Dishes and Wishes

Recipes and Culinary Commentary

Mastering the French Vinaigrette

This is the basic recipe for making a French Vinaigrette. Why is it French? Because I learned it from my French neighbors. Also probably because it features Dijon mustard, known for its spicy smoothness.  Maille is the best brand you can find at the supermarket, but all Dijon mustard works. I’m sure the new Maille Honey Dijon would be great as well. Do not use that strange Dijonnaise* stuff (if it’s even still on the market) unless you have no legitimate mustard of any kind. Also, there are no measurements. This is to help you start to learn the correct mixing proportions, which you’ll have to, because making a vinaigrette is so key.

  • olive or other type of oil
  • Dijon mustard
  • balsamic, red wine, or rice wine vinegar (in order of strength)
  • salt and pepper
  • optional: lemon juice, clove of crushed garlic, a few capers, herbs d’Provence, chopped Parsley, sugar/honey/agave

Pour about 1/2 as much olive oil into your salad bowl as you want total dressing for your particular salad. For me, this is about a one second pour. Next add almost the same amount of Dijon mustard and stir with a fork or whisk. If you’re using crushed garlic (delicious but sometimes I’m lazy) or anything else oily, add it now and stir. Now this is the hard part. The vinegar is where you can go seriously wrong, which is not your fault entirely, because most vinegar comes out of the bottle far too quickly. Sometimes I use a teaspoon or something to measure the vinegar into to avoid that particular problem. You want to whisk into your dressing about half as much vinegar as you have dressing. Remember your light touch, because it’s better if you get it right the first time around rather than add more oil, because the dressing will be less emulsified.

At this point, you want to taste your dressing, see if it’s too oily, add more vinegar if you want, perhaps a splash of lemon instead of more vinegar, sugar if you desire, and blend. Season it with salt, pepper, and herbs if you like. I cannot get enough of parsley in my salads with this vinaigrette. I add fresh herbs at the same time as I dress my salad greens. Dress a few minutes before you plan on enjoying your salad.

Note that if you’re unsure if you’ve made too much dressing, pour it into another vessel and then dress your salad in increments until you get the right amount of dressing. It’s better to err on the side of too little.

*The French brand Amora makes an amazing product called Mayonnaise de Dijon. Don’t think of the aforementioned American product. Think fresh, cream-colored mayonnaise with the most subtle of Dijon flavors. Think, ask your friends to bring you back a jar, along with that bottle of Pernod, and those unpasteurized cheeses. My last jar lasted but a month because all my roommates also thought it was fantastically amazing. Here’s looking at you, Miss Cimino.


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