And so easy to make: Dijon Mustard, sea salt, champagne vinegar, and olive oil.
You know me. I love to turn even the simplest things into a conversation. One easy topic that has a great and colorful history: anything and everything about the culinary arts. In fact, each major culture from all over the planet has their own story about how a certain dish came to be or how a particular recipe started.
Interestingly, there is actually a long and lovely history of salad dressings. Seriously! Approximately 4,000 years ago, Babylonians may have been the first in Western Civilization to mix oil and vinegar for salads. Egyptians picked up the idea and added spices to the mix.
After that, salad dressing became a standard for nobility with chefs from different houses competing for the most extravagant and delicious ones. The kitchens of every royal court from Italy to the English Isles to the Norwegian fjords did everything they could to exceed the previous delight. The competition between the courts was so fierce that in some cases, the very lives of the chefs depended on their ability to do better than the chefs of the other royal houses! They mixed exotic greens with flower petals, fish, herbs of all kinds, nuts, fruits and of course the standards like potatoes, celery, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and anything else that was palatable. In the hundreds of years of competition, I imagine that there were some pretty spectacular failures. But there also must have been some very memorable successes because I think those are the ones or modern versions of those that we enjoy today.
One survivor is this perfect recipe for Champagne Vinaigrette. The recipe was handed down from one chef to another. Nobody really knows who created it, but it is a favorite, and because it’s so simple, it is also portable and quick to whip up at a moment’s notice. All you need is some Dijon mustard, sea salt, champagne vinegar, and olive oil. When mixed together it becomes a perfect champagne vinaigrette that turns a simple salad into a perfect side for any meal. I recommend using just simple butter lettuce (my favorite) but it’s really perfect on any green. This dressing is so delicious that you need nothing else but a simple green as a vehicle.
Everything is done to taste but it will end up close to the basis for all vinaigrettes – 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil. There aren’t any real measurements more than this guideline. Again, mix to suit your palette.
- First, drop a dollop of Dijon into a medium mixing bowl. Then add sea salt. Trust me, you will need much more than you think – so start with a couple of really big pinches.
- Next, add the champagne vinegar. The vinegar will dissolve the salt.
- Whisk to blend, and keep whisking as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil (remember 1 part vinegar, 3 parts olive oil). Just a note on the olive oil, this is one of those times that the flavor of the oil really matters. See my tips on picking a great bottle of olive oil. The Dijon mustard will act as an emulsifier and keep the oil and vinegar blended together.
- Very important: taste as you go. Salt is an essential part of the seasoning. You really don’t need anything else, but make sure you taste as you go so that you can add enough salt.
- If you have leftovers, it will keep for about 3-4 days in your refrigerator.
Watch my video. You’ll see that this preparation will only take a few minutes from start to finish. Now, go serve a meal suited for a baroness’s table.