True French vinaigrette is definitely an acquired taste. I can still remember the first time I had a salad in France! My taste buds got a little surprise. But it is essentially the only dressing used there so I started getting used to it and have come to appreciate the taste. Whether it be a green salad, a potato salad, carrot salad or asparagus, artichokes, or green beans – it is always the same vinaigrette! It really doesn’t taste at all like the bottled dressing sold over here but it is very easy to make! You don’t even need a recipe, it is more a formula.
Basically, you count one tablespoon of oil per person. The ratio of oil to vinegar is usually 3 : 1 or 4 : 1. Vinaigrette also includes mustard and chopped onions. Usually, sherry or wine vinegar is used (not balsamic) and Maille Dijon mustard. A sharp, good quality mustard is a must. The oil is less important to the French. You can use any good oil, olive oil or a combination of oils for a milder taste.
Whisking the mustard with the vinegar before adding the oil is an important step because the mustard acts as an emulsifier.
While the combination of asparagus and vinaigrette is truly French, the addition of bacon and eggs adds a North American touch. It also transforms it from a first course to a light meal. I added the step of cooking the onion since this “salad” is served warm. A traditional vinaigrette would be prepared with raw onion.
Recipe for 3-4 people
about 2 lbs asparagus
The ends need to be trimmed before cooking. If you break them off by hand instead of cutting them with a knife, they usually break at the spot where the tough stalk meets the tender spear. You can grab a few at the same time and bend. Then boil in salted water and cook to the desired tenderness. Drain, and serve with the dressing while still warm.
1/4 tsp mustard
1 tbsp wine vinegar
4 tbsp oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 slices of bacon
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
In a pan, cook the bacon with 1 tbsp of oil on both sides until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook in the oil and bacon fat that remains in the pan for just a minute.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar, then add the remaining 3 tbsp of oil and season with salt, pepper and tarragon. Add the warm onion including the fat to the vinaigrette and drizzle over the asparagus.
Top with the bacon and a poached or fried egg.