What to CookSalad

Molly Wizenberg & Brandon Pettit's Red Wine Vinaigrette

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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.

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

Tags: Mustard, Vinegar, Wine, Weeknight Cooking, Long Reads, Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes, DIY Food, Everyday Cooking, How-To & Diy, Genius