French Vinaigrette


Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most elusive–a good toaster, a potato salad with a bright flavor and a really good vinaigrette, for example.

Although I cook a lot and put salads toward the top of the list of foods I enjoy, I confess that I’ve been trying forever to find a homemade vinaigrette that has a great taste and a bit of a bite.

I’m a devotee of Paris-based chef David Lebovitz. I’ve listed his site in the favorite links menu on the right side of this blog page. He writes beautifully about food and life and the sweet challenges of living as an American expatriate in Paris. I mention him because I recently discovered a delightful essay he wrote some time ago about making a classic French vinaigrette. The recipe is pretty wonderful and I thought I would share it with you. It is pretty, too.

Vinaigrette Recipe

1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 small shallot, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon Maille Dijon mustard
4T (45 ml to 60 ml) olive oil
Chopped parsley or other herbs
Directions: Finely chop half a shallot. Put sea salt, chopped shallot and sherry vinegar in a bowl and let it marinate for about ten minutes. (You may substitute red wine vinegar.) While the shallots are marinating in the salt and vinegar, whisk 1/2 teaspoon of good quality mustard into olive oil. Mix the marinated shallots and their liquid into the mustard infused oil. Add chopped parsley or herbs of your choice. Adjust seasonings to your taste.

Makes enough dressing for one large salad.

Adapted from David Lebovitz’ recipe which appears in the article below. Here is a link to the article and the recipe:

I did use the Maille French Dijon mustard mentioned in the article. Maille, I found,  is a very smooth-textured mustard with a lot of flavor. It puts Grey Poupon to shame. The label says that the Maille mustard company was founded in 1747 and their website has a brief essay about the mustard’s history. Apparently, soon after the company’s founding, it became a favorite among the crowned heads of Europe. Think of yourself enjoying the same mustard that Louis XVI enjoyed before he lost his head to the guillotine!  Maybe not. Tellingly, the Maille website has an unexplained gap in its history essay for the period of the French Revolution. Apparently, the revolution’s radicals didn’t serve Maille’s moutard with the plate of”Liberte. Egalite. Fraternite.” that they promised the masses.  Incidentally, I found a jar of Maille’s Dijon for less than $5 at the Cost Plus World Market in Bella Terra Shopping Center, so you don’t have to be in the one percent to afford it. I’m still looking for a jar of the other mustard Lebovitz mentions (and favors),  Edmond Fallot.

I added some minced Italian parsley to my dressing. Be forewarned, this recipe makes a small amount of dressing and the dressing needs to be used the same day it is made. Otherwise, the shallots turn into mush.

If you see me outside swinging my salad greens with wild abandon to dry them en plein air as Lebovitz says many French do , be sure to wave.

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3 thoughts on “French Vinaigrette”

  • I made the trip to Cost Plus (a short one for me) and also found Dusseldorf mustard as well as the Maille. I will get some brats later this week for a comparison. Then I stopped by Sprouts for fresh organic green beans, radishes, and shallots (and a heck of a lot of other stuff, including a delicious Mark West Pinot noir that is greatly improving my attitude about this blasted So Cal heat and humidity). My plan is to make Salad Nicoise tonight, with some Yellowfin that my son caught, boiled eggs from our hens (it is so hot that they are laying pre-boiled eggs), and organic greens from our garden. :-)
  • I have seen my sister flinging her greens in a little pillow case type bag in the yard, so learned to dry my own this way too sometimes....I tried this vinaigrette and it is so good....I went miles to find the Maille mustard at Whole Foods Market.... and did a little taste test comparing Dijon with this, and this won! the next day I bought myself some Brats, and buns, and made a wonderful sandwich using my new mustard. Thank you for this good recipe Lorraine!
  • Lorraine, I am so happy that you have started a blog. I copied the vinaigrette recipe and will try it as soon as I visit Cost Plus for the mustard (and buy a shallot). My son and his family have moved to Paris for a year, so I am trying to cook more things French style.

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