Dijon mustard (Recipe: French potato salad)
Who can forget the commercial — it ran on television forever — two limosines pull up next to each other, the windows silently roll down, and from one, an outstretched arm and a mellifluous voice, asking,
"Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?"
"But of course," comes the disembodied reply from the other car.
The jar of dijon mustard changes hands, and we're left to believe that no self-respecting chauffeur-driven limosine would be without this most famous of condiments.
I don't know about limos, but my pantry wouldn't be without Dijon mustard. Never mind how very good it is on a grilled chicken sandwich; it's the secret ingredient in my homemade marinara sauce, beef stew, and other dishes that love a bit of undefinable tang. Usually I have Grey Poupon, which is easy to find in my local markets; sometimes I keep a jar of Maille, too.
Mustard-making in the Dijon region of Frances dates to the 13th century. Grey Poupon mustard came on the market in 1777, when a Mr. Grey and a Mr. Poupon (no kidding) formed a partnership. Grey had developed the recipe; Poupon had the money to back the venture. Though the original Grey Poupon store still stands in downtown Dijon, most of the world's mustard is made from seeds grown in Canada.
Dijon mustard is made from husked black mustard seeds, blended with wine or vinegar, salt, and spices. It is pale yellow, with no artificial coloring agents allowed, and varies from mild to very hot.
An essential ingredient in many French sauces, Dijon mustard pairs well with vegetables (as in this recipe for cucumbers in dill sauce), chicken and beef (carpaccio, anyone?). It also cuts the oiliness of salmon and bluefish.
Pardon me....do you have any Grey Poupon in your pantry?
French potato salad with basic vinaigrette
Every cook develops his or her basic all-purpose vinaigrette. Here’s mine. If you like your dressing a bit sweeter, or are including fruit in your salad, try adding 1 tsp of honey. Serves 8.
3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed clean but not peeled
1 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and coarse black pepper, to taste
For the vinaigrette:
1/3 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
In a large pot, place the potatoes (cut in half if large) and cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar, and shake to emulsify.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain, and remove potatoes to a cutting board. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, slice into 1/4-inch thick slices and place in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and parsley, and toss gently until the potatoes are coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.