LIVING LOVING WINE (SHE’S JUST A BEURRE BLANC)
There can never be enough written about cooking with wine. You do not have to drink wine to cook with wine; you just need to enjoy the various ways that the flavors of wine play upon how you taste and what you taste in a dish. How, what and why are important to understanding the way wine works in sauces, and in deglazing sauté and wok cooked foods. The priority here is that we concentrate on how to use wine as a way of increasing the flavors found in the pan when we sauté or wok cook. White wine is the story here today. This is a way to bring you closer into how wine works for you as a cooking ingredient. Wash away the prejudices and fears (if you have them) about cooking with wine for wine in itself is a good thing in this life. If the alcohol itself is a problem then simply cook and simmer it away. White wine as a subject can cover volumes and limiting to four recipes is difficult, but fun, so away we go to France and Spain, to Japan and California on down to the New World beneath the South American Alps.
Cooking with white wines and sake can be very liberating so do not be a stranger to the flavors involved in quality whites and juices. Since it is not quite beautiful autumn and not yet free of summer heat we are cooking inside and outside in comfortable weather. Food is all about the love of the senses, of the earth and of the spirit.
Let’s welcome this new season of SEC Football with wine for once instead of beer (OK! Before my brother, nephew and the Terrapin Brewery get onto me I mean no slight to beer, just a look towards something different for y’all). An ounce of wine into a pan as an effect known as deglazing will bring up extra flavor for your Chardonnay pan sauce. A flashy Pinot Grigio reduced with minced shallots is the base for many sauces and in this case a beurre blanc. Pinot Grigio is sister to Pinot Noir, two of the most highly recognizable wines in America. Many fine marinades are influenced by the flavor of the grape and dry Sherry with apple juice and soy is very popular for chicken and fish marinades. Sake makes ordinary dipping sauces extraordinary. Don’t fall for the myth of Pinot Onsalelot, Chateau Dollaroir or Johannesburg Cheapling because the quality of the wine is what matters not the cost. I dedicate this column to the fine work of an excellent sommelier, Jamshad Zarneger, or Jaamy, to those of us who are close to this wonderful man of the service industry (He is co-owner of the Last Resort, and was involved with the East West Bistro in our early years).
Some may be expensive and some inexpensive so ask your wine retailer what is good today for a nice cooking and table wine to match the sauce and dinner that you have in mind. If they say the quality of the wine does not matter then just say thank you and leave the store. Australia, Chile, Washington State, Georgia, North Carolina, South Africa and Central Europe are producing some very fine wines these days. Of course there is little that can match the masterful soils and weather of Napa Valley, California and the Bordeaux region in France, but the thing is that these other growing territories are making some of the best wines of the late 20th century. Be bold and go forward into today, you will be glad you did. Apple cider, white cranberry juice, white grape juice, sparkling grape juices, white balsamic vinegar, yuzu and lemon vinegar all are excellent substitutes for any of our recipes.
None of these recipes take a long time. The grape has already done the aging and intensifying work for you in the cask. Our main purpose here is to quickly reduce the wine to the state of perfection we need to further define each dish. There are more elaborate recipes, of course, but these will suffice to introduce you to ways of bringing out the identity of each wine. The same goes for the combinations of nonalcoholic liquids we use as substitutes (and yet a substitute can never be the thing itself, so be aware of this if you do not use the specified wines).
PORK MEDALLIONS WITH CHARDONNAY AND GRAPES
Sautéed pork medallions are a delicate and brightly flavored way to enhance an already great meat, pork. Chardonnay/Gamay grapes are planted more than any other group, and of course this means a better price and more varieties of flavor to explore from region to region It is in a dead heat with Sauvignon blanc as the most popular grape for South American wineries.
The Chardonnay flavor is best as buttery but there are also ones a bit sharp/flinty and almost grassy (a good thing). It is also used as an ingredient to sparkling wines and white burgundy. The chardonnay you want for this dish can be from New Zealand, Burgundy region of France or The Russian River Valley of Northern California (some of the best).
When substituting for a dish as light yet aggressive as the pork medallions with white grapes and pistachios you can use Sparkling White Grape juice and Mirin vinegar.
8, 3 ounce pork, medallions, pounded thin
1/2 cup all purpose flour
½ cup sweet potato starch
1 teaspoon pink sea salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
Combine dry ingredients
2 tablespoons sweet butter
4 tablespoon Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
20 white grapes
20 whole pistachios, shelled
3 cloves garlic, shaved thin
1/3 cup Chardonnay
10 whole basil leaves
Dust the pork medallions in the dry ingredients. Sauté in a very hot skillet with the butter and oil. Cook two minutes each side then turn the heat down to medium low.
Simmer each side four minutes. Strain off the oil and add the wine. Move away from the heat so that if it flames up you will not get burned. Turn heat back up to high. Add the grapes, garlic, pistachios and basil leaves. Toss to combine all ingredients.
Serve with chilled pasta salad of penne pasta, heavy cream and blue cheese crumbles. A good vegetable here is steamed asparagus with lemon.
CHICKEN WITH VEGETABLES AND PINOT GRIGIO BEURRE BLANC
The technique for this dish is wrongly feared and misunderstood by both professional and home cooks. The way this butter sauce is made must not be altered or you will encounter either problems with it breaking or it just being a regular cream sauce. Pinot Grigio of Northeastern Italy (Alto-Adige) is related to the French Pinot Gris, another familiar wine. Don’t let familiarity ruin you here the way that Chablis did the generation before, it’s a great wine, as is true Chablis but overproduction and cheap imitations abound so stick to the Italian or Napa Valley versions. A good one will have the flavors of peaches, nectarines and cantaloupes (and of course of grapes). So if you must substitute then do so with nectarine juice/soda (Latin section in grocery) and white grape juice.
Beurre blancs (white butter sauces) seem to confound all beginning and even experienced cooks. Do not worry, if you follow my directions nothing bad will happen and your guests will think you are a Chef.
BEURRE BLANC, WHITE BUTTER SAUCE
1/2 cup Pinot Grigio
2 bulbs shallot, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon Apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
Combine and reduce on medium heat until the liquid is merely a shine on the shallots. Truly, this must be reduced to barely a tablespoon of liquid.
8 ounces cold butter cut into small pieced, keep chilled
¼ teaspoon white salt
¼ teaspoon chopped pink peppercorns
Keep the pan on the warm surface and whisk the cold butter cuts into the pan piece by piece. Only whip in one piece at a time. Do this until all the butter is incorporated into the sauce. Strain through a fine strainer and keep in a warm, not hot, place. If it gets too hot it will break, if it gets too cold it will solidify and then break when it touches the hot chicken. If the butter is not melting and combing quickly enough with the shallots then move the pan back and forth over a the warm stove top. It is only good for the time of service. This is one of those sauces that are so sublime and yet rich that the execution seems a mystery yet once you make it by the rules then you will do just fine every time. People who cheat add heavy cream. This is not a beurre blanc; it is a cream sauce when you add cream.
4 chicken breasts
½ cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon hickory smoked salt
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, powdered
Combine dry ingredients.
¼ cup corn oil
¼ cup each red and green bell peppers, sliced
1/3 cup yellow onion, sliced
1 whole carrot, peeled and thin sliced
1/4th ounce cilantro, chopped
4 tablespoons chicken stock
Dust chicken in dry ingredients and sauté in the corn oil on very high heat for one minute each side. Add the vegetables and cook in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven put back onto high heat stove and add the chicken stock. Reduce so that there is only a couple of tablespoons stock remaining. Internal temperature of the chicken will be 160 degrees. Set on plate and divide beurre blanc between them all.
Serve with white jasmine rice and Caesar salad.
GRILLED HALIBUT MARINATED IN SHERRY AND CRUSHED PEPPER
Alaskan halibut is one of the best fish in the sea and touching it up with a classic marinade of sherry, bay leaves and peppercorns gives it a taste of outdoor dinners and ocean breezes. So hey there Spain, again with the finest of ingredients and this time it is from the triangle growing region of Cadiz. Sherry is fortified wine which means that as or after the wine is aged brandy is added, which means that it fortifies/builds up the wine. And yes for those of you who have a love of our great inventor of the detective story, Edgar Allen Poe, you have read The Cask of The Amontillado. So every time you watch a CSI or Bones episode, thank the genius of literature Mr. Poe. And then thank Spain for such a luscious, deeply flavored concoction as the various kinds of Sherry. Adding Moscatel wine makes sweet sherry. We cook with Fino and Manzanilla dry sherry. Substitutions are difficult as it is a complex flavor. Best to use a mix of white cranberry juice, peach juice and apple juice.
Alaskan halibut is a sustainable fish. This means that the rate of harvest is not greater than the reproduction rate of the fish and that no harm is done to the immediate ecosystem. Also Alaskan black cod/sablefish is a great fish if you cannot find halibut, and really and truly I think that black cod tastes better and is firmer. All in all though it is hard to beat halibut and black cod in the category of firm, white, sweet fish.
1/3 cup sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon white peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon green peppercorns, crushed
1 whole onion, diced
1/3 ounce fresh oregano, stem and all
1 cup apple juice
1 lime cut in quarters
4, five ounce halibut
1 outdoor grill set up with fruit wood and Wicked Good charcoal, high heat
Marinade halibut for three hours. Remove and grill for 6 minutes each side at 500 degrees.
Serve with grilled corn on the cob, warm tomatoes from your yard sprinkled with olive oil crushed salt and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese. The corn takes about 10 minutes at this high heat. Neat seasoning for the corn is Japanese Sesame Furikaki. This is a dry spice mix using seaweed, sesame, bonito flakes, white pepper and salt. There are many kinds of furikaki mixes including a plum one, all in all they are used for rice but I find it hard to understand limits to the imagination.
Sauce just for the halibut? Just for the halibut squeeze a fresh orange over the steaks, and add a touch of Cholula Lime sauce.
SAKE TERIYAKI AND SESAME VEGETABLES
It is not all about the grapes, we do need variety in our life and sake (rice wine) comes in handy for many a dish in my kitchens. Sake (Nihonshu) is graded in ways similar to wines for taste, body and lasting impression of the way it is fermented and aged. Sometimes sake can hit you in the throat like a crazy rich Italian grappa, and smooth ones can be as sweet and complex as a bowl of rice with plum furikaki. Sake is that interesting and deserves a column unto itself. For here though it is a quick and to the point mix of ingredients to be used as a dipping sauce.
1/3 cup wheat free tamari
¼ cup dry sake
1/3 teaspoon toasted black and white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon date palm sugar
2 stalks green onion, thin sliced
2 Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
½ teaspoon cornstarch
Combine and heat just to 180 degrees. Remove and divide in small bowls for dipping any tempura fried vegetables, wok vegetables, seafood and chicken.
Love the one you’re with and make the world romantic, toast the night and count the stars as the season changes from blistering summer to cool autumn. Thank you for cooking and enjoying the fruits of our magnificent South.
The elm and hickory cast away shadows first,
Then the tulip maple begins to sway,
Squirrels and ground hogs hang out into sunset,
These white tailed deer start showing up everywhere,
And in my neighborhood a few turkey buzzards
Even stand around by the street side, munching,
Lingering and watching as I slowly drive on by.
The night sky glows and you can feel the breezes
Coming down from the Southernmost hills,
The foot of the Appalachian fog sends down the cool.
Summer? What? You have a few more 90 degree days?
OK, Oh well, the early evening is good enough.
The grill smoke curls up into the trees, hangs fog=like,
Jack Daniels charcoal casts a heavy scent,
The deck does the best it can to hold
Me and the Green Egg (Gong Li) and a few choice friends,
Grilling the day away, telling tales and dreams,
Grilling, eating, toasting with drinks
From Arnold Palmer Tea and Dr. Pepper
To willowy Pinot Grigios and crisp Chardonnays,
And I look into the eyes, upon the faces
Of best friends and great loves,
And as the day pulls up its blanket to rest
I just feel alive, warm and devoted
To the Arts and to the kitchens of life,
Hoping the next wave is a little bit more true,
Working to always be a better man,
Step over the ones who can never create,
Walk beyond the ones who have no vision,
Live my life with the changing seasons,
Live my life with all the things that shine with love.
IN THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS WITH FIG, FOWL AND PIG
I do give a fig. The growing season for all the marvelous fruits and vegetables tends to be from June to September. We are inundated with every imaginable ripening pleasure known to the South. What is rather foreign to our tables during this time are figs. I wish that they traveled better, but they do not. Figs must be eaten soon after harvesting. They are natives to Iran, Egypt and Pakistan. As soon as friendly trade travel began figs were being carried throughout the Near East and Mediterranean region. A basket of figs imported from the Turkish peninsula was used in the Roman Senate to express the closeness and threat of the Asian empire. Since Eden is reputed to have been in the Euphrates and Tigris river region it is natural that when Eve and Adam first donned clothing it was the fig leaf.
We are making roast pork with fig barbecue sauce; chicken breast sautéed with figs, almonds and leeks, and scallops with fig balsamic vinegar, oranges, Srirracha sauce and cilantro.
Rich in mythical lore and religious symbolism the fig was a natural to become part of the wedding feast. Tender skin, sweet pulp and crunchy edible seeds lends to many poetic descriptions of all that is beautiful. The fig, dried, jam and fresh it is perfect in every way. Luscious. The fig is luscious. So, you ask, “What then does a fig taste like?” Take all the good stuff about strawberries and peaches and there you have the fig.
OK, so here is an odd fact: the fig tree is a ficus, it produces latex, and if you have a latex allergy then you will have a reaction to the milky latex liquid that comes out of the branches if they are broken or while picking figs. So, if you have a latex allergy then wear gloves while picking figs.
Besides eaten by children world wide as lunch dessert in the form of Fig Newtons, they make great preserves which sneak in all things dietary good to adults and as a dried snack it makes it easy to have this nutritious and sweet fruit year round as part of a healthy diet. I know all this healthy stuff makes it sound too good to be true, but ask yourself, have you ever had pig with fig? If you have then you know exactly why this set of recipes and descriptions is something of a Chefs joy. If you buy an unripe fig just set it on a ceramic plate on your dining table out of direct light and it will ripen in a day or two. They will smell sweet. If they smell sour or have bruises then no need to eat raw as the flavor is pretty ruined at that stage.
How high in all things good are figs? Up in the top five of fruits. Not only is it a great dietary sugars and fiber it even help the skin to tan in the sun, not burn but to tan.
It is an antioxidant, lowers triglycerides (bad cholesterol), increases bone density because it is calcium rich and helps with weight loss (decreases hunger while increasing trace minerals and fiber). The leaves, now this was something very new to me, eating fig leaves in any form has properties that lower the need for insulin in diabetic patients. The study was made by adding fig leaf powder to breakfast cereal and yogurt. To tell you the truth, I can’t get over all the great things that is the fig. Kind of like dates, you know they are around, you understand that they taste great and are good for you, but you just don’t really know why; well I am here to tell you why and how and I certainly did not know until I started researching.
Say whatever you will about fruits that are from the Middle East there is one thing that is true, they are sweet. Living in the light of the Sun and our humid summers makes us want easy, sweet and spicy food, to be outside sweating away the days, to be on the deck watching fireflies dance in the pines and maple, listening to the cicada and tree frogs wall of sound, and eating. We love to live to eat, and as any chef or home cook will tell you, the taste’s the thing. Throw a few serrano or jalapeno peppers in the mix with a bbq sauce or pan fry and you have one delicious dish.
We had some great black mission fig trees in the Central Valley of California and even over the ridge in the Mendocino Valley. I have one here in my yard in Athens but it never seems to fruit.
I wish I could just go outside, grab a fig and eat. Like persimmons, the best seem to be the ones we can buy in specialty markets rather that from the yard. Fresh figs and persimmons must be eaten within a couple of days of harvest, and if you cannot eat them right away then freeze them or make jams and sauces.
PIG WITH FIG
What? You say is pig with fig? Well if you have access it is pork with fresh figs, fig preserves, dried figs and fig balsamic vinegar. I have used them all and it is not overkill, it’s just intense! Butt or loin is perfectly fine for this dish. If you want rich, deep flavor then surely go with the pork butt. It you want to avoid the extra flavor of fat then use pork loin, bone in or boneless. The bone is a valuable resource for flavor so if you do leave it on then allow a few extra minutes cook time.
3 pound pork roast, loin or butt
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup Spanish olive oil
Rub the pork with the oil and then the herbs and spices. Brown the pork in a roasting pan on the stovetop on medium heat. Put into 375 degree oven and cook for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 300 degrees and roast for 45 minutes.
While the pork is cooking the fun part kicks in, and that is when we make the sauce.
4 ounces fig preserves
2 cups apple cider
¼ cup balsamic vinegar or Chinese Black Vinegar
2 jalapeno peppers, minced, seeds and all
1 medium yellow onion, minced
4 tablespoons grain mustard
5 tablespoons ketchup
5 dried figs
¼ cup Golden Mountain Sauce (or 2 tablespoons Maggi)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 stick cinnamon
Combine into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and simmer for the entire cooking time of the pork. Stir the sauce a lot. Puree after 15 minutes. Add another ½ cup of apple juice and continue to simmer. Paint the pork with the fig bbq during the last 10 minutes of the roast time.
Remove pork from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Paint again with the sauce. Thin slice, or thick slice if you want it more steak like, plate it and serve with the sauce so that you can add as you wish. Quarter fresh figs to garnish.
Of course your best side for this is going to be Yukon Gold potatoes boiled and mashed with sour cream, buttermilk, butter and garlic. Make them creamy and rich.
Corn on the cob simmered in coconut milk and ginger is a rare treat. It is a treat well worth accompanying your pork roast.
2 ears corn cut into four pieces each 8 ounces coconut milk,
4 ounces young coconut juice
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon salt
Simmer for 10 minutes in pot deep enough for the corn to be covered by the liquid. Remove and serve. You can use the coconut milk stock for a chicken coconut soup. Just reserve the liquid, strain and add chicken stock and then you have a good base for soups and sauces, even for a chicken or tofu marinade.
THE FIG AND THE FOWL
This is a straight ahead, no frills sauté that requires next to no prep time, very little cook time, small amount of oil, a ton of complex flavors and textures all brought together by the presence of one little pear shaped bulb of delicious! The fig. If you love food then use bone in, skin on thighs and breasts. If you need the time and the sense of being on a thinning diet then use boneless, skinless breasts of chicken. This recipe works just as well for pheasant, quail, duck and turkey. The figs must be absolutely fresh. I am using red sumac here as a nod to the heritage of the fig. Red Sumac has a flavor close to lemon, and to me it is the Lebanese equivalent to Southeast Asian lemon grass as far as adding an aromatic and citrus flavor to the dish.
You will make a paste of red sumac, garlic, mint, sea salt and roasted red pepper to stir into the cooking juices. Use either a large river rock or lava rock molcajete or marble mortar and pestle to mix in as soon as you crush the ingredients together. Intense and fresh is all I can say about that.
Marcones almonds are a kind of almond that is whole and is an expensive treat. So, smoked whole almonds or sliced almonds will work for this dish. Use one leek, cut it up to one inch into the deep green part but no more than that, so it is mostly the white and pale green. Rinse clean of all dirt.
2, 6 ounce chicken breasts
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn oil
12 marcones or whole almonds
5 figs (prefer fresh but dried if you must)
½ cup leek, minced
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
Dust the chicken breast in the flour and starch and then sauté on medium high heat. Cook three minutes per side. After second turn add the leeks. Turn heat down to medium and cook for three minutes. Add the almonds. Cook in 350 degree oven for two minutes, add the quartered figs. Cook for five more minutes.
1 teaspoon red sumac
2 cloves garlic
20 leaves mint
1 teaspoon rosemary, fresh of course
4 tablespoons roasted red bell pepper
1 teaspoon pink sea salt
Combine and mash together into a paste in your molcajete.
Remove chicken from oven and return to medium heat. Take it out of the pan and set in warm place. Add the pomegranate juice to the pan and scrape any flour or chicken that has stuck to the pan, stir in the paste and cook just for a minute.
Cover a plate with the sauce and set the chicken on the sauce. Serve with aromatic rice or even Chinese rice cake pasta.
Salad with fresh feta cheese, shrimp and diced melon is a perfect companion to this lovely and warming meal of fig and fowl. Also garnish with fresh figs.
A KIND OF CRUDO
Here is a simple and fantastic application for fig balsamic vinegar. Use very fresh sea or bay scallops. If you cannot find perfect fresh then use individually quick frozen scallops. Thaw out in the refrigerator.
If you cannot find fig balsamic vinegar then make your own!
1 cup aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fig preserves
2 ounces red wine or cranberry/grape juice
Combine and heat on high heat just enough to bring to a boil. Puree.
Cool and cover to keep in refrigerator for a few days before serving. You can make it and use it but it just will not have as much depth as it will after sitting for a few days.
6 sea scallops, pull off the tendon and discard
3 ounces orange juice
3 ounces fig balsamic vinegar
1 ounce Srirracha (Vietnamese Chili sauce)
18 leaves cilantro
¼ teaspoon coarse pink sea salt
18 segments orange, no seed or pith
Toss the scallops in the orange juice. Arrange the scallops on two plates. Make one thin line of the Chili sauce across the plate. Make a small pool of vinegar just falling off of the scallop. Set the cilantro leaves next to the scallops. Place the orange segments around the plate in random fashion. Sprinkle with sea salt. Let is set in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, covered. This is an elegant presentation so keep the plate clean and cold.
If the scallops are large then just serve one scallop per person. This is so good. It is one of my very favorite crudo, ceviche or sashimi style dishes.
BREAD AND FRUIT’
So there are thousands of ways to present combinations of ingredients for crostini and bruschetta. It is bread and fruit. It is how pizza evolved. It is the basis for what was to become sandwich. But what makes this so cool is that it a bite. It is a fresh presentation that allows the ingredients to be themselves while also becoming one set of flavors and textures. Soft and crunchy all at once. Creamy and sweet. Salty and herby. All at once. This is what makes crostini and bruschettas so important to the dining experience. Here we stand in awe of what makes Mediterranean food so important not only as expression of a culture but also something so delicious it’s hard to describe.
12 slices Italian ciabatta or triple rise bread
12 quarters fig
12 slices very thin proscuitto or spec d’aligne
3 tablespoons feta, crumble
2 tablespoons garlic roasted extra virgin olive oil
12 leaves oregano, fresh
To make the garlic oil just take a half cup of extra virgin olive oil and 10 cloves of garlic. Make an aluminum foil boat and put it in it, then fold over so that it is airtight. Place in roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
Brush the bread on each side and toast so that it is just almost crisp. Place a slice of proscuitto on each, fig, then feta and then place one oregano leaf on top of each one.
Serve. Smile. Love the one you’re with.
She blows kisses to the past
And then to me.
River road stands warm,
Water gurgles “Summertime.”
And I forget the flatted third,
Chromatic slide chords,
I forget what it was that
Drug me down before.
OK, so I obsess on the past…yeah.
Let it go. She is here.
Her midnight hair glows.
I let go the broken loves. Try.
Now it’s not just this,
Wish it were, wish it wasn’t.
Now she glows…flickers
Wish is wasn’t so Beckett.
So more than her…
So hard to go on, but I do: Easy.
I must go on.
I can’t go on.
I will go on.
Silence and the blues are smooth,
So is she, and we touch…
I can go on.
MUSTARD? THE COLONEL OR THE MEAN MISTER?
A QUESTION OF DOUBT, EXPRIENCE AND ULTIMATELY OF PLEASURE.
Beloved and I went to IKEA this week. I just have to get that out there because if I seem distracted, well, it is because my wife and I went to IKEA this week! Go figure, I guess I really do need a new kitchen. OK, onward to the wicked ways of that delightful worldly tart burn known as mustard. I will put forth Inglehoffer prepared grain mustard for a sauce, French’s yellow mustard in American potato salad, Gulden’s spicy brown mustard for pork, how to make your own mustard from Coleman’s fine powder mustard and a vinaigrette. Oh yes, and don’t forget that rascally unmentionable, prepared wasabi which we will use for the vinaigrette. Just for the record, horseradish, mustard and wasabi are members of the cabbage family.
Used in Western, Mid Eastern, European and Chinese cuisine mustard is a universal taste that bridges sour and hot. Yet diner, beware for these members of the cabbage family are mostly known for their ability to cause pain. The pain creates pleasure. Even at room temperature these guys can cause problems and tears, then laughter. I know this because of the many times processing fresh horseradish and wasabi, as the aroma mists the kitchen it starts burning into the nostrils of the cooks and servers.
Mustard emerges as an ingredient whose power is recognized by the way it accents, it bonds with fatty and salty foods to create an after taste that hints at sweet. Pungent is the magic word when discussing members of the cabbage, mustard families. When you get too much just breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Remember that. What a heady rush mustard, wasabi and horseradish can give you! This tingly sensation is an attribute not an aberration and this is how we know by experience that they are related. Mustard greens are eaten raw or cooked with kale and collards for Sunday supper. If you want evidence for the nose on how mustard relates to cabbage then open a bottle of Gulden’s and inhale just ever so slightly. Smell the cabbage? The way that relations are understood sometimes requires physical evidence on top of the scientific classifications of flora and fauna. After all, an almond is a rose.
From the tiniest seed to the mightiest tree is a misunderstood and difficult parable since mustard in Israel/Jordan is a bush. The parable refers to the monstrosity that can become of the Church in the hands of the wicked, which in turn were the birds referred to in an earlier part of Matthew. Birds don’t really live in small bushes. The question this puzzling parable puts forth is answered by what we see today in the greed and proliferation of war and hate among certain religious sects. The rabbi knew that there was the chance his works would be used for illicit gain. The tiniest seed can become something good or bad, the quality lies in the works of those putting it to use. For us then the mustard is a good thing. And that’s my hermeneutic for the month.
The mustard seed has always been with us in the cuisines of the world going back to B.C. times. There are existent recipes from the Romans in the 1st century. I have no way of tracing the first appearances in Chinese and Indian cuisine where no doubt it was used centuries before the Gauls, Saxons, Francs and Armenians ground it with their nut and wheat flours. Ground mustard binds in the way that various wheat, rice and tapioca flours bind. Mustard flour is used in making sausage (as I do for my house sausage at work) and for mayonnaise and various dressings and vinaigrettes where the stickiness (mucilage) acts as a stabilizer. The addition of mustard and egg white to an aioli is what makes for mayonnaise. So when you see aioli on a menu, think mayo hold the mustard.
Our neighbors to the West, the Carolinians or Scots-Germans of the South developed a way of the BBQ that involves mustard. Spicy, vinegary with a slight aroma of the earth followed by a sweet burning in the nasal cavities is what you get with Carolina BBQ sauce. Love this way of accenting the pork. Mustard seed and apple cider vinegar combine to make a good marinade. After that the flavor is all up to how one likes their pork. Some of us are more prone to the ketchup and bourbon sweetness and others of the Southeast go for the more tart kind of sauce.
Plochmann’s is my favorite yellow/American mustard but French’s is our nation’s standard of what yellow mustard is. Yellow mustard is made by adding turmeric to bring out that electric yellow color. The rest of the ingredients are vinegar, salt, brown mustard powder and paprika. This bright zingy flavor is synonymous with hot dogs and potato salad. It just makes that fatty and relish covered ball park, holiday and childhood junk food taste better. A big kosher hot dog with yellow mustard just makes you smile. You know it is the mystery of pleasure and pain in the way that the enzymes in mustard tingle in your head and sinuses.
AMERICAN POTATO SALAD
OK, so I copped out and decided to go old family style here instead of bringing up an obscure, nouveau or personally developed recipe. New/Red potatoes taste the best for this purpose. Cut them with a serrated knife after boiling when they are still warm but not hot. Moisten the knife with hot water after every couple of potatoes to keep clean cuts that do not tear the tender potato skin. These instructions are specific so do not vary. To do otherwise means that they will not absorb as much flavor and that the skin will tear and peel off as you slice the potato. Cook them whole, cooking them diced or sliced just means that they can become waterlogged and grainy. Chopping while still warm allows the spices to soak into the potato.
1 pound new potatoes, washed clean
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 clove garlic, microplane/grate
1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 eggs, hard boiled, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tablespoons vidalia or bermuda onion, diced
1/3 cup pickle relish or diced sweet pickle
1/3 cup Dukes or Kewpie Mayonnaise (Hellmann’s if you must)
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
No need to season the water, as it will not affect the flavor and you will season when the time comes, not before. The starchy potatoes like Yukon gold and russets tend to fall apart after boiling, even when slightly undercooked they still do not hold as well as a red potato.
Boil in water just covering the potatoes. After you boil the potato, drain and let them cool slightly, then chop them into just under an inch pieces. Season with the spices and vinegar then cover and refrigerate. After they have cooled add the mustard, onions, pickles and rest of ingredients. Serve. And you know what goes with potato salad, hot dogs, hamburgers or those Carolina ribs.
GRAIN MUSTARD CHICKEN VELOUTE ON HANGAR STEAKS
A veloute is a light sauce that is basically non-flour thickened stock, in this case chicken stock. Veloute is one of the five basic sauces: veloute, brown, tomato, egg and béchamel. We will add Inglehoffer Stone Ground Mustard to enrich it with that vinegary and rainy mountain flavor of Northern Europe. Sauce like this needs a hardy mate in the form of hangar steak. Hangar steak is also known as diaphragm and hanging tender. This is one of my favorite cuts because it has a slight organ flavor with the fatty, deep taste of roast beef. The mustard sauce just lifts it off of the plate. Mahler’s 3rd Symphony comes to mind. Really. It is that complexly Teutonic and full of flavors covering the classical palate of Escoffier and Thomas Keller. The change, I couldn’t resist you know, is that we are using star anise and Chinese cooking wine whose flavors create a warmth and airiness to this old school standard to all kitchens.
OUR CHICKEN VELOUTE
1 whole chicken, chopped up, rub with lemon
1 gallon water
10 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 star anise
1 tablespoon parsley, stems and leaves
1 onion, chopped, skin and all
1 cup Chinese cooking wine or vermouth
1/4 cup corn oil
Set aside for the sauce (reserved ingredients):
2 tablespoons grain mustard
1 teaspoon tapioca starch or corn starch
1/4th cup cold water to combine with starch to make thickener
1 tablespoons dark brown sugar or date palm sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Combine water, bay leaves and thyme in large pot and bring to boil. While the water is heating brown the chicken pieces, onion and star anise together in the corn oil in another large pot. When it has browned add the parsley and cooking oil. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any parts that stuck to the pan. Pour off the oil. Add the cooking wine. Slowly add the boiling water to the pan. Simmer for four hours. Do not boil! It is simmered so that the flavors have depth for this is a rich, golden veloute. Strain into a large container and set aside. You only need a cup for our sauce, the rest is there for you to freeze or store in the refrigerator. It is good to have homemade chicken stock on hand for day to day cooking. If you freeze it in ice trays then it is already portioned for you. Once you get used to having a stock like this on hand you will never go back to the factory chicken stocks.
To make the sauce for our steak bring one cup veloute to a boil and add the reserved ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes. It will be smooth texture, just barely thickened, sweet and sour.
Sear 4, seven ounce hangar steaks to medium rare. Set on plate with sauce. Now this is one of those meals that is good with creamed spinach and orange glazed carrots, or for the Pan Asian side of things use roasted king mushrooms and steamed bok choy.
DIJON HONEY MUSTARD PORK LOIN STEAKS
What is it about honey mustard that we are crazy about it? Sweet, tart, salty and just hot enough to open our nostrils to breath in the delicate flavors of chicken, pork or fresh water fish. It is also a nice side dipping sauce for just about any root vegetable, fried anything and as a glaze to chicken breasts.
1 cup dijon mustard
3 tablespoons wild flower honey
Stir and reserve in refrigerator until ready for use. If you are making a dressing out of it then here are a few ways:
½ cup honey mustard
¼ cup Mirin Japanese vinegar or persimmon vinegar (tangy)
1 cup mango puree
Add to blender and puree to smooth. To make it lighter add 3 ounces olive oil while it blends.
4, 6 ounce pork loin steaks
4, strips apple smoked bacon
4 ounces gouda cheese
Cut a small pocket into each steak. Fill each one with one ounce gouda. Wrap a piece of bacon around each steak. Pierce with bamboo skewer to keep bacon in place. Grill over apple wood chips until cooked to 150 degrees internal temperature. Glaze with a tablespoon honey mustard per steak. Finish under broiler or with grill up to high heat (Big Green Egg or Weber Kettle grill, Brinkman smoker grill). Serve with jasmine rice and black beans with mango salsa on the side (This salsa was in the May Southern Distinction).
MAKING YOUR OWN SIGNATURE MUSTARD
This is easy. Buy a can of Coleman’s Mustard. Coleman’s was the first commercial mustard, a family affair. Jar mustards are made from mustard powder as a base. If you enjoy making things the way you want them rather than as a mass produced set of flavors and condiments then this is the thing for you. You can make it per dish or meal, and you can make a cup and keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for weeks.
POMEGRANATE VINEGAR MUSTARD
1 tablespoon dry mustard
4 tablespoons pomegranate vinegar
1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon granulated salt
1/3 teaspoon paprika
Combine and mix to smooth. For the best whisk this for a couple of minutes to fully combine all of the ingredients. To make your own just substitute any vinegar, and you can add different spirits as well to send the flavor to match more particular dinners or sandwiches. Making sandwiches? Make mustard to match the meat. Say you are making honey baked ham and cheddar on sour dough. Here’s the mustard:
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon crushed mustard seed
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 teaspoon salt
½ clove garlic, very fine grated
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 teaspoon paprika
Combine and thoroughly whisk together all ingredients. Taste. May need a touch of light brown sugar to sweeten a bit more.
WASABI, WHAT THE HECK DO WE DO WITH THIS?
OK, so we know that wasabi is a member of the same family, cabbage, as mustard and horseradish. I am only including this because powder and jar wasabi is usually mustard based or have mustard as a component. You want to make your own spicy vinaigrette for a special New World dinner. This dinner could very well be a celebration of mustards or as several courses connected by the cabbage family, and all you have to do is cook small portions of everything here in this column with the addition of a salad. Thing is our salad will have seared yellow fin tuna, hamachi or trevally jack. You could even use bay scallops and crisped Italian speck to dot a spinach salad.
1 teaspoon Inglehoffer Wasabi horseradish
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup corn oil
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon shallot
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon date palm sugar
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend to smooth. Use fresh beets, tender bibb lettuce leaves, minced fresh pineapple, candied lemon peel and the seared seafood of your choice. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the greens.
Keep in mind that most all powder wasabi is made with dry mustard, dry horseradish, green dye and various sugars, salts and emulsifiers. Powder wasabi is not wasabi; it should not even have the name at the top of the bag. It is imitation wasabi, or spicy green mustard. Real wasabi is a taste of such delight that one smooth grated teaspoon spread on a plate of sashimi will change the way you envision this root.
So you see that mustard is not just a yellow condiment or grainy device to make a meal seem French in nature. Thank you all for letting me write these columns for you, I learn so much more about my craft each time I work on one. It is a joy and a pleasure.
Peace out and happy cooking y’all.
DAYS LIKE LOVE
Stuck in the heat doing erosion control
In a dry creek bed
Close by my house,
Clearing out English and poison ivy,
Choked on pollen and red clay sand storms
My throat and eyes close,
My cheeks burn and the tears begin to form,
And then there it comes,
A swarm of yellow jackets
In one huge buzz popping up out
Of a tulip maple tree,
Up jumped the Devil
And I was tossed five yards away,
Running and stung,
High tailing to the house,
I make it inside just moments before
Gangs of hornets join the fray.
What does this mean?
Briar torn and sun burned,
Ivy rash and bee stung,
What does this all mean?
All I wanted was to do the land
A favor and give the water a chance to flow,
At least once inside there was my love,
With king mushrooms and roasted clams,
With a big smile and a
“What did you do this time?” laugh,
Once inside there was my love
Reassuring me that even days like this
Had something of a desire,
Had something to hold that was good.
And yes, on days like this and every
Other day she is good, she is my love.