WHERE SWEET TURNS TO SOUR AND THE HOT REMAINS THE SAME
(The where and how of condiments)
Wherever you are in the world it is easy to see that condiments become you. Every plate has a garnish, an extra, a special something that elevates and creates a wholly new flavor. This “something” is where condiments make a play on the plate, and in turn influence the way you experience the dish itself. Think of these examples: ketchup, mustard, chow-chow, pickles, relish, kim chee, hot sauces, soy, horseradish, Worcestershire. The scene is set for the plate by how we see fit to accompany the entrée (centerpiece). The recipes this month are sautéed chicken breast with black mustard seed-agave sweetened mustard; and iron skillet grilled firm tofu with blackberry-peach tamarind sauce.
In dining around the world there is always something that offers a sense of home. The way to understand these foods is to remember your history and experience the way in which food has relations around the globe. In turn, the way to find greatest pleasure in world cuisines is to forget your history and enjoy the food for what it is in and of itself. I particularly enjoy tasting something for the first time, something that is so indigenous and locked into a place that it is impossible to ever have this same experience any other scene in the world. The same theory applies to any set of experiences in travel, the Arts, relationships and dining.
Variations in world cuisines that were once scoffed at by stuffed shirts and xenophobes become avenues of exploration once prejudice is removed. The examples are legion. Condiments often pave the way for such culinary discovery. Chow-chow relish is a great example of confusion and discovery. It may historically be French, German, Hungarian, British, India, and Chinese. “Chou” is French for cabbage, and “kouchumber” is a Chinese condiment. Hindi, Korean and Chinese cuisines have many hot condiments made with cabbage. A Hungarian Chef, Charles Thoth, that I trained under swore it was Polish-Hungarian in origin. This is a relish whose home may be the entire globe and not the property of any one culture. Lets look at sour cream, cucumber and onion which indicates Central Europe. Yogurt (unsweetened/plain/Greek/Indian), cucumber and onion indicates Punjab Province of India and of Greece. They taste almost the same. All “own” the dish as a signature of their cuisines. There is a lot of freedom in understanding our culinary history.
All of my food columns contain a condiment recipe, this is how important condiments are to any dish. I try to make the unfamiliar, familiar. By doing so you are able to find ingredients and utensils that are close to home. The reason I developed a blackberry-peach Worcestershire was that I wanted to give the sauce flavors of Georgia. The mustard and Worcestershire is made so that it is friendly to all tastes and dietary requirements from gluten free to sugar free. Mustard is known the world over. Mustard is a member of the cabbage family.
In January I had a balsamic-lime mustard recipe. The reason I am reprising a mustard is to further explore just how easy it is build beyond classic yellow, brown and coarse mustards. Coarse mustards are the ones where the mustard seeds are dominant and often includes a wine or whiskey. Our black and blue mustard is all new just for you. If you start using the balsamic mustard and the black & blue mustard you will taste how versatile mustards really are in the modern kitchen. And yes, even on hot dogs and corn beef sandwiches these mustards will still have that sinus opening flavor that situates mustard in the pantheon of condiments.
Tamarind is essential to Worcestershire, as in no tamarind then no Worcestershire. Tamarind is a tree, we use the flavor from pulp of the tamarind seed. It has a slightly sour flavor and is also the source for many candies in Southeast Asia. Tamarind is one of the most versatile ingredients in world cuisines with uses from sauces to primary ingredient, to candy and hot weather drinks. Once you have tamarind extract in your kitchen start using it by the quarter teaspoon in dishes where lemon or lime are required. Using it in small amounts in Asian, South American and American recipes will get you used to how it interacts and creates new flavors. The sauce originated in Thailand and Burma.
Black & Blue Mustard
This is a sugar free, gluten free and corn free all purpose mustard. It is good with stir fry, pork, duck, turkey, chicken and of course hot dogs, dips, hamburgers and corned beef sandwiches. You will notice that I always specify sea salt. The reason for this is because it is not bleached with any kind of chemicals to maintain white color. Salt is historically our primary method of preserving foods prior to pre 20th century refrigeration. It was not chemically enhanced. Chemical enhancing has repercussions upon the body. Remember the old commercials about how “It’s not good to fool Mother Nature”? Well, it’s not, so avoid foods that do.
4 tablespoons Coleman’s Dry Mustard
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/3rd cup cold water
1/3rd cup sorghum vinegar (or cane vinegar)
2 tablespoons lemon juice or tamarind extract
3 tablespoons Blue agave syrup (amber)
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
Combine ingredients. Transfer to sauce pan and cook over low heat for five minutes. Gently stir for the entire time it cooks.
CHICKEN WITH THAI RED RICE
2, 7 ounce chicken breasts
1/4th teaspoon ground white pepper
1/3rd teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/3rd cup flour or tapioca starch
1 ounce corn oil
½ ounce olive oil
Season, flour and sauté the chicken on medium high heat for 3 minutes per side. Turn twice. Finish in 400 degree oven for 16 minutes. Set aside.
Cook Thai red rice the same way you would cook any brown rice. Red rice contains the same nutrients with a more intense flavor. It has become my favorite rice over the past few months. Just use a little salt, a star anise pod and two bay leaves when you cook this rice.
BLACKBERRY PEACH TAMARIND
You will need to buy tamarind extract at any Asian or Latin grocer. A little goes a long way. The flavor is classic British occupation Worcestershire with the best of Georgia peaches and blackberries. In the winter it is fine to use frozen fruit. I cannot recommend canned. This is good on any foods where you would use Worcestershire.
5 tablespoons tamarind extract
4 ounces blackberries
2 ounces peaches
2 cloves garlic
1/4th cup onion, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fine black pepper
1/4th teaspoon ground allspice
1/4th teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1/3rd cup soda water
1/3rd cup brown rice vinegar
Combine. Cook on stove to boil for three minutes. Puree in food processor. Strain. Set aside. This will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. If you want a different flavor you can substitute Dr. Pepper or Coke for the liquids.
We are using extra firm tofu. To prepare tofu for cooking remove from water pack and drain. Place on plate between paper towels and gently press to remove all water from the tofu. Put in small container. Pour one cup of green salsa (salsa verde) over the tofu. Refrigerate over night.
Remove and cook either on the grill or in an iron skillet with raised grates for stove top grilling. Cook 2 minutes per side, turn twice, and finish in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
This is good with any greens or as a classic entrée with steamed vegetables and Red Mule grits.
Knowing these two sauces is a way of welcoming the world into your Southern kitchen. My peace be with you, spread the love and open your hearths to the fires and spices of the lands outside.
Mustard seeds and you to feed
With chicken tops and tofu bottoms
Hold the ketchup toss the bottle
I’ve things to say and yous to do
With a side of this and glop like a hat
We’ll find fine trees of tamarind
Set a corn oil boil in black iron vat
Battered birds, foody words, I’m not a nerd,
Soy blocks raging and fashion designer
Everything is finer with condiment beside her
Let loose the hounds of chow town
Pluck sweet cucumbers put the bottle down
Will you eat pickles on a train in the plain?
Will you fill a bowl of tickles on a moving car
That’s here before you’ve gone too far?
Powders and chowders and marshmallow stars?
So tell the man behind a bad plan
That tradition is one thing but stale is another.