Usually, I only do three Secret Ingredient recipes per ingredient, but Dijon mustard is so up my alley, that I think I’m going to keep going. My apologies to those who have complained of a mustard allergy! I’m allergic to chicken and coffee, so I get where you’re coming from.
I know I’ve told this story before on French in a Flash, but it is worth repeating. When I was in Paris, I went to the Maille store, and it looks like something between a really nice pub bar, an apothecary shop, and a museum. Behind glass in lighted cases were kept the moutardiers, little mustard jars with prim little spoons, hand painted, and passed down through generations. From the bar, with taps, were different kinds of mustards you could buy or taste. And all along the walls, in neat little rows, were every conceivable kind of mustard: curry, piment d’Espelette, tarragon, walnut, cassis, blue cheese, clementine, garlic, shallot. Different colors, different textures. Each one screaming to be used in every conceivable recipe, especially vinaigrette. It was then that I fully began to understand the French love of mustard. Wow, I thought.
In my house, growing up, we really did put mustard on everything. My stepfather, from Normandy, puts it on the side of every dish he eats, methodically dipping meat, fish, even pasta into it–much like we complain some of us Americans do with ketchup. As for me, whenever I order fries, I ask for a side of Dijon mustard. Ketchup just wasn’t around for me to grow up with. When my mom went to Costco, she would buy industrial size jars of mustard. There was so much of it to use up, I began putting it in everything.
One of my favorite mustard recipes is Moules Dijonnaise: mussels in a creamy mustard sauce. I much prefer it to the traditional Marinière. I flavor the broth with shallots, leeks, and garlic, wine, and two mustards, and cream, and a garden full of fresh thyme. Hold on to your hats, and your baguettes. It’s so good.
- 4 pounds mussels
- 1 spoonful all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 skinny leek, finely sliced in halfmoons
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvingnon Blanc
- A small bunch of fresh thyme (about .2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup whole grain mustard
- 1 cup heavy cream
Place the mussels and flour in a huge bowl, and cover with cold water. Leave the mussels to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, and they will disgorge any sand they might be saving up in their bellies. Finally, drain and rinse the mussels. Throw out any that are open.
In a large, wide braising pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil ripples, add the shallots and leek, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and fragrant, but not golden: about 3 minutes. Lower the heat, and add the garlic, stirring it around with the other vegetables for about 45 seconds. Then add the wine, and the thyme, and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cover the pot, keep it over low heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the mussels, and raise the heat to medium-high. Keep the pot covered. The mussels are cooked when they’ve all opened. It takes about 5 minutes. Discard any that remain stubbornly closed.
Turn off the heat, and stir in the mustards and the cream, until well combined into the broth. Taste the broth for seasoning, and adjust as needed. Serve right away, with a big baguette to tear apart and dip into the broth.
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