Author: Blondie

The Great Vinaigrette Challenge

After weeks of preparation, the day of The Great Vinaigrette Challenge has arrived. Finally, we will find out which vinaigrette recipe is better – Julia Child’s Lemon-Oil Dressing or Jacques Pépin’s Vinaigrette in a Jar.

If you have not read our two preceding posts, here and here, now is the time to go back and review them. You will see why The Great Vinaigrette Challenge is so important to so many serious gourmands.

Come join me and the staff of the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen as we bring together outstanding recipes by two legendary chefs. We will place them in the spotlight. The distinguished Chef Luna will then put both recipes to the test and answer the important question. – Which vinaigrette is better, Julia’s or Jacques’s?

If you are truly a lover of great food, no matter how humble its place in a multi-course meal, The Great Vinaigrette Challenge will make your day.

Great Vinaigrette Challenge Background

Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen

Allow me, first of all, to thank Monsieur Pierre LeChat for all his work on the two preceding posts. He provided the vital background and technical details you need to understand the importance of this challenge. Most importantly, he has shown you that, in the kitchen, “Two different paths can lead to equally fine results.”

Now, it is my turn to share with you how my staff and I organized and conducted The Great Vinaigrette Challenge.

Chef Luna – A Short Curriculum Vitae

Every food-related contest requires a qualified and unbiased judge. The Serendipity Farmhouse test kitchen was most fortunate to have our long-time associate, Chef Luna, volunteer for this duty.

Chef Luna has been cooking from a very early age. At first, she was self-taught, and her cooking style was that of great experimentation. Later on, she took on employment at the Try Thai Restaurant in Front Royal, Virginia. That is where she developed great skills in East Asian cuisines.

Chef Luna

From there, Chef Luna’s career took a very important turn. She was hired by “an award-winning chef trained at the Connecticut Culinary Institute” to work at Christendom College. Working under the mentorship of this highly qualified Executive Chef, her skills and breadth of knowledge have grown and matured.

Yes, our Test Kitchen had found Chef Luna. She would be the perfect judge for The Great Vinaigrette Challenge.

Let The Great Vinaigrette Challenge Begin

This was a blind test. Two identical tossed salads were arranged on the tasting table. One was tossed with Julia’s Lemon-Oil Dressing. The other was tossed with Jacques’s Vinaigrette in a Jar. Only my Hubby knew for sure which was which.

the great vinaigrette challenge

I spent some time with Chef Luna, and we reviewed Persnickety Pierre’s Five Criteria of Excellence. She was asked to place primary focus on the criterion of achieving fine results in taste and flavor. She had worked with Pierre before and embraced his cooking philosophy. Chef Luna declared that she was up to the task and ready to begin.

I had decided we would hold this once-in-a-lifetime event on neutral ground outside of Rappahannock County. A select audience viewed the tasting challenge. Some had come from over 90 miles away. – The room was totally silent as Chef Luna, using her signature chopsticks, took her first taste.

Throughout the tasting, Chef Luna meticulously recorded her impressions. She compared and contrasted the elements of taste and flavor of the two competing vinaigrettes. This chart contains just a few of her notes.

Salad Dressing ASalad Dressing B
Overall, it blends well with the salad.A bit lighter than Dressing A, though neither A nor B is overly heavy.
Flavor that complements the bitterness of the saladDoesn’t complement the salad as well as Dressing A
There are citrus notes, lemony.Also has slight citrus notes.
A garlic-like elementSaltier than Dressing A.
More vinegary.
Some of Chef Luna’s Tasting Notes

Chef Luna Determines the Winner

great vinaigrette challenge

Chef Luna spent just a bit over five minutes tasting, comparing, recording, and finally deciding. Without hesitation, she had decided on a winner. – – – It was Salad Dressing A!

Immediately, the entire audience rocked the room in a single voice with the question, “Whose recipe is Salad Dressing A?

I came to the front of the tasting table and began to make an announcement. But, as I started to speak, my Hubby began to gesticulate in an odd manner. He wanted to speak to me. I quietly stepped to the side of the room and conferred with my Hubby. He knew I didn’t want to get this wrong. So, he whispered in my ear. I thanked him and turned to face the anxious audience again. – – “It is my distinct pleasure to inform you that the winner of the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen Great Vinaigrette Challenge is … the winner is – Julia Child!

The audience jumped to their feet as Chef Luna invited them all up to the tasting table to sample from each of the salads. Some liked Salad Dressing A. Some thought Salad Dressing B was better. – Would the judge change her mind?


Yes, there was an official decision. And Chef Luna had no reservations. She would not second guess herself. Her decision will stand.

As Pierre LeChat had said, “Two different paths can lead to equally fine results.” So, even though there is an official decision, you should hold a vinaigrette challenge in your own home. Let your family decide the question: Which vinaigrette is better, Julia’s or Jacques’s? Both recipes are listed below.

If you’ve enjoyed this series of posts, please make a comment below. If you want to have some more light-hearted culinary adventures, join up and be an e-mail follower.

make a vinaigrette.

Julia's Lemon-Oil Dressing


  • 1 Tbs minced shallots or scallions
  • 2 tsp Dijon-style prepared mustard
  • 2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • About ¼ tsp salt or more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup excellent olive oil


  • Put the minced scallions, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well blended.
  • Pour in the oil slowly, in droplets at first, and then in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the oil has been completely emulsified and the dressing has thickened.
  • Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  • Use immediately; if the dressing separates while standing, whisk to blend.


Jacques's Vinaigrette in a Jar


  • A 12-ounce glass jar with a screwtop lid


  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbs Dijon-style mustard
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup red- or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil or peanut oil or a mixture of the two


  • Put all the ingredients in the jar, screw on the lid, and shake very well.
  • Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more oil or vinegar, as you like.
  • Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks, and shake to blend before using.


Liver & Onions in Honor of Tim

Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen

In March of 2019, my Hubby committed the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen to a challenge. He committed us to making liver and onions in honor of his brother Tim’s birthday. He even went out on a limb (as he often does) and said that the SFH Test Kitchen staff would attempt to master Sauté of Calf’s Liver with Onions from Julia Child’s book The Way to Cook.

My hotshot husband figured that we in the kitchen staff would all jump to the opportunity. That’s because we had watched Julia make the dish on a video. He said Julia made it look easy. Surely, we could pull it off. But, when Hubby says we, he usually means me.

So, let me tell you the story about how the SFH kitchen staff staged a mutiny. In fact, they even went so far as to maroon Ol’ Fuzz Face in a desolate and deserted kitchen as a punishment.

Continue reading “Liver & Onions in Honor of Tim”

Pimento Cheese IHO Mom

February is my Mom’s birthday month. When I think of the best of Southern tradition and style, and sometimes sassiness, that was my Mom. She was filled with a joy for life and good food. One of her favorite dishes was Southern-style pimento cheese. Perhaps that’s why it is one of my favorites as well.

So, let me share with you the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen adaptation of QUEENREYNEY’s version of Southern Pimento Cheese.

Test Results & Commentary

I’ve been using this adapted recipe for many years now. The purpose of this test kitchen event was to document the process while honoring my Mom on her birthday. – Once again, this recipe distinguished itself, as you can see by my smile of satisfaction

As is our standard operating procedure (SOP), I adhered to Persnickety Pierre’s Test Kitchen Philosophy. Also, I want to thank Hubby for his admirable assist in this test.

1. Level of the challenge:

This recipe confronts even the most stouthearted of chefs with a great challenge. What might that be? A chef can turn to the wisdom of practical experience to resolve most cooking dilemmas. However, there is not a one of us who dares to solve the riddle of proper spelling in the English language. After all, English has adopted so many foreign words and there is no authority in existence that can competently standardize two competing spellings.

And, Peeps, so it is with this simple recipe. I dare say that there is not a person among you, who can say for sure whether the proper spelling for those minced red bits in this dish is ‘pimento cheese’ or ‘pimiento cheese’. If you really think you can, please feel free to make a comment at the end of this post. – For now, I am taking Mr. Monte’s word and using ‘pimento cheese’ throughout this post.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients:

Hubby forgot to add the salt and pepper shakers to this staging of ingredients. There’s nothing required for this recipe that can’t be found in your local grocery store. Many substitutions will work just fine with this recipe, with one huge exception. My Mom told us girls: “Never use anything except Hellman’s Mayo!”

3. Use of cooking techniques:

This is not cooking. This is just mixing of ingredients once they are prepped. My trusty Proctor-Silex 3 hand mixer was more than adequate for the job. Things can get a little messy, so I put the mixing bowl in the sink to keep the mess to a minimum.

4. Development of superior taste and flavor:

Don’t be afraid to use two or more jalapeños in this dish. The cream cheese tends to reduce the overall spiciness. The use of extra-sharp, sharp ,or mild cheddar cheese is up to you. It’s good to know your guests’ preferences beforehand. Although the recipe calls for garlic powder, to me, fresh, minced garlic is superior.

5. Presentation

If the occasion is a high tea, this dish can be presented in many delightful ways. Nothing is too fancy for a high tea!

Pimento cheese is so easy to prepare, you can serve it almost anytime with crackers for a light lunch. Even better, you can store it in the fridge and it can make an encore performance two or three days later.

I must extend my thanks and appreciation to Mr. Monte for his assistance in the SFH Test Kitchen and in drafting this post. He is a font of wisdom when selecting the best ingredients. He can sniff out a bad garlic clove at 30 feet. Also, he has no peers when it comes to English language spelling rules.

pimento chees

Southern Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese was one of my Mom's favorites. She would have appreciated how this versatile recipe can be used in sandwiches and as a spread for crackers. I find it is a perfect dish to serve at tea parties with my girls.
Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Calories 208 kcal


  • 1 Stand mixer – We used an electric hand mixer


  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese – We use mild cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise – We recommend Hellman's
  • 1 4 ounce jar diced pimento, drained
  • 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and minced (Optional) – We use 2 peppers
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder – We use fresh, minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper – Optional
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and black pepper to taste


  • Place Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, pimento, minced jalapeño, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder in a large bowl.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
    pimento cheese
Keyword Pimento Cheese, Pimiento Cheese, Southern-style pimento cheese