Dijon: Not Your Supermarket Mustard

July 16, 2012

My daughter Beth lives and teaches in Switzerland and loves to travel by train on weekends to discover new places. I am always jealous when I ask what she is doing for the weekend and her answer is usually “I am going to Italy or France ” or some other wonderful place that many of us just dream about.

So when she told me that she was going to Dijon in the Burgundy wine region, my culinary antennae went up and I said that I would love to have some real Dijon mustard! And I got it, three kinds: grainy, champagne, and classic.

A lot of us are old enough to remember those old classic Grey Poupon ads that ran on television for so many years (and maybe still do). Grey and Poupon were the last names of two formidable mustard maker partners who developed a secret recipe in the 18th century for a strong mustard whose ingredients included mustard seeds, spices and white wine.

Eventually Grey Poupon became the standard by which all other serious mustards were judged and it cornered the upscale American foodie market beautifully with its trademark line: ”I say do you have any Grey Poupon” ads.

The brand Beth bought me is Edmond Fallot and she went in search of it at the Les Halles covered market in Dijon, so I knew it would be good and authentic. Opening the classic jar was a Christmas Day experience. First the color was a subtle shade of yellow. The texture was as smooth as whipped heavy cream. The smell reminded me of horseradish and as I inhaled it, a tingling sensation went right to my head and told me that this was a product that really did cut the mustard (no pun intended). I took out my little mustard spoon and dipped it into the jar very ceremoniously. The first taste confirmed its spiciness and bite. I was hooked. And I learned that all Dijon type mustards are not the same quality. The Edmond Fallot Company harvests its own seeds right in Burgundy and stone crushes the seeds. That is not the case with many other French made mustard companies that buy over 80% of their seeds from Canada!

That is a real pity because the mustard makers (moutardiers) of Dijon were once part of a classic tradition in which the best mustard seeds were crushed by hand with a mortar and pestle.

I was anxious to do all sorts of things with the coveted jars that I now own. My first effort was to brush the mustard sparingly over a puff pastry crust that I filled with sliced tomatoes, creamy Gorgonzola cheese and a paste made from parsley and garlic. I baked it in the oven and it was heavenly with just the right zing from the mustard. Next I whipped up classic Dijon mustard vinaigrette with shallots, sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I poured it over roasted beets harvested from my garden. It too was grand. Then I brushed it over salmon steaks for a great finish and tomorrow it is going on my rib eye steak. As for the two remaining jars, I can only dream of what’s to come.

As a 14th century French proverb says: “there is no mustard except in Dijon.” How right they are.

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