Get given a dressing down by Edith Piaf with this classic French vinaigrette. You won’t regret it…
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Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, the quintessential French anthem of defiance in the face of over-seasoning a salad dressing (possibly), has become Edith Piaf’s defining song. Originally recorded in 1959 and dedicated to the French Foreign Legion (it is now their unofficial anthem), the song has been covered by many artists over the decades and inspired patriotic fervour in France (although perhaps not necessarily the miraculous healing properties suggested in Madagascar 3 – but close).
Piaf has had many imitators and impersonators – most famously Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-winning performance in 2007’s La Vie En Rose. There has, of course, also been a stage show (aside from Piaf’s own concerts). Described as a play with music, rather than a musical, Piaf opened in 1978 in London starring Jane Lapotaire who, three years later, won a Tony in the Broadway production. West End legend Elaine Page revived the role in London in 1993 (releasing an album of Piaf covers in parallel) and, more recently Elena Roger won an Olivier Award for the 2008 revival.
The lights dim… a lone spotlight… a piano plays a repeated staccato rhythm… a croaky voice begins to reminisce…
Some of my earliest kitchen memories involve shaking a jar of salad dressing and, for me, making a vinaigrette is a bit of a ritual, one that I am passing on to my children who squabble about who’s turn it is to help. [If that sounds too idyllic, normally, by this stage, my daughter would be sounding the Daddy-childhood-story-alert claxon] It’s a perfect recipe for kids – stirring and shaking a few easily measured ingredients in a jar, with plenty of tasting to make sure it’s just right.
OK – I know this is salad dressing and I’m sure you have your own version… but here’s mine. If the recipe looks familiar, that’s because I used it as a basis for my mayonnaise-in-a-jar experiment, On Mayown.
The quantities are subjective as this really is down to personal taste – how mustardy, seasoned (I tend to find that mustard has enough salt in it, but add more according to taste), vinegary, the kind of oil (for my money, extra virgin olive oil is too strong to use on its own, although adding a splash is fine. Rapeseed has a great taste, but I used to use a mix of sunflower and olive). Use the best quality oil you can.
Blend Dijon mustard and 1 tbsp of oil until the oil has fully incorporated. Repeat with the next two measures of oil: the aim is to get a thick emulsion. Measure out the vinegar (don’t be tempted to pour directly from the bottle into the dressing as it’s really easy to accidentally pour too much in and wreck it!) and stir through. Taste and adjust seasoning and any of the other ingredients. Give a good shake (if using a jar) or another good stir…. et voila!
In the picture, I used the dressing in a Paris bistro staple… salade de tomates, which involves slicing a tomato and serving with the vinaigrette. Try it – you won’t regret it.