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.