Frenchitude Lesson #8: Salad Dressing Doesn’t Have to Come Out of a Bottle

Frenchitude Lesson #8: Salad Dressing Doesn’t Have to Come Out of a Bottle
The very first recipe I ever learned in France, when I was only 18 and freshly off the plane, was for a basic vinaigrette. It was my first host mother, Mme. Duperret in Nuits-Saint-Georges who taught me how she did it. Her recipe is still one I use once, if not twice, a day.
Although there are certainly many good bottled salad dressings on supermarket shelves these days, in my mind nothing is as versatile, inexpensive, or tastes as good as a home made vinaigrette. Learning how to make it is like riding a bike or learning how to drive a stick shift, once you get the hang of it it becomes second nature.
It is wonderful, of course, in a humble salad, but it is also the base for countless other French recipes, a few of which I’ll be posting on here over the next two weeks.
Trust me and try this recipe. If my 18 year old self who for years before then had practically subsisted on smoothies and burritos, and couldn’t boil and egg could learn it, so can you.
Ingredients:
– 2 tbsp of good quality mustard, preferably Dijon style (definitely NOT French’s mustard)
– 1 tbsp of good quality vinegar (balsamic, wine vinegar, flavoured vinegars, etc. all fine)
– 2-3 tbsp of good quality oil, either vegetable, olive oil, or flavoured oils (i.e. walnut, etc.)

Instructions:

**It is essential that you follow these in the proper order, and not to add a new ingredient until the previous ones are well-mixed and homogeneous** ;

– With a soup-sized spoon or measuring spoon put mustard in the bottom of clean glass bowl

– Add the tbsp of vinegar. With a fork or whisk (I always use the humble IKEA kitchen fork!) mix ingredients together rapidly until they look homogeneous (takes about 30 seconds)

– Add 1 tbsp of oil. Again with fork or whisk mix rapidly until the mixture is homogeneous. Add each additional tbsp of oil ONLY after the previous tbsp is mixed in.

Ta Da! You have just made a proper homemade French vinaigrette. Simple, satisfying, and delicious – that’s what Frenchitude is all about.

Now as to the variations on the basic vinaigrette, your imagination is the limit, and the versatility of this recipe is truly mind-boggling. You can of course vary the quantity upwards or downwards by adjusting the amount of ingredients to use – just keep the basic proportions roughly the same.

You can also;

Vary the type of mustard and use grainy mustard, tarragon flavoured mustard, spicy mustard, mild mustard, etc. etc.

Vary the type of vinegar and use balsamic (white or red), any kind of wine vinegar, cider vinegar, tarragon vinegar, raspberry vinegar (Maille makes a great one) etc. etc.

Vary the type of oil and use walnut oil, olive oil (makes a heavier tasting vinaigrette ideal for salade nicoise and other Mediterranean dishes), vegetable oil, or any other fancy or plain kind of oil you can get your hands on.

Add-ins – Here’s where it gets really fun! However, always remember to make your vinaigrette with the mustard, vinegar, and oil FIRST and then add in your add-ins only after the completed vinaigrette is homogeneous. Otherwise, it won’t mix properly. Experiment and come up with a few versions of your signature vinaigrette.

I love adding in one of more the following things when the inspiration hits me; freshly ground pepper, freshly cut parsley like in the photo below, sliced shallots, minced garlic, Herbes de Provence, toasted pine nuts, sliced almonds…your taste buds are the limit!

Beware! Whenever you whip up vinaigrette with your expert tour de main you may find yourself suddenly talking with a French accent.