The French-style vinaigrette is a lovely creation. It is fresh, acidic, and bright.
In France, salads are not composed of so many different elements to replicate a meal. Instead, the French typically eat their salads following an animal or fish-based main course to aid digestion. For this reason, salads in France are relatively simple, light, and extraordinarily flavorful.
To learn more about the many courses of French dining, check out Spruce Eat’s article “The 7 Courses of a Formal French Meal.”
The addition of blackcurrant vinegar into this vinaigrette recipe is inspired by a Chef I met in Paris who schooled me on the classic sauces of French cuisine. In passing, he mentioned that he had some blackcurrant liqueur in his pantry, and, from time to time, he would add it to an ordinary vinaigrette to enhance the flavors. When I returned home from Paris, I began canvassing liquor store after liquor store for a blackcurrant liqueur. I came to find that the only one in abundance was crème de cassis. When I tried to drizzle a bit into my vinaigrette for that evening, I was utterly disappointed. The blackcurrant notes were not at all pronounced.
My search continued on the Intranet to locate alternatives with natural blackcurrant flavors. While surfing my favorite food shops on the web, I stumbled upon blackcurrant vinegar on My Panier’s website!
It was a striking discovery and made this vinaigrette distinctive yet original, adding a hint of sweetness and tang.
Three Parts Olive Oil and One Part Vinegar
The ratio of olive oil to vinegar is of prime importance when mastering a vinaigrette. The classic French-style vinaigrette requires a ratio of three parts extra-virgin olive oil to one part vinegar. I like a tiny bit more acidity in my vinaigrettes, so I will add a squeeze of lemon or a splash of a different kind of vinegar to brighten the bite. Apart from this modification, I stick to a classic French-style.
Mince the Shallots
A salad or dressing composed of large slices of raw onion produces a sharp and bitter flavor. Alternatively, shallots possess a softer, more palatable taste, even when served raw. Hence, shallots are primarily used as a staple in a French-style vinaigrette. Mince the shallots to avoid an unpleasing bite.
The “ciseler technique” is the best method to mince shallots. Watch this video to learn this technique.
A Smooth vs. Crunchy Dressing
In many French restaurants, you will find a French-style vinaigrette strained of its solids, including the shallots. Comparatively, in many households, the home chef skips the strain. Shallots add a bit of crunch to every bite. Additionally, we advocate for less waste, so our recipe also excludes the straining process. However, if you don’t crave the shallots’ crunch in your salad, you may choose to strain the vinaigrette before serving.
Love Your Leftovers
If you have leftover dressing from our recipe, you may store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. Bring the vinaigrette to room temperature before re-serving. Toss another salad or drizzle it over a filet of fish.
Purge Your Fridge
You just finished tossing our Fennel and Cucumber Salad with Blackcurrant French-Style Vinaigrette, and you are left with the following excess ingredients.
- 3/4 fennel bulb
- 3/4 English cucumber
Thinly slice and add to your salads for the week or cut up and eat as a healthy afternoon snack.
Fennel and Cucumber Salad with a Blackcurrant French-Style Vinaigrette
- 3 tbsp olive oil and extra drizzle for tossing
- 1 tbsp blackcurrant vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 small shallot or 1/2 large shallot, minced
- 1/2 tbsp lemon juice or 1/2 lemon squeezed
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
- 1/4 tsp salt
- ground pepper to taste
- 3 cups field greens
- 1/4 English cucumber thinly sliced
- 1/4 bulb fennel thinly sliced
- 1 handful toasted sunflower seeds or toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1. Prepare the Vegetables
- Place field greens into a large mixing bowl.
- Thinly slice cucumber and fennel. Set aside.
- Mince shallots (for the ciseler technique, see instruction video above in the "Need-to-Know" section).
2. Whisk the Vinaigrette
- Pour extra virgin olive oil, blackcurrant vinegar, balsamic vinegar into a mixing bowl.
- Whisk in shallots, Dijon mustard, Herbes de Provence, salt, and ground pepper.
- Squeeze lemon into the mixing bowl and add honey. Whisk to blend all ingredients.
3. Let Dressing Sit at Room Temperature for 1 Hour
- Let it sit for about 1 hour at room temperature. The flavors will strengthen with time.
4. Mix the Salad
- Pour dressing over the salad and toss together. Toss in toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds if desired.
- Add ground pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss the salad.
- Serve and enjoy!