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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Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome

Dishes and Wishes will capture my dishes and those I dream of one day making. My cuisine is international, low-fat, and usually plant-based. A former vegetarian, I’ve come to embrace charcuterie. But that was easy. (Unless it was moldy beef jerky, charcuterie gone very wrong, in which case…) Cooking meat is something different altogether, and at times it vexes me, but every recipe published here will be foolproof for fellow recovering vegetarians or kitchen neophytes. I studied comparative politics, a subject that also describes my approach in the kitchen. Though the mention of “fusion” sends me reeling for many reasons, my spice cabinet reflects my passion for far-flung flavors. Comfort me not with apples but Bombay street food, Turkish mezze, and Georgian kidney beans.

Lucky for you, I’m stationed in the culinary hinterlands, without access to any ethnic marts (save for Portuguese), so the ingredients I use are mostly sourced from a handful of supermarkets. I do love my ingredients, so sometimes only low blood-sugar comes between me and sourcing ingredients. But hey, love makes you do strange things, and for me that might mean three supermarkets in one trip. There are certainly worse things you might do for love.

I had a damn good sandwich at Coppola's Deli in Richmond, VA, but I let my brother have half out of love.


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