should be fresh, but a dijon vinaigrette I made for this column held together six hours (refrigerated) before starting to separate.
For some, there will be two potential issues with the Salad Chef. The first is that the Chef is battery-operated: as I understand it, to some battery power is a hallmark of the Paleolithic period, but it really just means keeping a few batteries in the kitchen junk drawer. Secondly, the accompanying dressing bottle, marked with recipes for a variety of dressings much like a bartender's cup is marked for cocktails, is made of high impact plastic. The Chef fits snugly into the bottle and creates powerful emulsion accordingly, but the plastic is not the best idea for a final result that is largely comprised of oil. It would be best to use the bottle to hold a supply of one kind of dressing, so that it's always available in the fridge. A metal bowl proved to chip at the blades (it didn't actually harm them), while both a glass bowl and a glass jar cracked from the power of the blades. You could use the Chef in either, but I have found the solution to be a Pyrex bowl, mindfully handled.
The Chef is useful. It is inexpensive (about $20), and because it works swiftly and thoroughly, once you make the dressing you can set it aside while you prepare the rest of the meal. Perhaps most importantly, the Chef can help you master a repertoire of recipes. From mastery, you can use technique and ingredient to express flavor -- which, of course, is the artistry of cooking.