Friday, July 4, 2014

Tarragon Mustard Salad Dressing, An Old Recipe Worth a New Look

I've been making this c.1824 historic salad dressing for years at events at the c. 1801 Riversdale House Museum (Calvert Mansion) in Riverdale, MD where I am the food historian. It comes from the iconic period cookbook, The Virginia Housewife, by Mary Randolph.  The combination of flavors (mustard, cooked egg yolk, tarragon vinegar, and apple cider vinegar) are truly historic so that each bite is like taking a step back in time.  You can enjoy this dressing on a variety of lettuce greens, herbs, and onions.

To Dress Salad
The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, 1824

To have this delicate dish in perfection, the lettuce, pepper grass, chervil, cress, &c. should be gathered early in the morning, nicely picked, washed, and laid in cold water, which will be improved by adding ice; just before dinner is ready to be served, drain the water from your salad, cut it into a bowl, giving the proper proportions of each plant; prepare the following mixture to pour over it; boil two fresh eggs ten minutes, put them in water to cool, then take the yolks in a soup plate, pour on them a table spoonful of cold water, rub them with a wooden spoon until they are perfectly dissolved, then add two table spoonfuls of oil; when well mixed, put in a teaspoonful of salt, one of powdered sugar, and one of made mustard; when all these are united and quite smooth, stir in two table spoonsful of common and two of tarragon vinegar; put it over the salad and garnish the top with the whites of the eggs cut into rings, and lay around the edge of the bowl young scallions, they being the most delicate of the onion tribe.

Modern Transcription
Assorted salad greens—washed, picked
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon mustard
2 tablespoons oil
5-6 scallions

Boil two eggs for 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool (place in cool water).  Just before you are ready to serve dinner, peel the eggs, slice in rings.  Set the whites aside and place the yolks in a shallow dish.  Mash the yolks with a tablespoon of water.  When mixture is smooth, add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar, and one teaspoon of prepared mustard.  When all are mixed well and smooth, add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of tarragon vinegar.  Pour over salad greens and toss together.  Garnish with rings of egg whites and scallions.

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