Bulk Buy: Dijon Mania

Accumulated culinary wisdom from one man’s week with a tub of mustard.

 
Some pantry items seem much more versatile than others. For instance, a can of tomatoes is great for pasta sauce and for bathing your dog Sasha when she gets sprayed by a skunk. That’s what I call multi-purpose food. Mustard? Not so much.
 
Yet every once in a while, the guys from the mail room stop by your desk with a big brown box. And sometimes, inside that box will be a 48-ounce container of “Country Dijon” mustard which will make you ask yourself, who sent me this 48-ounce container of “Country Dijon” mustard? As it turns out, it was you who sent you a 48-ounce container, because God forbid you buy, say, the 8-ounce container like a normal human being. This is when you begin to wonder whether Sasha will like mustard.
 
Since mustard can stay edible for years when kept in the fridge, there are really only two options to choose from in this situation. Either do what any sensible person would do and use it up gradually, or try to use all 48 ounces in one week. This is what happens when you pick the latter option.

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Day 1: That Mustard’s Hot, Dog

In order to make the most of my mustard week, the first step was to outline a meal plan. To test the versatility of “Country Dijon,” I found recipes that called for either yellow mustard or some variation of Dijon mustard and decided I would just use “Country Dijon”—which falls somewhere in the middle spice-wise—instead.
 
What’s the difference? If we’re talking origins, that mild, vibrantly turmeric-dyed and deliciously inoffensive yellow mustard you probably have in your fridge was introduced 112 years ago at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, right alongside the hot dog. Dijon’s first city ordinance for the making of its famed spicy mustard, on the other hand, was laid down in 1390. That’s 626 years of tried-and-true success. Conclusion? If you’re eating a hot dog, your fellow’s the yellow. For everything else, bring on the Dijon.
 
In the meantime, I tried to slather the condiment on every little morsel of food going into my gob. A bratwurst with sauerkraut and minced onions for lunch? Perfect complement. Reuben on toasted rye bread with deli pastrami and Swiss cheese for dinner? Made for mustard. New Jersey-famous Taylor Ham and cheese on an everything bagel for breakfast? I think I’ll stick with ketchup next time.
 

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Day 2: The Most Decadent Chicken Wings You Ever Did See

If Dijon mustard comes from France, it would be right to start with some authentic French dishes, n’est-ce pas?
 
Authenticity? As it turns out, “Country Dijon” mustard is not actually Dijon mustard as defined by French law—that’s reserved for the smooth, spicy, yellow stuff. And unless you’re buying Burgundian IGP mustard, odds are your mustard was not made anywhere near the actual French commune of Dijon. Even the mustards still made in France are, more often than not, made with Canadian mustard seeds. Oh Canada!
 
So as I sang a requiem for “French” mustard, I chose a French recipe for mustard chicken (or poulet à la moutarde) written by an American pastry chef. The irony was almost intentional. Turns out I didn’t have thighs, so I used wings, resulting in what were probably the most delicious, saucy and rich chicken wings I’ve ever tasted. My fellow table-mates expressed their similar adoration and then asked me for a fourth napkin.
 

To accompany the wings, we had sourdough toasts which I coated with a mixture of olive oil, finely chopped fresh rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then grilled. We also tried salad with a simple vinaigrette. If you’ve never eyeballed a vinaigrette, give it a shot; if you mess it up you can always balance it out. Start by whisking together a little mustard (a teaspoon or so) with a short pour of cider vinegar, a long pour of good olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
 

Day 3: Backyard Mustard Party

Mustard weekend means backyard mustard party. As I started cutting potatoes for German mustard potato salad and avocados for mustard guacamole, I sipped on a morning Bloody Mary with mustard.

Wisdom words: for Mexican meals, don't do Dijon. Putting mustard in the guacamole almost turned that gloriously creamy and green dip into Sasha food. While the disaster was averted by heavily diluting the guac with lime and more avocado, the potato salad recipe was solid (I omitted the sugar and used cider vinegar in place of distilled) and I was pleasantly surprised by my cocktail creation. The mustard added a sweet tang to the Bloody Mary where horseradish normally obliterates your nasal passage.
 

Once the grill got cranked, we used DJ BBQ’s secret technique for making burgers, which may or may not include mustard. Let me tell you, I’ll be making those burgers again (topped with mustard, ketchup, pickles and red onions) when I emerge from my mustard coma.
 

Day 4: Desperate Palates Call for Creative Measures

Every state in the old US of A has their preferred method of doing barbecue, and as a completely objective northerner I can say that my favorite sauce is from Columbia, South Carolina. Since my taste buds never lie and my house lies in New Jersey, I wanted to find a way to recreate that sauce without taking a 602-mile hike. Food.com user “grantg” claimed to have just the sauce, a sauce that was even better than the one I know and love. Dagnabbit, was he right.
 
We whipped up some sauce with the Dijon and threw pork ribs and chicken wings on the grill to try it out. After turning them, I used a brush to paint on a healthy amount of mustard sauce then closed the grill, opening it later to turn the meat again and give it another brushing. When we sat down with a big old plate of BBQ, we sat silently, slathering more sauce and chewing contentedly. We used leftover potato salad from the day before as a side, and added mayonnaise to jazz its texture up. A classic picnic meal.
 

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Day 5: The Struggle Begins

Mustard exhaustion begins to set in. I wake up with dread for mealtime. The smell… the strong and distinct taste… let’s just say there’s a reason why college students prefer to eat canned pasta sauce and not mustard six days a week. Is there a remedy? I try bacon.
 
I get home after work and make Dutch mustard soup. It’s creamy! It’s bacony! It tastes like… mustard. It’s not a bad dish, but when your sister threatens to run away from home if she has to eat any more mustard, it’s time to put the mustard soup in a container and freeze it for another time.
 

Day 6: The Author Strikes Back… with a Pâté Sandwich

Sad desk lunch? More like happy desk lunch! I may be burning out on mustard but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a break from my computer screen and throw together a country pâté sandwich on a baguette with the perfect combination of little cornichons, grainy mustard and frisée salad greens.
 
Never tried making country pâté? It's not as fancy-schmancy as it may seem. It’s basically just meatloaf with flavor (and a little bit of liver blended in). Whether you buy or make your own pâté, you can leave it in the fridge and make sandwiches three days in a row like I did.
 
Pâté de campagne: it’s what’s for desk lunch.
 

Day 7: College Kielbasa

At last, the final day. Shedding bittersweet tears of mustard.
 
To round it out and get me through the final meal, I made a family favorite from childhood, a baked dish of kielbasa, sauerkraut and potatoes. Best made in a Dutch oven, you can alternately cover a skillet with foil and put it in the oven. My personal favorite, though—if you’re going camping or have a fire pit—is to wrap up individual portions in foil with salt, pepper and mustard and place it on the hot coals for an hour or so.
 
I eat it with a dollop of mustard. It tastes warm and familiar. I drink beer and rinse the taste from my mouth. Tomorrow I’m eating tacos.
 

About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns