Serious Eats: Recipes

French in a Flash: Dijon Chicken

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

There is a saying in our house: "Il n'y a que Maille qui m'aille." (Loose translation: "Only Maille works for me!") It's a slogan of the venerable French mustard house Maille that my stepfather mutters at every meal on his journey from table to fridge, right between where he picks up his first bite and where he realizes there's no mustard. He slathers it on bread, on pasta, on fish, on meat. He is indiscriminate, and I have come to learn that the American stereotype of putting ketchup on escargot can be just as frankly reversed, as I have seen him anointing the most American of meals—hot dogs, French fries, grilled cheese, and even Kraft mac and cheese—in Dijon mustard.

So it was a great moment last summer when I emerged from the Metro in Paris and looked up to see a veritable Maille museum and shop. The shelves were like those from an estate library, and behind glass, brightly lit, were mustard jars, hand painted in the traditional fashion, selling for no small price. There were flavors ranging from the ubiquitous cassis, tarragon, and honey, to walnut and bleu and clementine. And mustard sputtered from great brass taps.

Mustard is something of a temple at which we worship en famille. I wasn't surprised that when I made this chicken for my stepfather for lunch, he took out even more mustard to slather on. I've always thought of Dijon mustard with its winey, spicy, tangy accent as a beautiful woman with biting, whipping wit. It looks innocent enough—mild even—in the jar, but the inimitable flavor is bold and will bring tears to your eyes. The creaminess of this dish mellows out Miss Mustard just a touch, and the lemony, earthy resin of the thyme is reminiscent of deep bowls of Moules à la Moutarde. The result is a simple, hearty, and rustic meal.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the The Secret Ingredient series for Serious Eats.

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