But sometimes you need to work with the pantry or grocery store that you're dealt, and you can still have a good salad -- thanks to a simple hack from Molly Wizenberg and Brandon Pettit of Seattle's Delancey restaurant (and bar Essex and blog Orangette). You don't need to buy anything fancy. You probably don't need to buy anything at all.
"It's just a good little trick to have up your sleeve -- especially around this time of year, when people are on vacation and staying at Airbnb houses or whatnot and find themselves with only crappy vinegar in the cabinet." Wizenberg told me. The secret? "Just pull out the dregs of last night's red wine! Voila."
Yes, wine. Pettit discovered this trick after he ran out of the vinegar he'd made himself and grocery store brands didn't live up. A little red wine isn't enough to make your salad taste boozy, but rounds out the rough edges, "making up for imperfections in your vinegar," as Wizenberg writes in her new memoir Delancey.
This is a good starter vinaigrette -- there's so much mustard here that the dressing practically emulsifies itself, the Dijon taking up all the oil in a big, unhesitating bear hug. And because there are no fresh herbs or shallot or garlic to turn on you, a jar of this will keep in the fridge indefinitely.
While this trick will enhance any flimsy vinegar, you do want to pay closer attention to one ingredient: Dijon can swing a lot of directions, and with this much it swings hard. That's not to say you need to buy anything particularly expensive -- but you'll have the best, most Molly-and-Brandon-like results if you use Roland Extra Strong, Beaufor, or Edmond Fallot for this recipe.
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].
Photo of Molly and Brandon by Faith Durand; all other photos by James Ransom
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."