This sauce may be one of France’s greatest gifts to us, we should all have one in our arsenal.
Salad gets fucked up (in restaurants and at home) more than it should. Just last week I had two salads in two different, well-reputed restaurants that were not great. The lettuce was not cut properly, the greens were not seasoned before dressing them, but mostly the vinaigrettes were imbalanced and provided no pleasure or texture. When you eat a vinaigrette that lacks pleasure, it is a very bleak moment in your life. I was able to recover, but it required a lot of wine and the lifting of some barbells.
Here is what you will need:
- The Shallot. Not advisable to substitute an onion or scallion, the shallot is the star here. They are impossible to find at Whole Foods and Mariano’s, or The Jewels as we like to say, but easy to find at “ethnic” markets, because apparently “ethnic”people are the only smarties that know the deliciousness a shallot provides. Pick a nice firm one with shiny skin and no squishy bits. No-one likes a squishy bit. In fact, while you have made this special trip just for the shallot, buy about 2 pounds. Then you can use a ceramic bowl and store them in your kitchen. They last a long time.
- The mustard. Maille is a solid brand that is common in France (almost always found in the “ethnic” stores as well) but I have also made this with the ubiquitous Grey Poupon, which includes sugar and pectin. Maille has neither of these and I prefer it. (Note: Nadim, you were right…)
- Vinegar. I am just using a cheap Italian red wine vinegar here. It’s mainly to provide punch and cut through some of the unctuousness. No need to spend crazy money on vinegar.
- Oil. For this I use a decent quality but not super fancy extra-virgin that I also use for cooking. To make it seem more expensive, I store it in an old Raveneau Chablis bottle. The may be disappointing but with the amount of olive oil used in Shebnation it is a necessity.
- Salt & Pepper. I like Maldon salt and I like finely ground pepper. I very much dislike the feel of coarse, spicy pepper flecks in my mouth, especially near my teeth. I realize the specificity here and own it. If you enjoy this feeling use coarse ground pepper.
Chop one medium shallot up in tiny tiny dices. if you stink at handling knives, you could use a box grater. But this will also cause a lot of volatile liquidity to erupt from your shallot. So try the knife. Put the dice in a small mason jar that has a lid. Add 2 Tbsp. of vinegar, 1.5 tsp. of mustard and stir it all around. Get the shallots in there and let them soak in the acid for a minute or two. This will really take the edge off. Add salt and pepper (1/4 tsp. each). Add 5 Tbsp. of the Olive Oil, put the lid and shake it up, for a bit until everything is a smooth, cohesive unit. If you do this enough you might even not need the measuring spoons anymore.
Taste it and you will probably want to add a bit more salt, I always do. Then, your masterpiece can be stored in your fridge for about 5 days, but you will use it all up by then. This will dress 2 or 3 big salads and 4 or 5 little ones.