Moutarde like no other!

If you lick the spoon that has been dipped in a mustard jar, and then you go back and do it again, you know that it is the taste of something truly wonderful.  Whether for a vinaigrette or to slather on a ham that has been studded with garlic slices and rosemary sprigs, I’ve been making every excuse to go back to the jar for another taste.

This is not your typical French’s mustard in the yellow squirt bottle, mind you, but from a jar of Moutarde de Dijon that is made by the company of Edmond Fallot. It’s a blend of black and brown mustard seeds.  Most of the seeds are now grown in North America; there’s a long story on their website about the decline of the mustard seed crop in France and its hopeful resurgence.

This silky smooth, golden hue of creamy goodness has notes of tart and tangyiness and just the slightest bit of sweetness.  During our short stay I managed to snag a tour at what I understood to be the last traditional mustard mill in Dijon; that being Moutarde du Fallot.  I finally popped open the can that we lugged back from Beaune and opened the jar containing a delicious 15.8 ounces of heaven.

The Fallot Mustard Mill has been an independent, family-owned Burgundian company that has been around since 1840. This is the last artisan mustard maker where mustard seeds are still stone ground.  This preserves all the flavor of the mustard paste.   M. Marc Désarménien, grandson of Edmond Fallot, is now at the head of the company and about twenty employees ensure the quality of the production.

My recently-opened jar reminded me of our few days in Beaune in the heart of Burgundy.  Visiting this bit of paradise is always good for the soul, especially when one has the opportunity to stay with Mme. Helene and her family at their home Château de Melin, built in 1550.

It didn’t hurt either that we ate some of the best food in France, not to mention enjoying some of the famed wines of Burgundy.

With recommendations from Mme. Helene, we enjoyed two delightful meals; one at Le Conty in Beaune and the other at Le Relais de la Diligence in Meursault.  I’d have to say that dinner at Le Relais was far and away better than Le Conty.  That’s not to say that Le Conty was bad, just that Le Relais was exceptional.  Of course, being in Burgundy, I had to try two of the classics:  escargot and oeufs en meurette.  I’d been fortunate enough to experiment with both these recipes at home and I wanted to compare mine against those from the epicenter of Burgundian cuisine.  According to those that have tasted these dishes on both sides of the pond, I did alright in my attempts.

Here’s my recipe for the Oeufs on Meurette. Enjoy it as a first course, brunch, or lunch and, of course, with a glass of red from Burgundy.

Oeufs en Meurette
8 servings as a starter

8 large farm fresh eggs (the fresher the better)
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
8 thick slices of sourdough
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

For the Sauce:
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
2 small onions, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
5 black peppercorns
2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
5 cups red wine
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Garnish:
4 thick slices of bacon, chopped into lardons
2 tablespoon (1 ounce) unsalted butter
24 button mushrooms, quartered
24 pearl onions or small shallots, peeled
3-4 teaspoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)

Melt half the butter in a deep frying pan and add the onion, carrot and celery, sautéing for about 10  minutes or until the vegetables start to color.  Add the garlic and continue to cook about 1 minute.

Add all other sauce ingredients (except the flour and remaining butter) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and leave on a gentle simmer for 40 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into another pan, pressing the vegetables to extract all the flavor. Reserve the sauce and discard the vegetables.

While the sauce is simmering, in a separate pan fry the bacon on a medium heat with half the butter until lightly browned. Add the mushrooms and fry until tender seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, then remove from pan, and set aside and keep warm.

In same pan, heat the remaining butter for the garnish over a medium-high flame. Add the pearl onions or shallots and sugar, cooking until golden. Add the stock, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes, until tender.

Lift off the lid and turn up the heat slightly to reduce the liquid, leaving the shallots nicely glazed. Set aside and keep warm.

When ready to serve, bring a large shallow pan of water (about 5cm/2 inches deep) to the boil. Reduce the boiling water to a simmer and add the vinegar and ½ teaspoon of salt. Give the water a quick stir then carefully break an egg into the center of the swirling water. Leave to poach gently for 3 minute then lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels. Repeat with the remaining 7 eggs.

At the same time, bring the sauce back to a simmer. Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and flour together with a spoon then add the mixture to the sauce.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes to thicken and cook out the flour. In a frying pan, fry your slices of sourdough with a little olive oil for a couple of minutes each side (alternatively, you can just toast them).

To serve, place a piece of toasted sourdough on a plate and top with an egg. Scatter over the shallots, mushrooms and bacon then spoon over 3-4 spoonfuls of sauce.  Enjoy while it’s hot.

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