I’ve been meaning to write a post about making a classic vinaigrette since I took a cooking class at Jill’s Table a few months ago where Jill Wilcox demonstrated how to make a vinaigrette.
Even though I’ve been making my own vinaigrettes since forever, just literally whisking up what I need right when I need it, I still had a lot to learn. My dressings generally were heavy on the acidic side (an understated way of saying mouth-puckering).
Jill taught me how to achieve a balanced dressing and helped me understand my problem was that I didn’t like the taste of the oil I’d been using. To counteract that, I overcompensated with vinegar or citrus. I now know that it makes all the difference to invest in a good quality bottle of olive oil. Of course, you can use different types of oils to make your dressings, but a classic vinaigrette is based on olive oil.
Another staple ingredient in vinaigrette is mustard, which not only adds flavour, but helps emulsify the dressing, marrying the oil and vinegar in a happy fusion. Whole grain mustard is my choice for this purpose (and most others). I like the look of the mustard grains dancing about in the dressing and clinging to the tender leaves or other vegetables being dressed. The flavour is assertive but not overpowering, and the mustard grains add toothsomeness to something normally smooth. Overall, a whole grain mustard just makes a dressing more appealing.
The brand of mustard that I’ve been using for years is Maille. After all, a company that’s been producing condiments for 265 years and which became the official supplier to King Louis XV of France in 1747 is the quality I want on my table! (Plus, their jars are so elegant.)
Vinegar is another important element in a vinaigrette (pretty obvious, don’t you think?), and I turned again to Maille for quality red wine vinegar.
A classic vinaigrette is a basic in your cooking-from-scratch repertoire, and something worth mastering. While I made a big batch for demonstration purposes in this post, usually I just make enough for whatever salad I’m making, whisking it together in a small bowl with a fork. In a couple of minutes I have a fresh and tasty dressing, tailored as I like. It doesn’t need to be a big production, and once you get comfortable doing this you won’t want to buy bottled dressing any more.
DISCLOSURE: I am one of 15 Canadian food bloggers selected to be a Maille Mustard Maverick. Maille provided me with coupons to cover the cost of three Maille products. I purchased whole grain mustard, red wine vinegar and cornichons (but not for a vinaigrette!). The only requirement was to write a review, or blog about using the products in a recipe and/or tweet or Facebook post about it. I’m not being compensated for this post, and as usual, all opinions are mine.
My Maille Vinaigrette
I’ve adapted this recipe from the one Jill Wilcox presented at her cooking class. Note, a jar of this vinaigrette can be refrigerated up to three weeks, as long as it doesn’t contain any fresh herbs or garlic (they go bad quicker). Besides, if you make the basic vinaigrette, you can add whatever herbs and aromatics you like when using the dressing. To use, just bring the jar to room temperature and then shake well. Or, I usually just scoop out as much as I need with a tablespoon, and let it come to temperature while I’m getting the salad together. A quick whisk with a fork, and it’s ready to dress the salad.
- 4 tbsp Maille red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt (preferably kosher or sea salt)
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper or more to taste
- 2 tsp Maille whole grain mustard
- 3/4 to 1 cup good quality olive oil
- optional: several leaves fresh basil, minced
- optional: 1 garlic clove, minced
Pour the vinegar into a large bowl and add the salt. Stir with a whisk to dissolve the salt. Add the pepper and mustard, and whisk to incorporate. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking while doing so. Continue to whisk until the mixture has emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. If you’re using herbs or aromatics for additional flavouring, stir them in now. Pour into a glass jar for storage in the refrigerator (up to three weeks without herbs or aromatics (like garlic); a few days if they’re included).
Tip: set the bowl on a damp towel to prevent it moving around while whisking the vinaigrette.