Dijon – Burgundy’s Culinary Capital
There is no feeling quite as lovely as being in the middle of a bustling city while still surrounded by nature and history. Dijon, the capital city of Burgundy, is known throughout France for its quality of life as well as its history; wandering this medieval city is a constant surprise as new mixes with old, and art mixes with history, culture and gastronomy.
The centre-ville is still home to a large number of houses, churches and streets dating from as far back as the 16th century. Half-timbered houses and church steeples give this area its charm, and traipsing through this part of town is a must for any visitor to Dijon.
Of course, with a name that’s practically synonymous with “delicious,” Dijon is also famous for its food, specifically for the eponymous French mustard. While this particular variety of mustard is often quite expensive in the States, here in Dijon – as in the rest of France – you can find it in the grocery store for just a few Euros. If you’re visiting Dijon, however, you must go one step further and visit the Amora museum: a museum devoted entirely to mustard and its history, especially in relation to Dijon. Amora is the brand most used by French families, and the museum tells the intriguing story of this condiment, dating back to the 14th century, with strong ties to the city that shares its name. Make a reservation in advance for a tour through the world of mustard.
If you want to bring a bit of Dijon home to spice up your own cooking, visit the Maille store. Maille is one of the brands of gourmet French mustard that is exported to the United States. In their store you’ll find not only classic jars, but also a variety of different flavors infused with herbs and spices. Ask for a tasting before selecting your own, served fresh from a mustard tap! The gift sets and boxes make great souvenirs for your friends back home, so pick up a few jars.
As long as you’re still in town, another culinary mecca awaits you: Les Halles. This historic market, designed by Gustave Eiffel, a native Dijonnais, is open from 9am to 1pm every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. If you can look past the antiques, great wines and amazing cheeses, then you’ll be able to pick up all the ingredients you need for the French bistro classic that puts Dijon’s most famous ingredient center stage: lapin à la moutarde.
Rabbit may be hard to find in America, but in France, it can be found in any grocery store or butcher window. Armed with your fresh Dijon mustard, pick up a few legs (cuisses de lapin), a pound of new potatoes and some creamery butter: add a bottle of chilled local aligoté wine (a dry white from the region), and dinner is served.
Recipe: Lapin à la Moutarde
- 6 rabbit thighs
- 2 cups butter (one standard block in France)
- 12 oz. Dijon mustard (use either regular Dijon mustard or a combination of plain and whole grain)
- 1/2 cup Cognac (optional)
- 1 lb new potatoes
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a rimmed baking sheet generously. Using a pastry brush, coat the rabbit thighs with mustard. Place them on the baking sheet and add the rest of the butter to the sheet in small pieces. Set a timer for 1 hour.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven. Every 10 minutes, baste the rabbit with the sauce in the pan using a ladle.
- Meanwhile, peel (if you like) and steam or boil the potatoes. Cook 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and arrange the potatoes around the rabbit, and return to the oven, basting every 10 minutes until the hour is up.
- Carefully, heat the Cognac in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove the rabbit from the oven and quickly pour the warmed liquor over the rabbit. Flambé carefully using a match. (If the Cognac doesn’t ignite, return the rabbit to the oven for 2 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol.)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Emily Monaco is native New Yorker, living and writing in Paris since 2007. She loves discovering new places and, of course, their local cuisines! Read about her adventures in food and travel at tomatokumato.com or follow her on Twitter at @emiglia