Sunday, March 9, 2014

French Dijon Vinaigrette

Otherwise known in the family as my grandmother's salad dressing, this version of vinaigrette has one significant difference from a basic French vinaigrette: instead of regular vinegar, she used cornichon juice, that is the juice found in the jars of cornichons. Being from an era when every bit of leftover was being used, recycled or at last resort, fed to the pigs, while being excessively critical of her own cooking, her recipes often had unusual twists in small details. Cornichon juice is a cooked vinegar macerated with herbs making it both milder and rich in flavors. The vinegar being milder than usual allows for some lemon or lime juice to be added without causing the vinaigrette to become too strong.



As it is easier to balance the flavors of a large batch of vinaigrette just the way you like it, and get the same result each time, go ahead and make enough to fill a jar that will keep a few days. Being that there is no milk product or mayonnaise in the sauce, it is not really necessary to refrigerate although modern food safety rules say that you should being that you have mixed fresh ingredients out in the open. Of course my grandmother would never refrigerate her jar allowing the flavors of the herbs to develop in the sauce over a couple days. The downside being that the herbs exhaust their flavor faster. After 3-4 days, the flavors begin to diminish, while the jar kept cold is good for a week. No need to bring the sauce to room temperature before using it, as the tossing into the salad will take care of that in a minute or two.

How to:


In a whisking bowl always begin with the ingredients of the smallest amounts, like salt and pepper. It is easier to see how much you are adding to the bowl as you go, like dry herbs before fresh ones. Then the vinegar juice, with lemon or lime if desired, and the Dijon mustard. Mix it all together into a paste. Then start adding the oil, a little at the time as you whisk, just as you would be making a mayonnaise. How much oil depends what you will use the vinaigrette for. For artichokes, you want it a little thicker, for leaf salad, a little thinner. Best to keep it on the creamy side as you can always add oil when you use it.

Fundamental Ingredients:


After the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper, feel free to add, delete, add more, put less to make it your own recipe.
  • 3 part Olive Oil - Cold press, first press … the best oil really matter
  • 1 part Cornichon Juice from “Made in France” jars to be sure you are getting the right juice!
  • Dijon Mustard to taste, meaning to be generous as it is the main flavor.
  • Salt, Pepper

Everything is optional from here on:

  • Garlic and shallots, optional because some stomach do not handle that very well, although they should really be in the fundamental ingredients to get that French flavor.
  • Lemon or lime juice added to the vinegar, as the cornichon juice is quite mild.
  • Herbs: Fresh is always best of course. Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram and Savory are the foundations, add or delete to your taste.
  • Fresh Parsley is best added when you use the sauce, not added to the sauce itself as parsley flavor has very short life and does not look so bright and fresh after soaking in a sauce.

Fantasy sauces!


Search and you will find both popular and obscure variations, Raspberry vinaigrette is in style these days, Roquefort Vinaigrette is excellent on green leaf salad. Also think about original ways to serve your fantasy vinaigrette: On a platter of cheese as a dipping sauce for the bread, for example, I would add some crushed walnut and pear puree as walnut and pear are ideal mates to cheese. Once I was running out of dipping Mexican Salsa and mixed it with vinaigrette. Some guests loved it and took the recipe home, I did not like it!


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