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The Secret Ingredient (Dijon Mustard): Simple Vinaigrette

You can be as fancy as you like in the kitchen, but if you don't know the basics, you'll never get anywhere. And one basic I have been working on for a long time is the perfect basic vinaigrette. I've written a million and one times about the restaurant Le Relais de l'EntrecĂ´te in Paris, which now has an outpost (as yet untested by me!) in New York. It's a steak frites place, but they bring you this amazing green salad with mustard dressing and walnuts to start, and it was that dressing I was dying to emulate.

What's amazing is that the proportions could not be more obvious. One part mustard, one part vinegar, two parts oil, salt, and pepper.
I'm serious. You cannot go wrong. I've been testing for years. The mustard emulsifies the dressing, and gives a nice bite. French Dijon mustard is hotter than the stuff we get in the States--even by the same brand. So if you can get your hand on some hot Dijon mustard, it will be all the more authentic.

But the great thing about this vinaigrette is you can alter it any way you like to suit your mood—use a not-so-hot mustard, and cider vinegar for something gentle. Switch up the oils, try a nut oil, an avocado oil, a rosemary or Meyer lemon or garlic-infused oil. Buy a mustard flavored with tarragon or black currants. Add a pinch of ground cumin or even curry powder (it's delicious) to serve alongside an exotic dinner. Grate garlic or shallot into the dressing. Use a white balsamic vinegar, a fig vinegar, a pear and herb vinegar. Chop up basil or parsley or mint and add it in. Take this basic vinaigrette, made perfect, and thick, and creamy, and tangy thanks to the mustard, and you will have a million and one salads to match the million and one times I've mentioned L'EntrecĂ´te.

I'm pretty excited about this month's Secret Ingredient—stay tuned for lots more thick, spicy, and tangy recipes this month!

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