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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Best French Vinaigrette You'll Ever Have

My parents spent a few years in Paris in their twenties, and even though they've been back in the States for decades, my mom still waxes nostalgic about the French salads. It's not the greens she cares about. It's the perfectly peppery, garlic-y, lemon-y dressing that coats each leaf and brings the salade to a whole new level. So, I was thrilled when Amanda Hesser from Food52 agreed to reveal her ideal vinaigrette recipe...

The Best Vinaigrette You'll Ever Have
By Amanda Hesser of Food52 (and one of my favorite memoirs!)


There are two kinds of vinaigrette makers. Those who add honey, agave or some sort of sweetener to button up the acidity and tone down any strong flavors, and those who embrace the vinegars and uncouth garlic, and let it all hang out. I'm firmly in this latter group. I like a masochistic salad with bitter greens and an assertive dressing. I like to know I'm eating salad, damn it, and that the dressing is my master.

Green goddess, Caesar and bagna cauda sauce are my heroes. And my go-to vinaigrette is an homage to them all. I mash together an anchovy with just a tiny tot of a garlic clove (garlic doesn't take much to get its point across) and salt. The salt helps grind them up. Then I dilute this paste with fresh lemon juice--and do use a fresh lemon, an old lemon will ruin this dressing and your dinner--and Dijon. You can season the dressing with freshly ground black pepper, but I sometimes like to add the faintest spark of pimento d'espelette (or the like: cayenne, crushed red pepper flakes). Then it's up to a good but not fancy olive oil to lash it all together.
Recipe: My Go-To Vinaigrette

You'll need:
1 anchovy
1 small garlic clove
Salt
Juice from half of a nice fresh lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil, something good but not too fancy
Freshly ground black pepper or small pinch piment d'espelette

In a mortar and pestle, mash the anchovy, garlic, and a pinch of salt to a paste. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to break up the anchovy paste. Beat in the mustard. Either beat or whisk in the olive oil, a few glugs at a time. The vinaigrette should emulsify but will never become super tight and even, and that's ok. Season with the pepper or chilis. Wash some sturdy or bitter greens, and you're on your way to salad paradise.
Thank you, Amanda! Now the second question: Any great salad ideas? My favorite salad has spinach, Parmesan, avocado, tomatoes and pine nuts. I'd love to hear other ideas...

P.S. More best recipes, including roast chicken and French fries.

(Photos by James Ransom. Thanks to Shoko for help with this series)

81 comments:

Limequat said...

"I like a masochistic salad with bitter greens and an assertive dressing."

Is possibly one of the best sentences about salad ever written! (And I agree.)

AVY said...

I like these "the best you'll ever", and salads can be so good. The dressings are essential, and I love a little avocado in there.

/ Avy
http://MyMotherFuckedMickJagger.blogspot.com



katie roz said...

sounds delicious! but there's no vinegar?

Claire Star said...

"I want to know that I am eating salad, damn it!" another fantastic line. I never knew a post about salad could be so funny.

I'd love to try this dressing, if only I could get over my fear of mustard. I think I can tolerate it in salad...

Delphine said...

Stonewall kitchen makes an amazing Champagne-shallot mustard that I use for my vinaigrettes (with just some balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper). Makes the best homemade dressing (take it from this Frenchy!).

sarah said...

my favourite salad is greens, crushed toasted hazelnuts, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and a light vinaigrette. perfect pairings of smoky, creamy, salty and tart. SO GOOD.

Lauren Ashley said...

I am trying this for sure!

ElsaD said...

As a Spaniard, I love anchovies! But this idea of adding lemon to the mix, sounds fantastic! I'll certainly try it out. As for new ideas for salads, I recently started using Kale. Apparently it's the ultimate super food and contains much more nutrients than the spinachs, can u believe it? Plus, it's crunchier and more fullfilling (in case you guys are watching the diet) Bisous!

Lisa Lisa Lisa said...

I like having avocado, strawberry slices, and spinach in the same salad. I usually make my own dressing consisting of OJ, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and seasonings. Simple, yet extraordinary!

I also will do the same dressing and spinach with mandarin orange slices and dried cranberries to pair with spicy apricot glazed salmon. Delicious. Trust me.

And sometimes when it is simple greens and I want to keep an equally simple dressing, I'll use lemon juice and some seasonings. Refreshing!

c'est moi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesse said...

i really need to try anchovies. for some reason, it's one of my "scary foods," but clearly, i need to get over myself because i've heard over and over and over again how it adds the BEST flavor to food. thanks joanna:)

c'est moi said...

I have some fun/yummy/healthy salad ideas on my pinterest board.

Shena - Platinum Digital Video said...

I finally got the kids eating salads and asking for more...as of yesterday. Thanks for this perfect recipe, it came at exactly the right time. I have no idea where to buy anchovies though as I have never considered ever buying one for any reason, so that will be the only "task" involved in this endeavor.

J+H @ Beyond The Stoop said...

yummers! i really like the flavor of anchovies, but i'm not a fan of the texture, so putting them in a dressing is perfect!

...my favorite salad right now is simply spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and GOOD balsamic viniagrette (the kind that's almost syrupy!!)

no extras needed. it's so good. we made it for a cookout this weekend (minus the spinach) and didn't have ANY leftovers!!

see here:
http://www.beyondthestoop.com/2012/06/bbq-and-booze.html

can't wait to try this one!!
cheers.

chic81.com said...

I love it when people can be funny while writing about cooking and food, it is the best of both worlds and my approach as well. :) I too, like to know that I am eating a salad, damn it! This dressing sounds so good and I have a fiance who can't eat a lot of things (food allergies and intolerances) so we make a lot of things from scratch anyway and I have to constantly switch it up to make things interesting! Thanks for this fantastic recipe!

Anonymous said...

Was the vinegar accidentally omitted from the recipe? Otherwise, while this may be a good dressing, how is it vinaigrette?

K said...

Many times I just mix olive oil, lemon and shallots in the bottom of my salad bowl, but this sure takes it up a notch. My husband love anchovies, so I'll have to try it.

thea said...

When I came back from my last trip to Paris, I waxed nostalgic about the dressing too. No matter if you're in a fancy restaurant or a hole in a wall they all seem to have it- I wish it was the standard house dressing in the US as well.
This recipe looks great (and the Food52 recipes are usually awesome), but for those who want something with vinegar, David Lebovitz has a great recipe for a "French Vinaigrette" too, featured here: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/11/how-to-make-french-vinaigrette/

Heather said...

Mmm...I just came in from picking a bunch of arugala and some fresh raddishes. I know how they'll be getting topped for lunch this afternoon ;)

Anonymous said...

I usually make my dressing with lemon and oil, but will definitely try this recipe with the anchovy, etc. Sounds delicious. i may have to use a food processor though bc i am too lazy for a mortar and pestle!

Jessie K said...

ONE anchovy? I want to try this recipe because it sounds delicious but I'm wary of recipes that call for a teensy tiny bit of one ingredient, leaving the remaining tin of anchovies to idle in my refrigerator. I'll have to find an entire anchovy recipe to justify making this vinaigrette.

American Mom in Bordeaux said...

Great recipe!...Need to remember that one for diversity..Being married to a French man..we have made our French vinegarette for years! My favorite salad - fresh greens, shallots, pears and dried cranberries with a marvelous vinegarette!

Kayla Boyle said...

Looks amazing. My fiance loves a fresh vinaigrette and I just haven't found a good recipe. Gonna try this pronto.

A Refreshed Take Off

Melissa Blake said...

My sister has been really into garlic lately. I haven't developed a taste for it yet, but who knows!

dreamday said...

i love that i'm craving a salad right now!!! now that is impressive writing. :)

Jillian@TheHumbleGourmet said...

I am forever looking for good vinaigrette recipes, and this one definitely just jumped to the top of my to-do list. Yum!

Trina said...

Cooking for Mr. Latte is one of those books I like to reread while eating. :)

Natalie said...

I love a good salad dressing! My mom is always making a similar one with a hint of orange juice.

Go to salad? Spring greens, grape tomatoes, avocado and cilantro. Yum.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I love butter lettuce with grilled chicken breast (seasoned with lemon zest, basil, garlic powder salt&pepper, boiled egg slices, thin slices of apple, yellow pepper, avocado, red pepper goat cheese and a sprinkling of these raw food food snacks called "krumbleez" ( the apple cranberry kind). It sounds like such a mash up- but all together it is so wonderful with a tangy/garlicky vinaigrette. We eat this at least once a week.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I love butter lettuce with grilled chicken breast (seasoned with lemon zest, basil, garlic powder salt&pepper, boiled egg slices, thin slices of apple, yellow pepper, avocado, red pepper goat cheese and a sprinkling of these raw food food snacks called "krumbleez" ( the apple cranberry kind). It sounds like such a mash up- but all together it is so wonderful with a tangy/garlicky vinaigrette. We eat this at least once a week.

Meadow said...

Have made this dressing (sans anchovy) for my whole life. The anchovy is a great idea, I will have to try it.

katie said...

looks super yum, but where's the vinegar? can't have a vinaigrette without it, right?

i love a kick-your-butt dressing as well, but lately i'm worn out on dijon. i've been skipping dijon in my vinaigrettes, and instead adding yogurt for a creamy-tangy treat.

Meadow said...

@katie roz: Vingear AND lemon? Lemon is so much better than vinegar in salad dressings unless you're going for that balsamic taste.

oilandgarlic said...

My go-to dressing is olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When I use Dijon mustard, I always omit the vinegar. It's a good strong taste just with the olive oil and Dijon. Have to try this one with anchovy and lemon!

The Intrepid French Learner said...

Hmm... I wonder if I could substitute capers for the anchovy? I know, not totally authentic, but I am not a huge fan of anchovies...

Rene said...

Tender baby spinach, thin sliced purple onion, chunky tomatoes, chopped green bellpepper, feta cheese, kalamata olives (optional) - dress with balsamic and olive oil (half and half in small leak proof container - shake well to combine). The dressing mixes with the feta to make a creamy, tart dressing, the tomato and onion have sweetness, the bell pepper adds a crisp crunch. It's so easy to throw together. The perfect bite has a little of everything. Top with grilled chicken for a meal!

Lindsey McLean said...

I studied abroad in Angers, France and my host mom made the most amazing dressing ever! No French woman will ever give you their recipe for vinaigrette. I'm desperately trying to recreate it still!!

Sarah said...

That's almost the recipe my dad always made growing up, but the anchovy is something new I must try!

Mary said...

i toss avocado, caramelized walnuts, dried cranberries and a bag of spring greens with my homemade dressing (evoo, shallot, mustard, champagne vinegar, salt, pepper and just a little honey)

Diane said...

My favorite is French Walnut Oil Vinaigrette -- the recipe is on the back of "La Tourangelle Roasted Walnut Oil". It reminds me of the vinaigrette from the French restaurant where we were engaged 29 years ago! I reduce the amount of balsamic vinegar so the quantities are:

4 Tbsp. Roasted Walnut Oil, 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, dash of salt to taste.

This is great served over any salad, and if you want to try something different, a French roasted beet salad is delicious -- roasted beets and crumbled goat cheese on top of mixed greens, with Roasted Walnut Vinaigrette on top.

For a simple lunch salad, a lot of times I just have mixed greens with a crumble of goat cheese and just a bit of plain Roasted Walnut Oil (no vinegar, etc.) -- yum!

Diane said...

Forgot to mention another good French salad -- Salad Nicoise -- greens with tuna, potato, marinated green beans, capers, and hard-boiled egg quarters, served with vinaigrette. It is very good as a main course in the summer... we just had it for dinner tonight, but had to substitute green olives for capers and cucumbers for green beans -- no one seemed to mind! Always love to get new ideas for salads -- great post!

aglassofmilk said...

love mr. latte, and love amanda hesser. you get the best bloggers, and i so love this whole series!

nicolette said...

food52 once featured a shaved brussels sprouts salad from m.wells, that i've happily and repeatedly bastardized. this dressing would be an amazing addition! mostly now i just add the parmesan and speck with the sprouts and simple dressing, but i can't wait to try it a new way.
http://www.food52.com/recipes/8647_brussels_sprouts_salad_a_la_m_wells

Lady Grey said...

Sounds delicious and still simple - not too many ingredients - I love that.
Can't wait to try it out.

junebug said...

Yum. My favorite salad by far is endive, pears, bleu cheese and walnuts, with a shallot-y, herb-y dressing.

A great way to use up the rest of the tin/jar of anchovies is Sicilian spaghetti. My kids love it so much they probably exceed the daily allowance of refined carbs by 500% when we have it. So good!

I love this series.

junebug said...

Yum. My favorite salad by far is endive, pears, bleu cheese and walnuts, with a shallot-y, herb-y dressing.

A great way to use up the rest of the tin/jar of anchovies is Sicilian spaghetti. My kids love it so much they probably exceed the daily allowance of refined carbs by 500% when we have it. So good!

I love this series.

Anonymous said...

I cannot eat salad dressing that is that heavy on the oil. Mine is usually almost 50/50 olive oil and vinegar. Yuck. It sounds really yummy but I like my dressing far more sharp. That isn't even vinaigrette, technically.

Sasha said...

I simply cannot resist anchovies, especially in a vinaigrette.

That and good flavor combinations for salads. I usually toss fruit into my salads (so hold the anchovies, sadly) and here are some of my all time favorite combinations.

mixed greens + apricot (fresh or dried apricot that has been slightly plumped by soaking it in hot water) + feta cheese + thinly sliced red onions

halloumi + strawberries + balsamic + baby spinach
http://paperdollparade.blogspot.de/2011/09/halloumi-salad.html

fresh peaches + tomatoes + olive oil + lemon juice + rosemary

yay for summer and salad season!

Elizabeth said...

I have just discovered anchovies in dressings and they are addictive little fishies. At the moment I am loving lightly grilled zucchini strips with a touch of olive oil with toasted pine nuts, creamy vintage cheese piece, thin red onion rings and a scatter of baby spinach leaves.
Thank you. Elizabeth from thedotdotblog

Michele said...

I think vinaigrette is the first recipe every French kids learns. My husband learned it from his grandmother and he already taught it to our 4 yr old daughter. One wooden spoon, three spoons of olive oil, one spoon of red wine vinegar poured right over the greens. Toss. Voila! Xx

Elena said...

I like to know I'm eating salad, damn it, and that the dressing is my master.

Made me laugh out loud. Yummy dressing here I come!

http://www.randomlyhappytoday.blogspot.co.uk

Juliette said...

Errr if I may... I'm French and if it's called vinaigrette it's because it's suppose to contain some vinaigre... Red wine vinegar for a basic vinaigrette and balsamic for something a bit fancier.

Lauren E. said...

I read Mr. Latte during a post-breakup trip to Vegas and I swear it cured me. Plus, this recipe is incredible. Totally throwing it on my Pinterest board. Thank you!!

CamMi Pham said...

look good. i might need to try this
x
cammi
http://www.cammilicious.com

B said...

Yum!

Technically, when lemon juice is the acid it's citronette... But doesn't that sound fussy?

Basic formula =
1 part acid : 3 parts oil
+ salt to taste (always)

To dress up dressing...
+ black pepper (almost always)
+ coordinating flavors you love (dijon, anchovies, garlic, shallot, spices, orange flower water, olive...)

Right now, for spring / summer, I'm loving salads with tons of herbs in place of a good portion of more commonly used salad greens.

And, always, radishes (+ their tops, whenever they're nice)

Anonymous said...

Does Amanda have a recommendation for a good mortar and pestle?

Sophie said...

Anything with lemon in it is good in my book!! I want to make this.

www.thesilkyedge.blogspot.com

Annie said...

thanks for sharing the recipe!!

Unknown said...

If the whole anchovies scare you (as they do me!), you can try finding anchovie paste. I use if often in salad dressings, and it is so quick, easy, and delicious.

Love this post!

live sports said...

nice post

The Real Shelby said...

I made this salad dressing by replacing the anchovy with capers mushed in the mortar & pestel with the garlic and it was superb. I'm going to eat this all Summer long!

Antonia J. said...

My favorite salad depends entirely on the season. Right now, it's arugula, tiny local strawberries, a few toasted pecan bits and a dressing made in the bottom of the salad bowl as follows: Beat together with a fork a dab of good, only-from-France-of-course Dijon mustard, a light splash each of red wine vinegar and Spanish sherry vinegar and gray salt; let it sit a minute or two while you get out the other ingredients. Beat in a tablespoon or so of good, green olive oil. Add the strawberries and toss. Let them sit there for another minute or two, or longer. Toss gently to blend the strawberry juice with the dressing; then add the other ingredients and toss 33 times. Yes, 33. Patricia Wells says the French always toss their salads 33 times. It's good advice. I often add cucumbers, for a bit of juicy crunch, too. ;o)

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good

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Stephanie said...

I've made this twice over the past week and absolutely love it. It goes great with all the vegetables I get in my CSA box. Thanks!

Chef Jeff said...

This looks delicious. Thank you for sharing. My mouth is watering just reading the recipe.

Foodie Jeff
www.hometownslop.blogspot.com

Edith said...

YUM! I have always been afraid of using anchovies, bus this dressing sounds glorious...and not too sweet :)

charleneaross.com said...

A masochistic salad with bitter greens and an assertive dressing - I LOVE that description. (Probably because I love that kind of salad too!)

I make my own salad dressings all the time (it's the only way to go) and can't wait to try this one. It sounds amazing (in a totally non-masochistic kind of way).

Jessy said...

This list rocks my socks! Thanks for compiling and sharing. I've been talking about the oil-free dressings Whole Foods Market is now offering, but they don't have them on their website and a lot of people I know don't have access to WFM. This list makes oil-free dressings within everyone's reach. No excuse not to try one of the options.

Wholesale Salad Dressing

Scott's nuggets said...

An acid in about a 1 to 3 or 4 ratio of oil depending on taste is key to a balanced dressing. An acid comes in different forms and in this case it is lemon juice and mustard. These offer complex flavor over plain vinegar. Even meyers vs. eureka lemons offer varying acidity and flavor levels. Read on vin cotta or "cooked wine" for a yet another angle.

darnie said...

You use anchovy paste if you don't feel like mashing up anchovies?..
Just a thought.

brooklynash said...

it's all in the technique! i believe in simple dressings (mustard, lemon juice or a vinegar plus good quality olive oil). the key is just to make sure to whisk it in so it emulsifies. otherwise the dressing falls flat (no pun intended).

Caroline said...

I love Arugula with Mozzarella and Mango (sounds weird but it completely won me over) or Romaine with Shrimp, Avocado and Grapefruit.

blencashire said...

It would still need using up eventually of course, but if you buy a tin of anchovy fillets, use what you need, then put the tin with whatever's left inside into the freezer then it will be absolutely fine. Probably best to wrap the whole tin in a zip-lock bag or something first, just to keep things tidy :)

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I_Fortuna said...

It is not vinaigrette without vinegar. Should use both lemon and vinegar and a bit of salt to intensify the flavors.
My grandmother used to make the perfect dressing. She used lemon and vinegar. This was a woman who used have huge dinners for the diplomatic corps in South America. She learned a lot from the chefs.

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