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
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.
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.
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 A||Salad 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 salad||Doesn’t complement the salad as well as Dressing A|
|There are citrus notes, lemony.||Also has slight citrus notes.|
|A garlic-like element||Saltier than Dressing A.|
Chef Luna Determines the Winner
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.
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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.