Tuesday, June 26, 2012

French bistro vinaigrette: a recipe

We recently took a little trip to Paris.

While it was fun seeing all the major sights and attractions (along with, it seemed, four gajillion other American tourists -- jeez!), my favorite part was, of course, the food.

(Sidebar: An entree on a French menu is, as its name implies, a starter. So how the hell did entree then come to mean "main dish" in English? Anyone? Anyone?)

Even though the weather was craptacular the whole time, we managed to eat nearly every meal outside at a bistro or brasserie (those who know me will realize this was heaven for me, as I am all about dining alfresco whenever possible -- which isn't very often here in Vermont).

It may sound silly, but we had some amazing salads for lunch every day. What I call a meal salad, because there's usually a meat protein in it. Smoked duck breast, fois gras, pate -- oooh la la! I was in charcuterie heaven. Like a good little food blogger, I've already been busy recreating these salads at home (watch for a post later this summer).

Additionally, I loved that, no matter what we ordered, it always seemed to come with a little green salad (well, except when we ordered salad, but I assume you didn't think a salad would come with a side salad), rather than a gigantoid mound of frites.

And, no matter the bistro, these salads all seemed to have a similar dressing: a light, creamy vinaigrette. Simple and bright.

Again, like a good little food blogger,  I decided to try to make this dressing at home. I hit the jackpot with a simple Google search for "French bistro salad dressing." I combined several versions to come up with the one you see below.

And, based upon my vast experience of three days eating in Paris, I'd say it is spot on.

Bon appetit.

French Bistro Vinaigrette
Some recipes suggest substituting sour cream for creme fraiche, but I think you need to stick to the real mccoy here. If you like, you can make your own creme fraiche!

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 1/2 - 3 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 teaspoon prepared mustard (whole grain or dijon)
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon sugar (start with 1/4 and see what you think; add more if you like)
salt and pepper

Whisk together all the ingredients in small bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve drizzled over salad greens. Store any unused portion in the refrigerator.

Note: You may also add fresh herbs and garlic, for a slightly different take.


  1. I'll admit I started to write a snarky comment about the creme fraiche, but I actually did click on your link and realized a few things. First, I can easily come up with the required ingredients (one is in my fridge as we speak); second, there are actually only TWO of said ingredients; and third, the amount of work required is pretty much NIL.

    So now while I'm drooling over your pictures I can have some FRAUNCH dressing on my salad and pretend I'm having lunch in a little bistro with Johnny Depp. You've made my day!

  2. I can't say I've ever had a salad in Paris--but this dressing still sounds fabulous. Maybe I'll whip up some of this and have a salad and a glass of rosé this weekend, for a trip to Parisian fantasyland. :)

  3. That sounds like a great idea, Eileen! Enjoy.

  4. Memories flooded as I, too, sat outside in Paris,sipping wine and only eating their salads. Yum! By the way what is creme fraiche and where do I get it? Thanks.

  5. Shelly: Creme fraiche is basically a more buttermilk-fat-oriented sour cream -- just way creamier and yummier. You can ususally find it in the gourmet cheese section of better supermarkets. If you can't find it at all, feel free to substitute sour cream or even heavy cream.

  6. Entree is only "english" for main meal in America. Here in Australia our Entree is your Appetizer.

    Love your writing though, keep it up

  7. Thanks for the info and the compliment! But any idea *why* or *how* we screwed up the word "entree" so badly?