A vinaigrette, made properly, is spicy and stings the tongue just a bit.
It enhances the flavor of anything it touches,
bringing out the best elements.
A true vinaigrette also cooks whatever it touches
and if left unattended on a salad too long
leaves you with a wet, warm mess.
And it becomes bitter if neglected
Such is the life of my father,
both as he lives it
and as it affects those around him,
spicy, intriguing, flavorful
—not so good when neglected.
The truest recipe for his vinaigrette will keep in mind its origins and its tender and true qualities. This ode to my Papa was written several years before he reconnected with Judy. Now, at the age of 90, my papa has been happily married to Judy, for over fifteen years and his life is too sweet to really reflect the earlier taste of tang a true vinaigrette requires. Just because his life has gotten sweeter doesn’t mean you can substitute some fancy raspberry or strawberry vinegar. This vinaigrette needs the bitter, sour, strong tastes that are included here.
The Original Papa Vinaigrette
1–2 teaspoons or tablespoons of Grey Poupon Dijon mustard. No stone ground substitutions will do. You may be able to find a different fine French Dijon mustard and use it. I have not yet discovered an organic variety that works. It must be finely ground, have a little bite and no sweetness. If you use a lesser mustard, this dressing just won’t ever taste the way mine does.
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (NOT BALSAMIC)
1/4–1/2 cup olive oil
fresh thyme or some fresh dried thyme
a dash of nutmeg
mix everything together in a jar with a tight lid shake vigorously.
The New Nicole Version (I think this one is better, but I’m biased)
Combine delicately in a small bowl or in a jar with a lid
Dijon like above (don’t be afraid to use a really healthy amount of Dijon)
juice of 1–2 lemons (fresh only, don’t ever use anything else!)
a dash of white wine vinegar
salt, a good amount. It is important to do these steps in order, the vinegar, lemon, mustard and salt need to all be very well mixed BEFORE you add the olive oil.
add the olive oil about a 1/2 cup olive oil either in a slow drizzle while stirring with a spoon if you are using the bowl method or in the jar with a lid, “shake, shake, shake that booty/dressing.”
add some freshly ground pepper
1–2 tablespoons very finely cut fresh shallots
a bunch of fresh tarragon leaves, whole but removed from the stem
©Nicole Barchilon Frank