When I moved into my very own apartment for the first time, back in the 1970s, I didn't know anything about cooking, so I filled my pantry with the things my mother had kept in her pantry.
Unfortunately, she didn't know much about cooking, either.
So it was years before I discovered some ingredients I now couldn't live without, like olive oil, cumin, coconut milk and Dijon mustard.
Mustard-making in the Dijon region of France dates to the 13th century. Grey Poupon mustard came on the market in 1777, when a Mr. Grey and a Mr. Poupon (really) formed a partnership. Grey had developed the recipe; Poupon had the money to bring it to market.
Though the original Grey Poupon store still stands in downtown Dijon, most of the world's Dijon (or Dijon-style) mustard is produced elsewhere, from seeds grown in Canada. The Grey Poupon you find on every supermarket shelf is made today by Kraft Food, but in medieval times, mustard was made by a mustardarius -- someone whose sole responsibility was to oversee the growing and preparation of mustard.
The mustardarius would soak brown mustard seeds in water to activate the enzyme myrosinase. When the desired heat level was achieved, he would add an acidic liquid, usually wine or vinegar (for stronger mustards) or verjuice (a milder acid, which resulted in what we now call Dijon mustard), and a bit of salt. The mustardarius had a lot of control over the taste and strength of the final product.
Most varieties of Dijon mustard, including my favorite Maille, have little or no carbs or fat, and no cholesterol, but plenty of taste. You can use your own favorite Dijon in marinades, sauces, salad dressings, and dishes like maple dijon glazed bacon, Napa cabbage slaw with carrots and fennel-Dijon dressing, Dijon and thyme roasted chicken drumsticks, broiled salmon glazed with Dijon and rice vinegar, prosciutto Dijon Gruyere puffs and roasted vegetable magic.
Now that we have a president who enjoys Dijon on his burgers, I feel it's my duty to have his favorite mustard on hand, in case he stops by.
Mr. President, please come to visit. There's plenty of Dijon mustard in The Perfect Pantry.
Beef, ale and onion stew (slow cooker and stovetop)
The other day my friend Lucia made a beef and beer stew that sounded divine, so when I found a single bottle of Guinness stout in my pantry, I knew just what to do with it. Like all stews, this one improves on the second day. By the third day, however, it will probably be gone. It's that good. Make it in a slow cooker, or in a Dutch oven on top of the stove. Serves 4-6.
2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled, quartered
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine
1 12-oz bottle of dark ale (I used Guinness stout)
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaf
1 tsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
1/2 lb pearl onions, peeled (I use frozen pearl onions, defrosted)
14 oz large button or cremini mushrooms
Dry the beef with a paper towel, and set aside. Place flour in a large bowl.
Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over low-medium heat. Dredge a third of the beef cubes in the flour, shaking off the excess, and add to the pan (add as much as will fit without crowding). Brown the meat on all sides, and place in a 4-quart slow cooker or Dutch oven. Dredge and brown the remaining meat in batches, and add to the cooker.
Add the quartered onion, mustard, wine, ale, thyme, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot. Set the slow cooker to LOW for 6 hours, or cook in the Dutch oven over low heat, covered, for 2-1/2 hours.
At the end of that cooking time, add the pearl onions.
Trim the stems and cut the mushrooms into quarters. In a nonstick frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp oil. Add the mushrooms and cook over low-medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the mushrooms begin to give off their liquid and turn light brown. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Stir the mushrooms into the stew.
Cook for a total of 7-1/2 hours in the slow cooker, or 3-1/4 hours on the stove top.
Serve over buttery egg noodles or rice.
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