French Dressing with Smoked Paprika Recipe

Can I use smoked paprika for French dressing? YES! Here’s a recipe for Smoked Paprika French Dressing — a French Dressing Recipe with something extra.

French dressing? Don't turn your nose up too soon—make it with smoked paprika, and you'll love it all over again.

French dressing? Don’t turn your nose up too soon—make it with smoked paprika, and you’ll love it all over again.

It’s true: What we call French dressing (the orange kind!) really isn’t French. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a wonderful thing, wherever it came from. This is a truth I recently discovered when, I found myself at home with a bag of spinach, a few mushrooms, some hard-boiled eggs, and some red onions.

Those are the classic ingredients for a lunch-time spinach salad I’ve been making since college. Except, in college, I would always dress it with Dorothy Lynch salad dressing, a French-ish salad dressing that we always had growing up.

Nothing against Ms. Dorothy Lynch, but I’ve outgrown just about any bottled dressing (we can always make them better from scratch, can’t we?). So, I decided to make my own French dressing. And as I started to make the classic recipe, I suddenly took a turn that has changed my life—at least, I’ll never look at French dressing the way I did in the past.

I used smoked paprika….and I’m just so glad I did: It just added this wonderful layer of flavor that suddenly made French dressing interesting. I loved the way it just flavor-charged the salad into another realm.

By the way: This goes especially well on sturdy greens, like romaine, spinach (my favorite), and wedge-type salads. I wouldn’t use it with those wonderfully tender baby-greens that you’ll be finding at the farmers markets soon. For those, just go with my classic French vinaigrette.

Enjoy—and do let me know what you think!

5.0 from 1 reviews
French Dressing with Smoked Paprika Recipe
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1⅓ cups
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Dash ground red pepper
  • ¾ cup salad oil (I prefer sunflower oil)
  1. Combine all ingredients except the salad oil in a blender container. With the blender running, slowly add the oil. Continue blending until the dressing is completely emulsified and creamy in texture.
  2. Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate. This will keep well for a couple weeks.






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Make-Ahead Coq au Vin Menu and Wine Pairings

How to make Coq au Vin + Make-Ahead Menu for Coq au Vin + Wine Pairings for Coq au Vin

How to make Coq au Vin in advance.

Coq au Vin. A great dish to make in advance.

Over the weekend, I had a dinner party for six. Normally, I don’t have a theme for my dinner parties, but that night’s theme was “Oui, Madame. Tout est classique.”

The menu is inspired by a wonderful meal I ate at Hotel Eychenne, a hotel/restaurant in St. Girons in the Ariège department in the Midi Pyrénées. We overnighted there in 2001 and then again in 2005, when we were tooling through the Pyrénées, swooping down from Toulouse and motoring to the Mediterranean.

Hotel Eychenne. I haven't stayed in over 10 years, but I have enduring and endearing memories it.

Hotel Eychenne in St. Girons, Ariege. Off the beaten path and anything but trendy.

We came upon this little inn—which was founded in 1830—and we knew it was perfect: It exuded the kind of “everyday France,” complete with the weight of history, that I adore. Indeed, it’s the type of spot that you won’t find in any Michelin guide, but that you’ll long remember.

After we settled into our simple but charming room, we went for a swim in the courtyard pool, then dressed for dinner. In the dining room, sipping my apéritif, I opened the menu that the owner/maitre d’ had presented, and it only took me a few seconds to realize exactly what kind of menu it was.

Tout est classique! Or, at least it was in 2001 and 2005.

Tout est classique! Or, at least it was in 2001 and 2005.

“Mais c’est classique!” I exclaimed! It’s classic! The owner happened to be walking by and he must have heard the joy in my voice.

“Oui, Madame. Tout est classique,” he said, with immense pride. Everything is classic.

Indeed, the menu was rife with French classics in general as well as classics of France’s Southwest in particular: seared foie gras au raisin, shrimp flambéed in Cognac, coq a vin, Tournedos Rossini, magret de canard, cassoulet, saddle of lamb with white beans, crème Catalan, a moist chocolate gâteau with caramel, a soufflé with Grand Marnier.

And of course, between the main dish and dessert, up rolled the cheese trolley.

I was in heaven. It’s not that I don’t love the highly original, globally inspired, exceedingly detailed and playfully chic food of contemporary gastronomy in France, but sometimes, I simply adore a lovely pâté de campagne, a luscious warm goat-cheese salad, a great coq au vin, and a good chocolate gâteau.

And so when I invited two other couples for dinner—hardcore foodies who’ve dined on three to four continents each—I thought: What do I do best? What do I crave the most?

And the answer: Tout est classique.

Here it is, then, the menu inspired by the owner/maître d’ of the Hotel Eychennes—who’s likely long retired—and his proud proclamation: “Oui, Madame, tout est classique.”

Make-Ahead Coq au Vin Menu with Wine Pairings

Make-Ahead Coq a Vin Menu


First Course:

  • Warm Goat Cheese Salad (page 38 of The Bonne Femme Cookbook)
  • To drink: Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie (a beautiful Loire Valley white that’s stunning with goat cheese!)

Plat Principal:


  • Gâteau au Chocolate with Salted Caramel Sauce and Mascarpone Whipped Cream. I highly recommend this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Yes, it has flour in it. I find flourless chocolate cakes too cloying, and the usual American chocolate cakes too unsatisfying. This recipe is just right. My personal touch? I serve it atop some chocolate caramel sauce drizzled across the plate, and Mascarpone Whipped Cream, made simply by whipping equal part of Mascarpone and heavy whipping cream, with a little sugar and vanilla to taste.

Make-Ahead Tips:
• See my Coq a Vin recipe, which tells you which steps may be made ahead.
• Make the vinaigrette for the Goat Cheese Salad a few hours in advance. Bring to room temperature before using. Toast the nuts a up to 2 hours in advance.
• Of course, Gougères freeze beautifully. I always have them in my freezer, and you should do the same.
• Pre-prep the Any-Night Baked Rice, getting it oven-ready before your guests arrive. Then, when you’re about 1/2 an hour from dinner, slide it into the preheated oven.
Make the Gateau a Chocolate a day in advance.

Enjoy, friends! And if you liked this post, here’s how you can support this website, with no additional cost to you. Next time you want to order something from Amazon, simply start your search through one of my links, such as the one below. I’ll receive a small commission from anything you order (even if it’s not exactly what I’m promoting!). Thanks for your consideration, and thanks, as always, for reading Chez Bonne Femme.




Chocolate cake photo by Asbjørn Floden via Flicker.
Coq au Vin photo by Leoslo via Flickr.



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Menu and Wines for a French Wine-Tasting Party

Here’s how to organize an easy French wine-tasting party, including:

• What wines to serve at a French wine-tasting party.
• Five inexpensive French wines to serve at a French wine-tasting party.

• My menu for a French wine-tasting party.
• Easy recipes for a French wine-tasting party.

PicMonkey Collage

Let me tell you about a wee problem when you’re a cookbook author, restaurant reviewer, food writer, etc.: Friends and relatives think that you can, off the top of your head, come up with perfect recipes, menus, wine pairings, restaurant recommendations, etc. for just about any occasion.

It’s not that easy. Sure, I know what I like, and I’m very happy to give recommendations based on where I’ve dined and what I’ve eaten, done, cooked, served, etc. But when someone asks for something very specific (e.g., “a great vegetarian restaurant for a birthday party for a five-year-old who loves princesses!”), I’m often at a loss. If I haven’t done it myself, I don’t know what to recommend. My brain is not Google.

The hostess requested bottles priced around $25, on average. A truly good bottle of French Champagne‚ like this Pol Roger, will cost you around $35, but my other lower-priced picks will help you average this out.

A truly good bottle of French Champagne‚ like this Pol Roger, will cost you around $35. No worries—my other lower-priced picks will help skew the overall wine bill lower.

And so, when someone dear to me asked me to help her put together a French wine-tasting party, complete with French wine recommendations and a menu, at first I thought, “no problem”—I mean, I love French wines and French food, right?  But then, I listened to the perimeters.

She wanted bottles that averaged about $25 each, because she’s entertaining a houseful. She said that some bottles could go higher, but others would have to go lower. And, she invited my husband and me up to be her guest for the weekend (she lives in the Twin Cities). The party is Saturday night, and frankly, neither she nor I want to spend all day cooking. (Hard to believe, I know. Aren’t I a cookbook author? Yes. But does your doctor want to spend Saturdays doctoring? Sometimes I, too, want some time off!)

Oh. And one more thing. I know exactly the type of wines that she and her husband enjoy: weighty California reds. They’re huge fan of high-end Zinfandels. I run in the opposite direction; that is, I love the brighter, lighter, food-friendly reds of France. Not that my hostess and her husband wouldn’t be open-minded, but I figured I’d want to meet them half way, at least. Which is to say, these are not esoteric French wines, but rather, more approachable picks that most wine-lovers can appreciate.

Given those perimeters (moderately priced, approachable French wine + easy-peasy French food), here’s what I’ve come up with.

Five Moderately Priced Wines for a French Wine Party 

1. Sparkling Wine

Yes! Crozes-Hermitage is better known for reds. But if you really want to turn heads, pour this beautiful white.

Yes! Crozes-Hermitage is better known for reds. But if you really want to turn heads, pour this beautiful white.

You simply have to have a bubbly at a French wine-tasting party. Look for a reasonably priced Champagne—that is, a true Champagne from the Champagne region of France. This is where the splurge might be in order—spend a little more here, and spend less in an other category, below. Here are a few good, reliable, somewhat widely available picks:

• Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne Réserve ($36)
• Henri Abelé Bruth Champagne ($35)
• Pol Roger Brut Réserve ($35)

2. White Wine from the Crozes-Hermitage Region

True. The Rhône is best known for its fabulous reds, anchored by Syrah in the Northern Rhône and Grenache in the Southern Rhône. But the powerful, generous, full-bodied Northern Rhône wines that I know my hostess’s crowd would love come at a powerful, full-bodied price. And the Southern Rhône reds—while splendid for casual, everyday drinking—are not, to me, as fascinating (for the price) as a fabulous white wine from Crozes-Hermitage.

Made from Marsanne and Roussanne grapes, these wines are generally medium-bodied, with a good combination of stone-fruit roundness and citrus-fruit briskness, and subtle floral notes–without being perfumy. Look for:

  • E. Guigal ($25)
  • M. Chapoutier ($24)
  • Delas ($24)

3. Red Wine from Bordeaux

The best French red Bordeaux in the $20 to $30 range generally bring exactly what I’m looking for in a food wine. Yes, there’s fruit (cassis often comes to mind), but what I love most is that while they’re richly flavored and they’re none to heavy, with a brightness on the finish that I always look for when pouring wine with dinner.

Chateau-Blaignan-MedocOne of my favorite moderately priced Bordeaux reds is Chateau Blaignan Cru Bourgeois Medoc ($22.95).

However, because this might not be available in your area, ask your wine shop to recommend a 2014 vintage, if possible, from a “Right Bank” producer—that is, a Bordeaux in which the blend is anchored by Cabernet. Wines from the Médoc handily fall into this category.

4. Red Wine from one of the “cru” (villages) of Beaujolais.

Please do not confuse Beaujolais village (cru) wines with Beaujolais! The ones I want you to look for are not-Nouveau. Rather, they are labeled by the names of the villages where the grapes are grown: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Moulin–à-Vent, Régnié, or Saint-Amour.

The best wines from the crus (villages) of Beaujolais are fresh, fruity, and bright. They're lovely everyday French food wines.

The best wines from the crus (villages) of Beaujolais are fresh, fruity, and bright. They’re lovely everyday French food wines.

Why I love them: With their vivacious cherry-berry notes, they have a bit of that bright Chianti thing going on. The best are shimmery, spicy, earthy, and just fruity enough; that is, though some fruit-forward-loving wine-drinkers might think them best with food, those of you who, like me, enjoy a little refreshment in their red they make fine stand-alone sippers, too.

Look for:

  • Chateau de la Perrière Brouilly ($16)
  • Joseph Drouhin Brouilly ($20)
  • Georges DuBoeuf (Flower Label) ($18)

If you can’t find these, look for wines from other villages. My favortes include Morgon, Julienas, and Fleury.

A revelation to those who may not be familiar with Loire Valley Reds.

A revelation to those who may not be familiar with Loire Valley Reds.

5. Red Wine from the Loire Valley: Chinon

Well, yes. I’m getting a wee bit esoteric for this final pick. Most Americans think “white” when they think Loire Valley, and indeed, the Sauvingon Blanc and Chenin Blanc wines from this region can be beauties. But I think the reds from the Loire Valley are a wonderful surprise for those who do not yet know then. And their price will help you average out that French Champagne splurge.

I’m suggesting a Chinon here. Made from Cabernet Franc (with up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon), these are light- to medium-bodied wines that offer food-friendly brightness, yet go down smoothly.

Look for:

Marie de Beauregard (Saget la Perrière) Chinon ($16)
• La Varenne Chinon ($18)
• Domaine Gouron Chinon ($15)

Note: Those who know a little about French wine will know why I didn’t go for a French Bourgogne (Burgundy). Those who know a lot about French wine will understand why I didn’t. Red Burgundies can be expensive, and they can be a roll of the dice, quality-wise. And, remember—my hosts like some heft in their wines. Red Burgundies are about shimmer, brightness, grace, and elegance, all curiously combined with earthiness and barnyard-y-ness. But they’re not about heft. That’s why I’m leaving those on the shelf for this tasting.

Easy Menu for a French Wine-Tasting Party

Elements of an Easy French Wine-Tasting Menu

Elements of an Easy French Wine-Tasting Menu: A cheese platter, a charcuterie-egg-asparagus platter, and some Madeleines (or buy some lovely tartlets).

I knew that the more complicated the menu, the more of it I’d have to cook. And, in fact, my goal is to cook very little or nothing. You see, I’ll be in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and I kind of want to get out and see some things, not spend all day cooking, right?

Because my hosts wanted to serve enough food to count as dinner, but did not want to do a formal-ish sit-down dinner, I decided to do a “fork supper”—a meal served buffet-style that can be managed on one plate and eaten with a fork, whether guests decide to sit at a table, on a couch, or simply stand around the kitchen island.

So, here’s the list I gave my hostess:

  1. A Good Pâté or Two: Seriously. If you live in any decent sized-city at all, you likely have a fine market where you can buy an excellent version of pâté. Since my host will be serving 12 people, I say, put out at least two: A chunky Pâté
    Pâté Canapés

    If you’re feeling fancy, serve the pâté in my little canapés. If not, simply put the pâté out with plenty of crackers, French pickles, and Dijon mustard.

    deCampagne or Duck Terrine and a more fine-ground Mousse de Canard. Be sure to put out plenty of cornichons (those little sour French pickles and some Dijon mustard.

  2. A Cheese Platter: Put out an array of your favorite French cheeses. What? You don’t have favorites? Read about some of mine, here.
  3. A Charcuterie Platter. Add a few of my oeufs-mayo (French hard boiled eggs with glammed-up mayonnaise sauce) and some roasted asparagus my vinaigrette, if asparagus happens to be looking good at the market!
  4. A selection of quiches and/or flatbreads. You are free to make them from scratch or buy them from the very best delis/gourmet markets in town. If you want to make a quiche, try my recipe, posted on the blog Simple Nourished Living.
  5. Tartlets from the best pâtisserie in town. Again, feel free to cook these yourself, but this weekend, I’m not going to! If you really want to cook something, go for some Madeleines–little French teacakes that are super-easy to eat from a buffet. See my recipe for Madeleines, here.



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