Invite anyone from France to dinner and they will be horrified if you take out a bottled dressing for the salad. Ohhh mon dieu! It is part of the dinner preparation ritual to have someone at the counter mixing the vinaigrette. You can vary the flavors by what vinegar or brand mustard you use, as well as what olive oil you use. Red wine and sherry vinegars can be spectacular, so search out and experiment different brands.
Here is the homemade all-purpose vinaigrette, or oil and vinegar salad dressing with classic ingredient proportions, that should be one of the first things a cook learns to make. It is the alpha and omega of French style oil and vinegar dressings. It has nice concise proportions, perfect for one or two salads. It is not refrigerated, which changes the flavors, so you make it a la momento.
A tip about the shallot: Madeleine Kamman, the esteemed French food teacher and writer, teaches the technique to place your shallots in a thin, clean dishtowel and wring it to squeeze out the juice. This mellows the sharp flavor of the shallot, especially when they are fresh dug the beginning of the season.
Also play with the different sea salts, each which has a distinct flavor and give more character than plain iodized salt. Freshly ground black or white peppercorns–a must. After a while you wont have to measure anymore; you will toss this together by feel.
I used to have a small flexible metal whisk which was perfect just for making the vinaigrette, now I just use a fork or shake it up in a covered container. You can mix with an immersion blender and use the narrow plastic beaker that comes with it rather than mix by hand if you wish; the vinaigrette will be more creamy looking. Just pulse a few times.
Makes about 1/4 cup, enough for one large green salad, serving 2 to 4
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt (a three-finger pinch or two)
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar
- 1/2 small shallot, peeled and minced (about 2 to 3 teaspoons)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons to 4 tablespoons olive oil of choice
- Chopped or minced fresh herbs, if desired (a pinch or two at most basil, tarragon, parsley, or chives are favorites)
1. In a small bowl with a wooden spoon, fork, or small whisk, mix together the salt, vinegar, and shallot. Let stand for about ten minutes.
2. Mix in the Dijon mustard, then add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir well, then taste. If too sharp, add the additional olive oil and more salt, if necessary. If you wish to add fresh herbs, it’s best to chop and mix them in shortly before serving so they retain their flavor.
Storage: This dressing will keep for about eight hours, covered with plastic wrap or lid, at room temperature. If you want to make it farther in advance, it’s best to add the shallots closer to serving so they don’t lose their verve.
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.