Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila on her favorite 'rip-snorting' Moutarde de Dijon
We have a conspiracy among the cooks in our neighborhood. Whenever someone goes to France, he or she loads up on mustard. You can't carry the jars on the plane, but rolled up in sweaters or shirts or jammed into socks tucked in luggage, they arrive safe and unsmashed. At least, so far.
The brand we all crave? Amora Moutarde de Dijon. It's not at all fancy. No green peppercorns. Just mustard as the French have been making it for centuries -- rip-snorting and potent. And a basic of every French kitchen.
Actually, in France you can buy it forte (strong), mi-forte (half-strong) or douce (sweet). The best, though, is the forte, the one with the red label.
A spoonful in the bottom of a mortar starts out a classic aioli. A dollop perks up a simple vinaigrette. It gives a kick to chicken in Dijon sauce. Or, if you have it, rabbit wrapped in caul fat and cooked in mustard and cream.
Last week, I found it for sale at L'Epicerie in Culver City, a nice big jar for -- ta dum -- $8 (a smaller one is $4.50). This is huge: It means I'll no longer have to bring back jars for my neighbors. We can each buy our own, leaving room in the suitcases for other things, like Armagnac or perfume or a Laguiole cheese knife.
L'Epicerie Cafè and Market, 9900 Culver Boulevard, Culver City; (310) 815-1600; www.lepiceriemarket.com.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila