When I was a senior in college, I moved to Paris to work on my French. Or, well, if by work on my French you mean.. drop out of la Sorbonne, get a couple jobs as an au pair, juggle 3 incredibly stereotypical French men (for the stories only, I swear), and waste 25€ on bottled Heineken, even if it was a fancy aluminum bottle (my eyes are rolling so far back in my head right now I can see my frontal lobe).
Saying it was a pretty crazy and amazing time would be an understatement. I tell fewer of the stories now that most of my get-togethers are baby showers, but I did come back with a couple extremely useful tools, one of them being an authentic Dijon vinaigrette. In America, we’re rife with dressing choices at any given restaurant, and the grocery store selection is one for the history books. I’d be willing to bet that you can find anywhere from 50 – 100 varieties at your neighborhood Kroger. In France, the choices are nowhere near as plentiful, and in restaurants, there is rarely (if ever) a choice. On almost every salad, even that overpriced “taco salad” I ordered in the 14ère next to the Catacombs, comes with a simple, positively delicious Dijon vinaigrette.
That’s not to say that every Dijon is the same – no, there are infinitely many ways to spruce the basic recipe up to your liking. Oftentimes, I’ll add heady, pungent garlic, and tarragon is heavenly treat. The vinegar you use, whether you use any olive oil (often too strong unless you find the actually fresh stuff – and you have to visit lucky specialty stores for that, I’m serious), any aromatics or herbs, and the proportion of mustard and vinegar will all affect your personal vinaigrette’s flavor.
When I was making a kale, pomegranate, pepita, and feta salad the other day, though, I knew this was the dressing I wanted to use, but figured my traditional garlic would add a beautiful pungency, but that it needed something a little extra to stand up to the sharp feta. Regular onion lacked the garlickiness I craved, so shallot fit the bill beautifully. Instead of white wine vinegar, I decided on a quality apple cider vinegar to pair with the wintry salad.
If you’ve never made salad dressing at home, prepare to be amazed at how incredibly simple and vastly superior it is to anything you can find at the store. First of all, the ingredients are fresh and the dressing is preservative-free. Secondly, you make it all to your own specs, not the mass-bottlers. You’ll never go back, I promise!
This vinaigrette is perfect for seasonal salads in the autumn and winter, or anytime you’d like a bit of shallot bite, and the tartness of apple cider vinegar. Do try and use quality ingredients here–I love Bragg’s apple cider vinegar and Maille Dijon mustard, but I’ve used Grey Poupon before, too, and it’s fine. I use a neutral oil here, like canola or vegetable, but if you’re anti- then feel free to use olive oil or grapeseed oil, just make positively sure that the olive oil is top-notch! Otherwise, it will taste strongly of vague rancidity that’s rampant in our grocery store olive oil shelves. Spring for the good stuff here; use the cheaper olive oil anywhere you add heat.
Dijon Shallot Apple Cider Vinaigrette
- 3 teaspoons quality Dijon mustard
- 3 teaspoons quality apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 medium shallot or 1 whole small shallot minced
- 1 tbsp neutral oil or olive oil a little less than 1/2 cup
- 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper to taste
- In a measuring cup with handle, mix the Dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar with a small whisk. Slowly add in the oil, a few drops at a time, whisking constantly. It helps to place a towel underneath the measuring cup! Ensure that you fully emulsify (dissolve the liquids and oil to smoothness) the oil before adding much more. Add enough oil to measure 1/2 cup total. Add in the minced shallot and stir.
- Add in a few pinches of salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper and taste (try dipping a piece of lettuce in the dressing for a more accurate taste than straight off a spoon). Adjust seasonings to taste.