This sauce, a staple in my kitchen, was strongly influenced by a recipe in Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook and is one of the most versatile recipes in this book, standing next to only Demi-Glace in terms of its usefulness and importance. You can use this sauce as a dressing for roasted vegetables, a soup garnish, a vinaigrette pick-me-up, or a chimichurri-like condiment for grilled steak. To be honest, I can’t think of much I wouldn’t put it on.
The secret is in the amount of macerated shallot and salt you use. Chopping herbs and putting them into oil is the first step, but using acid and salt to balance those flavors is what makes the process exciting. Depending on how you will be using the sauce, feel free to tweak its texture, adding more oil to make it thinner for a dressing or less oil for a garnish or dip. Just be sure to taste frequently as you work. For example, if you’re adding more liquid, you’ll need to add more salt, pepper, and perhaps a pinch of sugar. It’s best to taste this sauce alongside whatever you’re serving it with, so you can season accordingly. Should you want to experiment with different flavors in the base recipe, the variations offer some easy additions.
A final note: You need to do a lot of chopping in this recipe and in the Walnut-Parsley Pistou that follows. I know it’s tempting to just throw all of the herbs into a food processor, but do not take this shortcut. The processor bruises herbs instead of cleanly slicing them. When you hand chop, not only do you improve your knife skills but you also preserve the integrity of the herbs, so they will spoil less quickly. For more on how to chop herbs,
- Yield: 1 Cup
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon good-quality white wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 0.0625 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 0.0625 teaspoon sugar
- Place the oil in a small mixing bowl. Immediately upon chopping the parsley, chives, and tarragon, add them to the oil to prevent browning. Fresh herbs start to discolor as soon as they’re chopped; submerging them in oil helps keep their color and protects their flavor. Splash in more oil if needed to keep all of the herbs covered.
- In a second small bowl, cover the shallot with the vinegar and add half of the salt; stir to dissolve the salt. Splash in more vinegar if needed to keep the shallot covered. Macerating the shallot helps mellow some of its sharp taste.
- No more than 15 minutes prior to serving, mix together the herbs and the macerated shallot with its liquid (adding the vinegar too early will cause the herbs to brown before serving). Season with the remaining salt, the pepper, the sugar, and with more vinegar and oil if necessary. Serve immediately.