Genius Recipes

April Bloomfield's Lemon Caper Dressing

By • April 6, 2012 • 29 Comments

Every week, FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A dressing that will push you to your limits, and make you beg for more.

salad with lemon caper dressing

- Kristen

If you're in any danger of becoming complacent with your everyday salad, that ends now. April Bloomfield gives us a dressing of unmatched gutsiness because, as she says, "I can't bear being bored."

april bloomfield: a girl and her pig

The co-owner and chef behind New York's gastropub super-trifecta The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, and The John Dory releases her first cookbook A Girl and Her Pig next Tuesday, and with it, her philosophy on all sorts of things. Things like salad and raisin bran, both of which come into play here.

This recipe (one of the first Bloomfield remembers coming up with as a young cook in London) is a fitting snapshot of Bloomfield herself, a chef known as much for her quiet modesty and mindfulness as her $17 hamburgers and mounded chicken liver toasts. She serves the dressing with a fried pig's ear salad.

how to segment a lemon  segmenting a lemon
 
segmented lemon  lemon juice


At first glance, it's a shockingly brash dressing. She uses not just lemon juice, but whole lemon segments, and more mustard than could possibly seem like a good idea. There's half as much Dijon as there is olive oil -- which makes it at least twice as strong most proper French mustard vinaigrettes. There's so much, in fact, that you don't even need to go out of your way to emulsify the dressing to make it substantial and creamy -- the mustard just swirls in and thickens effortlessly.

As you eat it, the punchiness almost leaves you breathless. By the end, you're all but drunk off the racy, surging flavors.  

segmenting a lemon

But at the same time, there are addictive little nips of caper and shallot to keep you going, and gentler undercurrents of lemon juice, salt, and sugar. How does she make it all make sense? Surprisingly, the answer is restraint.

shallot  minced shallot

It's a theme she returns to throughout the book. And it's perhaps the only way that a chef so famed for daringly rich foods could hold our attention and awe as long as she has, and keep us always coming back for more. We've forgotten many a slider and cupcake, but we'll never forget her.

She considers this salad an homage to Fergus Henderson, who has said of his own signature bone marrow dish, "There should be just enough capers that you end up searching for them, like the raisins in raisin bran." In their minds, every sugar-coated raisin is that much more thrilling, knowing that it could be the last, and leave you with a soggy, lonesome puddle of bran.

april bloomfield a girl and her pig

salad dressing  lemon dressing 

It's the same reason you must stop yourself from eating all the cookie dough, and why there's nothing but a path of regret after you've chased down all the best chunks from a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

It's the simple law of diminishing returns. Grown-ups know better than to pack a whole avocado in their salad, lest they compromise the pleasure of finding a single slice in the bottom of the bowl. "It's the difference between giving people what they think they want and giving them what will be truly amazing," Bloomfield explains in the book.

lemon caper dressing

So her approach with this salad is manipulative, almost punishing. She pushes you just to your limits with all that mustard and stinging lemon, then brings you back from the brink with just enough juicy capers and shallots to keep you wanting.

And by serving it with a deep-fried pig's ear, she says "The dressing, with its intense pops of tartness from the lemon segments, makes you want to eat more pig's ear, and its salty cartilage and fat makes you crave more dressing." Of course, you don't have to go with pig ears -- any fatty meats, even cheeses, or avocado (but not too much) would do the trick.

Any way you serve it, she's playing you like a drug dealer pushing speed with sleeping pills. Except here, there's no shame in just saying yes.

lemon caper salad dressing

April Bloomfield's Lemon Caper Dressing

Adapted very slightly from A Girl and Her Pig (Ecco, 2012)

Makes about 1 cup

2 medium lemons
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (choose one whose flavor you like on its own -- we used Maille)
2 tablespoons drained capers, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom


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Tags: genius, April Bloomfield, lemon, capers, salad, salad dressing, A Girl and Her Pig

Comments (29)

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about 1 year ago JGordon

Made this yesterday and it is fantastic!! I refrigerated the little bit of leftovers and then took it out of the fridge and within 30 minutes it was back to the original consistency. The lemon sections taste citrus-y without any sourness at all. Supremeing the lemons was easy. I didn't find it too salty at all, but I love salt. Will keep making this forever...

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over 1 year ago darksideofthespoon

Um, so right now I'm having this on a salad. I've tried this recipe plenty of times before, but this time: Bacon Fat. That's right. No Olive Oil, BACON FAT. It is AMAZING! It's dressing raw Kale, thin sliced fennel, celery, carrots and croutons. Divine.

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about 2 years ago dymnyno

I just made this to go with oven roasted wild salmon. I used green onions instead of capers and tarragon mustard. This is one of my favorite of your "genius" recipes!

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over 2 years ago Rivka

This dressing is fantastic on blanched asparagus spears. Lunch today, and it's making me enormously happy.

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over 2 years ago LLStone

This is so good! I knew I'd love it as I love capers and mustard, but it is so much better than I was even expecting! After getting square with the taxing authorities today, we are enjoying this with roasted vegetables (cauliflower, potatoes, red peppers), cheeses and a baguette. Delicious.

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over 2 years ago ramiro39

Thought the combo of two lemons (juice and segments), djion, capers would make me pucker up. But perfectly balanced and it's criminal. Served over baked salmon. Genius is not overstating. Thanks for the keeper recipe.

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over 2 years ago ramiro39

Thought the combo of two lemons (juice and segments), djion, capers would make me pucker up. But perfectly balanced and it's criminal. Served over baked salmon. Genius is not overstating. Thanks for the keeper recipe.

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over 2 years ago Andreakat

Reading this recipe made my mouth water. I'm using this on salmon tonight! Thanks for the inspiration.

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over 2 years ago meg226

Kristen - this is the first time I've read one of your columns and your career choice wasn't dodgy at all - your writing is fantastic. If anything can get me to try something this mustardy, your description of this dressing (& why it works) will be it!

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over 2 years ago BlueKaleRoad

My taste buds are tingling, Kristen! I'm roasting broccoli right now and may just whip up a batch of this dressing to go alongside. Thank you for sharing another marvelous recipe!

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over 2 years ago AEC

Save button does not appear on this page. 10:23 CST

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

To save the recipe, just click on the link at the bottom of this post that says "See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here." There's a "Save this recipe" button on the left side. Sorry for the confusion!

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over 2 years ago lisa kus

Where's the button to save this recipe?

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over 2 years ago CurlyAnnie

We had this over romaine with radishes and avocados - my mouth is watering just thinking about it, so sad it's all gone :( Thanks for a great Genius of a recipe!

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over 2 years ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

What did the lemon segments taste like?

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over 2 years ago shecooks

Just finished eating the salad i dressed with this dressing. Salty is an understatement! Next time I won't add additional salt besides what the capers and mustard contribute. Other than that, it's good, but not sure it qualifies as a genius recipe . . .

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over 2 years ago Rhonda35

Just whipped this up for Easter dinner and couldn't wait that long, so I put a bit in a small bowl and I'm dipping raw veggies in it as I type. Mmmmmmm! Going to use the dressing on grilled asparagus tonight. I made two changes: (1) used Meyer lemons since that's what I had and (2) like BrilliantKitchen, I couldn't just throw out all that potential deliciousness, so I zested the lemons before cutting peel off and added the zest to the dressing.

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over 2 years ago BrilliantKitchen

Headed downstairs to make it for lunch today! Think I'll zest the lemon first so it won't get discarded with the rest of the peel... I think it will still section just fine. Yum.

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over 2 years ago WCmom

Perfect for Easter dinner tonight!

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over 2 years ago gigabiting

I'm all over this one. Lemon, capers, shallots have recently become my go-to flavors for so many things.

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over 2 years ago sweet fang

The dead pig draped over her shoulders was very off putting for a salad dressing recipe.

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over 2 years ago Janex

I think those who are less fazed by such images are closer to their source of food or have a real appreciation of farm to table. Why hide this reality?

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over 1 year ago darksideofthespoon

I have to agree. I worked in a restaurant that displayed a severed pigs head in their charcuterie display window, because, really, that is where it all came from!

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over 2 years ago Hummusit

There are capers in brine and capers in vinegar - which type is best for this recipe?

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I've tried this with both capers in brine and salt-packed capers (rinsed) -- both were great and the results indistinguishable, since the capers are chopped finely and mixed in with some really powerful flavors. If you have a choice, I'd go with capers that aren't too acidic, since there's plenty of acid to go around in here.