Monday, August 22, 2011

All about Dijon Mustard

Dijon mustard
I never expected to visit Dijon. But on my first trip to France, I asked my Parisian friends for suggestions for where to go and they said Dijon and nearby Beaune, so off I went. The historic capital of Burgundy, Dijon is a dramatic looking city with lots to do and see. It has many museums, churches, medieval buildings with gargoyles and stunning geometrically patterned roofs of green, white, yellow, black and terra cotta ceramic tiles.

When most people think Dijon, they think mustard. But Dijon is in wine country, home of Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguinon and lots of other rich and rustic dishes including the classic preparation of Escargot in garlic, butter and parsley. In addition to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Aligoté, the region is also known for Cremant de Bourgogne and cassis. It's worth noting that you can get to Dijon in under 2 hours from Paris if you take the TGV.

But let's talk mustard. If I had to choose one mustard only (currently I have 7 open jars in my fridge) it would be Dijon. It's mellow and sophisticated in color but with a spicy bite. It's made from brown or black mustard seeds and usually from white wine vinegar, though initially it was made with verjus, a kind of unripe grape juice. Dijon is where you'll find the original Maille shop, founded in 1747, the windows filled with handsome ceramic mustard jars of all sizes. There is another Maille boutique in Paris (right near Fauchon and Laduree at place de la Madeleine).

I'm rather fond of the Maille brand (now a subsidiary of Unilever), it works particularly well in recipes and is not very expensive. If you substitute Grey Poupon (owned by Kraft), you will notice a difference (and it does not work as well in vinaigrette recipes). In France you can buy Dijon mustard flavored with everything from cassis to blue cheese to cognac, nuts, mushrooms, and piment d'espelette. Having been on the giving and receiving end, a small jar of flavored Dijon mustard makes a fine gift.

Here are some ways to use Dijon mustard (other than on sandwiches and hot dogs)

* Combine with oil and vinegar to make a classic vinaigrette

* Add to quiche recipes, especially quiche lorraine

* Slather on fish fillets before baking

* Mix with honey to make a dipping sauce, also great on salmon

* Add a touch to macaroni and cheese

* Use in baked beans

* Combine mustard and olive oil with red potatoes then roast until crusty

* Coat pork chops or chicken in mustard then crust with panko and bake

* Add to potato and egg salads

* Spread it on bread instead of butter

* Simmer mustard with pan drippings, wine, broth and cream to make a sauce for roast chicken

* Add to barbecue sauce

Want to learn more about Dijon cuisine? August 23, 2011 Michelin star chef chefs Jean-Pierre and Alexis Billoux from Dijon will be doing cooking demos at the CUESA kitchen at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market from 10 am - 2 pm as part of the Dijon Must’art tour.