12 December 2010

Mustard, and the market

Busy this morning and posting late. I'm making bœuf bourguignon. I bought the beef a few days ago and bourguignon has been on the schedule for a while. I think everybody knows that that's beef stewed in red wine with onions, carrots, smoked-pork lardons, and mushrooms.

Notice we don't talk much about the weather much any more. That's because it's back to normal. Yesterday morning it was very cold but we were able to enjoy going to the open-air market in Saint-Aignan. One reason for going was to order a "bird" — une volaille, a fowl — for our Christmas dinner.

Browning chunks of beef for a bourguignon

As far as I know, there will be just the two of us for Christmas. We both wanted to roast a turkey, but that's a lot of meat for just two people. Anyway, we went to see the poultry vendor — le volailler — that we like at the market. We figured if we couldn't order a small turkey, or it was just too expensive, we'd place an order for a nice guinea hen, une pintade.

Chez le volailler, the woman in charge knows us. We told her we wanted a turkey and she said the smallest dinde she'd be able to get us would weigh 3.5 kilos. Walt and I looked at each other and said, « Pourquoi pas ? » A bird like that would be in the 8 to 9 lb. category.

Besides, we have a plan. We will probably roast the turkey breast and save the leg-thigh sections for another dish. Maybe confit de dinde, where you cook the turkey pieces slowly in melted duck fat until they are very tender. They take on some of the flavor of duck in the process.

We'll pick up the turkey at the Friday morning market in Montrichard on December 24. That'll be fairly convenient. And we'll cook it during the day on the 25th.

The flavor base for the bouguignon — sautéed onions, lardons,
and carrots, with thyme and bay leaves

Oh, about the market — I was pleasantly surprised to see what a good mood everybody was in. Customers joked and laughed with each other as they stood in fairly long lines, waiting to buy fromage, charcuterie, or légumes. And then they chatted and laughed with the vendors too. I think the beautiful food in a French market puts people in a good mood.

Evelyn asked about ways to use the very hot Dijon mustard she got from a French friend of ours who visited her recently. It's true that the French mustard is much much hotter than about any mustard you can find in America. I love it. But I also remember times when we lived in California and we'd fly to Paris and eat French mustard at one of our first lunches or dinners. It was always a surprise.

You'd take some out of the little mustard pot on a café or restaurant table and slather it on a piece of steak or a French-fried potato. You'd put it in your mouth and you'd feel like the top of your head was going to blow off. The hot mustard "goes right up your nose" as they say in France, and it really clears out your sinuses.

One thing about hot Dijon mustard though is that it's only really hot when it's very fresh. If you leave the jar in a kitchen cabinet for a week or two, the flavor will end up toned down and the color of the mustard will go from bright yellow to mustardy brown. It will still be good to eat and cook with, but it won't make your head feel like an erupting volcano.

I think that's why you can't get really hot Dijon mustard in the U.S. The American companies make it for American tastes. But even the imported stuff has lost a lot of its heat by the time it finally gets across the Atlantic — and across the continent to California, for example.

Bœuf bourguignon ready to go into a slow oven
for a three-hour cooking

Ways to use Dijon mustard in cooking? Well, in vinaigrette is the first thing that comes to mind. But not everybody likes to eat vinaigrette on salads every day. In France, one of the most common dishes containing mustard is lapin à la moutarde. You don't have to do it with rabbit, however; you can use chicken. Rub mustard on skinless chicken pieces and sprinkle on some bread crumbs. Bake them in the oven. Cooked mustard loses most of its fiery pungency, but still has a nice flavor.

Pork chops fried and then served in a cream sauce that has a tablespoon of Dijon mustard are very good too. I've blogged about that before. You could do the same with steaks or chicken. Those are the first ideas that come to mind.

I'd better go check on the bœuf bourguignon, which is bubbling away in the oven. I still have to trim, wash, and slice the mushrooms that go in toward the end of the cooking. It should all be ready about 1:00 for lunch.


  1. Those are absolutely fantastic photos. It makes me wonder what type of camera you are using. My husband has gone on a camera-buying spree and is currently using a Pentax K5. The close-ups are great.

  2. My husband cooks the best Boeuf Bourguignon I have ever tasted. If you are interested check his recipe out on my site at http://www.recipe.nidi.org.uk/Boeuf-Bourguignon.htm Diane

  3. Hi Betty, I use a little Panasonic Lumix camera for my pictures -- and a tripod when I'm in the kitchen.

    Diane, I will have a look. Our bourguignon was pretty good today.

  4. Well, by now (8:00 a.m. St. Louis time), you must have eaten that delicious boeuf bourguinon. Yumm :))

    I can't wait to follow more news and photos of the Christmas dinde. I loved Walt's market photo :))


  5. Thanks for the mustard advice! I will try to make some pork with a mustardy cream sauce soon. I don't think I'll ever have the courage to try lapin.

    I'm glad you found a small turkey in the market. I hope you have a cranberry source as well.

    I think people are a little nicer this time of year. People seem to be in good moods in my neighborhood also. 'Tis the season after all.

  6. Hi Evelyn, no, no cranberry source for the moment. We went to Blois last Thursday and asked in the produce department of one of the biggest supermarkets. No luck.

    Diane, I looked at your husband's recipe for beef Burgundy. Mine is pretty much the same. It really is good.

    Betty, I should have said my camera is a Panasonic Lumix TZ3 and it's about three years old now. I think Panasonic might be up to TZ10 at this point.

    Judy, :^)

  7. I like mustard with pork. One of my favorite easy-prep meals is roasting a pork loin smeared with a paste of Dijon mustard, rosemary, worcestershire sauce, and a little oil.

    Around here, 12 lbs. is a *small* turkey. Oh, and the Panasonic TZ line has become the ZS line (with a more compact ZR as well).

  8. Concernant la moutarde de Dijon, le dijonnais que je suis (et bien d'autres que je connais) la conserve au réfrigérateur, ce qui permet de garder son goût corsé et sa couleur. Bien sûr, il faut acheter des pots de taille adaptée à la consommation familiale, correspondant à une période d'utilisation de l'ordre d'un mois. Ainsi, vous aurez toujours à disposition une moutarde forte à souhait.

  9. John, that pork roast sounds really good. Maybe Evelyn will make one... And yes, I also have Panasonic Lumix ZS1, but I didn't realize that the ZS cameras had replaces the TZ series.

    Olivier, merci, je suis d'accord avec vous pour la conservation de la moutarde forte de Dijon. En Amérique, le client trouve de la moutarde soi-disante de Dijon, parfois fabriquée sur place (la Grey Poupon), parfois importée de France, mais elle n'est jamais aussi relevée en goût que la moutarde que nous avons en France. Quand l'Américain qui arrive des Etats-Unis goûte à la vraie moutarde forte, c'est la surprise !

    J'ai connu des Français - des Parisiens - qui préféraient la moutarde forte quand elle ne l'était plus. Ils laissaient les pots à température ambiante pendant un certain temps pour que la moutarde brunisse et s'adoucissent.

  10. We eat vinaigrette on our salad almost every day. Avec Dijon moutarde.

  11. I think I will try doing the bacon with the beef and the vegetables and herbs separately. That way I can use some of them for my vegetarian son with some other meat substitute or tofu (heresy, I know) and cook potatoes or rice to go with it.

    Turkey IS expensive in France. I bought a 16 pound turkey from the farm that supplies the White House for about what yours cost. And I bought a 12 pound turkey from my local grocery store when it was 49 cents a pound before Thanksgiving, just because it was a rather amazing price. I froze that for later..........I think I may have to buy myself a tripod for Christmas.

  12. Ken, when we were in Leeds we used to get almost all of out meat from the twice monthly Farmers Market. As we had two full sized allotments [500 sq.mtrs, 600sq.yds total] we didn't buy veg... unless we saw something new. But cheese and butter were also regularly purchased - almost the same as here in Grand Pressigny. But we found that the Farmers Marketswere like you describe at Saint-A and we find here.... warm, convivial, information exchanges, cookery schools [if you ask].... much nicer than a supermarket... and less confusing choice of the same product.
    We got a dinde leg and thigh from our butcher's van on Thursday [his 'promo']. Boned, parcelled in it's skin and pot-roast this evening [two and a half hours at 160 Centigrade] it is now cooling on the side. The bones will be boiled up in the gravy from the pot roast and more root veg and some cabbage will be added after to make a filling soup... the roast will see us through the week.

  13. I like your idea of using mustard with pork roast, John. Thanks!

  14. I've not encountered any really strong French mustard - nothing like English mustard, anyway (it's thermonuclear and inedible) but I'm no great mustard fan.

  15. Hi Susan, I remember being in England with a French friend about 15 years ago. We had dinner in a restaurant south of London somewhere. We asked the waiter for mustard, and he said English or French? We asked for French and were shocked to discover that it was a thick brown paste that had no kick at all.

    Have you bought Amora mustard in the supermarkets? It has a kick (if it is fresh).


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?