My Father’s Vinaigrette

Mon Papa

In my post about Pissaladière, I alluded to my father’s signature vinaigrette. Such a teaser could not go by unnoticed, and many of you expressed an eager curiosity. The request for more information was passed on to my father, and I will now step aside, and let you read his reply :

Yes, perhaps the time has now come for the secret recipe of CDV (“Clotilde’s Daddy’s Vinaigrette”) to be revealed to the astonished (and expectant) world. To be secretive is one thing, to be selfish another. This has been a family secret from times immemorial, handed down countless generations from Father to Son. But I have only two (lovely, bright, charming and adorable) daughters, and no son to take over the heavy burden from me. So here we go.

First, let me say that making a Vinaigrette is not only an art, it’s also a science. You must carefully consider:

– the list of ingredients
– their quality
– their quantity, both relative and absolute
– the size, nature, form and shape of the bowl and of the spoon

There are many other significant parameters, of course, which we will ignore at this stage, since this is just Vinaigrette Making 101, after all. For the record, let me mention:

– the room temperature
– the atmospheric pressure
– the direction of the wind, and its force (you can’t very well use the same vinaigrette method in a leisurely south-westerly breeze, and in a severe northern gale force 9, imminent.)

I use sunflower oil, made from carefully selected sunflowers growing in a very small plot of land in Brittany, picked up once a year at Summer Solstice day by Druids in white robes, with a golden scythe, chanting extracts from Lord of the Rings. Only the sunflowers in direct alignment with the setting sun are considered fit. The yearly production does not exceed a few drams.

The vinegar I use comes from bottles of preserved Ukrainian gherkins, once you’ve thrown away the gherkins. They give a distinct taste, though: they are handpicked by Ukrainian certified maidens of no more than 13 years of age, pickled (the gherkins, not the maidens) in a mixture of vodka and special herbs found only on the western slopes of the Ural, and moved from cask to cask of borscht-smoked oak wood over a period of no less than a decade. Ukrainian Gherkin Vinegar Tasting is something, I assure you, that I would not wish upon my worst enemy.

I use marine salt, extracted from the Atlantic waters off the coast of the Ile de Sein.

As for the mustard, you will surely have guessed that it is none other than the Maille Moutarde Fine de Dijon. You could also use Amora Moutarde Extra Forte, if you’re desperate. Both are to be found almost anywhere in France. They’re as common as oxygen. In fact, in some places, there is more mustard than oxygen. This is not so in some deprived countries, and a good friend of mine in Seattle recently begged me to send him two pots of Amora: he had tried to quit after having lived in France, but to no avail. And his local dealer had got arrested by the cops. Just goes to show what acquired tastes can lead to.

But having come this far, I find I must pause. Is it right that I should reveal the secrets of the Vinaigrette? Is the world ready for it? I can feel the shades of my forebears crowding before me, waving their spectral hands at me and admonishing me to go no further. I may have already said too much. At least, I haven’t given out the exact proportions, or the Magic Ratio (quantity of vinegar expressed in millilitres, over the total area of lettuce leaves expressed in square inches, not forgetting that each leave has two sides, a common mistake). It could have been worse. Anyway, once you have gathered the correct ingredients, you can work out the rest by yourselves, I’m sure!

  • Dana

    Dear CD (Clotilde’s Dad),
    thank you so much for sharing your secret recipe with the ever-growing hordes of your daughter’s adoring fans! I certainly don’t want to pressure you to reveal all the secrets, but few questions remain:
    How many years in advance do you have to order the oil ?
    Do I need a visa for Ukraine, or do you have a reliable gherkin vinegar smuggler you could recommend ? Confidentially, of course….
    Clotilde – your growing years must have been great with such fun Dad!!!

  • CD rocks. Not meaning to pry, but which volume of Lord of the Rings should we be searching in … ?

  • Jennifer Crawford

    Yay for CD!!! Your father brightened my morning! Much much fun.

  • *swoon*

    I think I might be in love with Clotilde’s Dad.

  • Hande

    Now I know…
    * why Clotilde can cook like she does,
    * why Clotilde can write like she does.

    The virtual-CD is cool. Hope for Clotilde, that he is such in real life as well!

  • Gary

    Just a simple recipe of commonly-found ingredients. ;*)

  • Tease, tease, tease.

    I understand about the oil, the vinegar, the salt, the mustard and I even gleaned a little of the proportions since only a few drams of oil are available we have an upper limit, etc.

    But it really isn’t fair that we don’t get the details on humidity, temperature and so forth. It is quite clear that here in California I cannot hope to duplicate this recipe without knowing how to make allowances for the difference.

    Plus, I strongly suspect that the vinegar doesn’t travel well and that I will be forced to substitute something local and completely unbalancing like vinegar from the five year pickling of meyer lemons grown only on the slopes of Mount Diablo and guarded by generations of a particular pride of mountain lions.

    Thank you to CD and to you!

  • Mariko

    Ahh, yes, now it is clear where Clotilde inherited her charm and wit! Now if I could only find some pickled maidens in California …

  • What a joy to read! I have made my own vinaigrette, but never with as much care. Your father is very inspirational. BTW, visit my blog to see a (small) pic of a bacon and asparagus quiche I made on Saturday. Believe it or not, even the crust was homemade!

  • Oops. I typed the wrong URL to my blog! If you click my name to this post, you’ll get the correct one!

  • Hail to CDV!!!!!
    An incredible recipe & Tale!!

  • I have heard -from somebody who ought to know- that the very best mustard in the world is to be found at:
    Mosterdfabriek Tierenteyn-Verlent specerijen/épices/spices/Gewürze Groentenmarkt 3, 9000 Gent/Gand Belgium/Belgique

  • Amy

    That is the most fun I’ve ever had NOT reading a reading a recipe!

  • All – Well, am I delighted that you liked my father’s reply as much as I did!

    And yes, he was the best dad to grow up with — I could write a book with all the stories he invented for us. And the goofy games! And the drawings for us to color! And the comic books collection!

    I must say though, that the cooking part most definitely comes from my mother’s side!

  • nattie

    *giggle* That was absolutely ace. Hurrah for Clotilde’s dad!

    We have no Ukrainian maidens (pickled or otherwise) on hand. What to do, what to do?? (Nattie runs off howling in despair.)

  • Nassim

    Patrick <-> Clotilde, encore une preuve que la génétique n’est pas une discipline de charlatans!

  • Chloe

    Merci a vous deux!

  • Patrick

    Thanks for the kind comments about my (fantastic) Vinaigrette Recipe! Glad it made you smile. I”m so pleased (and not surprised at all) to see that y”all food-lovers over there also have a strong sense of humour. Not surprising, as I said, since enjoying food is enjoying life, and you can”t very well enjoy life without a robust sense of humour… Or can you? If so, let”s have THAT recipe!
    And Clotilde is perfectly right: as they say, the apple never falls far from the tree, and Clotilde”s “cooking apple” definitely comes from the maternal branch. I”m hopeless myself. Remind me one day to tell you the story of my last attempt at cooking, some 15 years ago, when Sylvie (my wife) was away on a business trip, leaving me to look after the kids, and I decided, on a mad impulse, to cook dinner for the three of us, to my everlasting shame. Of course, I should have gone for something simpler than soft-boiled eggs…

  • Peter

    Concerning the remark that Belgian Tierentijn mustard is the best in the world, yes, it’s probably true. But then it is almost handmade in very small quantities and can only be bought in Ghent. (There is another Tierentijn mustard, which is more easily available in speciality stores, industrially made by Ferdinand Tierentijn. Somewhere in the past, there was a row in the family and ways parted. It is good mustard à la Maille. They have a -Dutch- website with some recipes at <>)

  • Andi

    Here I go again………I am tickled with your dads vinaigrette……..
    so lucky are we Clotilde,that we experience a sweet spark of your family,and see why you are so adorable and charming…….
    in appreciation,with a smile on my face…..
    Andi in Las Vegas

  • Thanks so much, this is a lovely receipe and it is true that all true ingredients count….merci de tout mon coeur,

  • mayko

    gent mustard made at Tierenteyn-Verlent is by far the king of all mustards. I tried to duplicate this gem only to smell the kitchen up with vinegar. I wish they can ups there product over seas. The last time I was there that was not possible. Does anyone know the ingredients?

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