Weeknight Cooking

Molly Wizenberg & Brandon Pettit's Red Wine Vinaigrette

June 18, 2014

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: How to make your salad taste like a million bucks.

A vinaigrette is only as good as the pantry it comes from, we think: mediocre vinegar and oil beget mediocre dressing, a salad that you finish only out of obligation, a dinner you won't remember.

Shop the Story

That's only half the story though. Sure, if you have gravity-pressed olive oil and cider vinegar made from heritage apples, you are all but guaranteed a good salad.

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.

More: Learn another genius trick for zhushing up balsamic vinaigrette.


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.

More: Another genius recipe from Delancey? Molly Wizenberg's Rice Noodle Salad.

But don't stop there! Pettit also likes to reinforce white wine vinegar with a splash of dry bubbly, and he wants to try apple cider vinegar and a sour beer (like Duchesse de Bourgogne) next.

Where will you take yours?

Molly Wizenberg & Brandon Pettit's Red Wine Vinaigrette

Adapted slightly from Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage (Simon & Schuster, 2014)

Makes about 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (preferably Roland Extra Strong, Beaufor, or Edmond Fallot)
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons red wine
Pinch of fine sea salt
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup olive oil

See 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].

Photo of Molly and Brandon by Faith Durand; all other photos by James Ransom

Listen Now

Join The Sandwich Universe co-hosts (and longtime BFFs) Molly Baz and Declan Bond as they dive deep into beloved, iconic sandwiches.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • cindy
  • catbirdx
  • AJD8129
  • Donna C.
    Donna C.
  • I_Fortuna
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. 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."


cindy April 17, 2022
I made it a bit lighter, by decreasing the Dijon to 2 tsp and decreasing the olive oil to 1/8. Really nice red wine vinaigrette. Thank you!
cindy April 17, 2022
1/8 cup of olive oil!
catbirdx July 4, 2014
Hmmm...lots of mixed reactions here (and more good recipes)! I usually keep a jar of homemade dressing of one sort or another in the refrigerator but found myself without any last night and decided to give this a try. I loved it. My only change (just because it's what I had available on the spur of the moment) was to use balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Loved the result and had it again at lunch today. I'm sure many of the suggested additions would be delicious, but this is lovely as is. Thanks Molly & Brandon & Kristen!
AJD8129 June 26, 2014
Made this last night following the recipe exactly and it was great!
Yes the mustard component is strong, but it works well with the other ingredients, and it means you get a lot of flavor without adding a ton of dressing to the salad - which is the way it should be, right? This is definitely going to become a standby.
Donna C. June 25, 2014
Used 1 1/2 tbsp. of Dijon and 2 Tsp. of Ruby Red Port...amazing! I added green onions to my salad greens to compensate for lack of shallots.
I_Fortuna June 22, 2014
I agree that it is way too much mustard and some tarragon and shallots would be more desirable. The oil seems like a lot for only 1 1/2 Tbs. of vinegar but that may be because I use Bragg's apple cider vinegar that is seems not so acidic. The wine, if it is good is o.k. but can offer a bitter note in a salad dressing if it is not good quality. I do add a dash of white pepper so my dressing has a little snap to it. Personally I just eyeball my dressing and it always comes out the same. I usually only measure when baking or making a recipe for the first time and even then I tweak it.
JadeTree June 22, 2014
This is a fun tip! This will be great in winter when the red wine is plentiful and the fresh herbs less in evidence.
Carol H. June 22, 2014
Needs garlic and onions and Italian seasoning.
Alyce M. June 22, 2014
Lots of great ideas here...including the original recipe! I think what really whips a green salad into shape, though, is a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice followed by salt and pepper and a good toss-- before the vinaigrette is added.
bobbe June 22, 2014
great tip!
Beth A. June 22, 2014
I think a lot of folks missed the premise of this recipe - you are in a summer rental or borrowed kitchen without control over ingredients. I too would use less mustard only because I like a little, not a lot, and if the rental had a good mustard, great, but often there is only yellow paint (to use my son's term for the common yellow mustard).
sel June 22, 2014
the dressing was a little too thick....it was because of the mustard, i cut
half it back and the results were much better.....may i also ingest the idea
of adding a bit of cane sugar to this....believe me it taste so much better.
Just noticed the idea of powdered mustard, great input....it works nicely and
not such a thick dressing.....
june C. June 22, 2014
Hi Kristen ~ I heard the pioneer woman whip 1 lb of soft butter and maybe 8 blackberries barely mixed in at the end wrap in celephane and foil and freeze. I added coconut sugar and cinnamon. I loved it. Mostly I loved the texture of whipped butter you end up using a lot less butter/calories which is important to me! I think I'm whipping 1/2 lb butter adding minced garlic and rosemary next time? Whipped butter in my stand up mixer is awesome! I love it! I also love your blog....thanks j
viviancooks June 22, 2014
omg! where are the shallots?!?
For me, cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, English mustard powder and a pinch of sugar. Shake together vigorously in a screw topped jar and keeps in the fridge if necessary. So quick to make I always try to make the right amount.
Marian B. June 21, 2014
I love how pink the end result is! I can't wait to try this, especially now that I have more reason *not* to finish an entire bottle of wine by myself in two days.
Summer O. June 19, 2014
I like to add fresh herbs and a little salt to liven up my salads.
Sera S. June 19, 2014
Is it possibile to use other vinegars (e.g. balsamic, white wine) in the recipe instead of red wine vinegar?
AntoniaJames June 18, 2014
Wine also takes pickles to a new level - I learned that from Paul Virant's outstanding "Preservation Kitchen." ;o)
Horto June 24, 2014
where are you putting wine in pickles? in the process, that is!
Lisa June 18, 2014
After years of trial and error, the secret to my success was thanks to Ina Garten, who calls for champagne vinegar in her Vinaigrette for Green Salad:

1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
3 TB champagne vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Et voila!
Lisa June 18, 2014
Whoops! forgot a very important detail: 1/2 cup olive oil!!!
Keren June 18, 2014
Reminds me of an old, very easy favorite dressing: 1 part red wine, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part olive oil, minced garlic to taste, S&P. Can be mixed directly in the jar and keeps like a dream.
Sharyn G. June 18, 2014
Dijon, fresh garlic, and tarragon is my favorite vinaigrette.
JohnL June 22, 2014
Your favorite vinaigrette reminds me of one of my favorites. Several years ago I happened to try one of Ken Hom's recipes from his East-West cookbook. I'm posting his recipe for Cold Tomato Cubes Tossed in Tarragon and Sesame Oil. What a genius he is to think of combining Asian sesame oil with fresh tarragon. It's not hard to throw together and I just love it. It always tastes as wonderful as the first time tried it.