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The Secret Ingredient (Dijon Mustard): Moules Dijonnaise

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

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.

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 French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.

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