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Published: Tuesday, 5/7/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Mustard: the condiment that complements everything

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Grilled swordfish with mustard. Grilled swordfish with mustard.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Not too long ago, salsa became the best-selling condiment in America. Second place goes to ketchup.

But you can keep your red. I’m all about the yellow.

Mellow, yet fiery. Smooth, yet piquant. Mustard is the condiment of contrasts. It is an essential element of, say, an elegant loin of cod with herb butter, but it is also perfectly at home squiggled on top of a hot dog.

It’s the condiment that goes with everything — meat, fish, vegetables, soft pretzels. And you can even eat the plant leaves.

Mustard comes in practically every flavor you can imagine: black currant, herbes de Provence, brie, even green Szechuan peppercorn and sherry vinegar. But the kind we are going to focus on today is one of the most common and popular types, Dijon.

Dijon mustard is extremely smooth and almost creamy. It hash a bit more bite than you find in the bright yellow mustard used at ballparks, but less heat than many of the other, more rustic mustards. It is always made using white wine and it usually has to be cooked cooked to create it, which is not the case with many other mustards.

It is also more versatile than most. Other mustards have straightforward uses; yellow mustard goes with a knish or a pastrami sandwich, grainy mustard is superb with German sausages. Dijon is great with these and more, but it can be used as an ingredient in cooking, too. It adds a rich undertone of warmth to a cream sauce, or a pungent depth to grilled meats.

But don’t go overboard. Dijon mustard has such a forthright, dominating taste, it can blast away other ingredients in a dish unless it is used with discretion. Just a soupçon of Poupon, as it were.

That was a lesson I learned early, when I first began cooking with mustard. In my younger days, I would just smear Dijon mustard — maybe mixed with a little olive oil — on chicken and then sprinkle on some herbs before roasting it. The result wasn’t bad at all, but the mustard definitely stood out. In the years since then, I have learned to have a gentler hand with the Dijon.

Which is why I was so intrigued by a recipe I encountered for rosemary Dijon pork loin. Here, in written form, was my old, made-up recipe for mustard-smeared chicken, with a porcine substitution. But with only two tablespoons of Dijon for a four-pound pork loin (I used a tablespoon and a half for a three-pound loin), I knew the mustard would not be overpowering.

Chicken made with mustard. Chicken made with mustard.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

It wasn’t. The mustard blended with chopped rosemary to act almost as aromatics, flavoring the meat from the outside in. Yet there was also just enough mustard to keep the meat tender and moist.

For a more ambitious dish, I whipped up some chicken breasts with brandied mustard cream sauce from a recipe in the never-disappointing The Frog/Commissary Cookbook. I was immediately attracted to the sauce, which includes brandy, Dijon mustard, cream, and a healthy dose of vermouth. The dish was fabulous, but to be perfectly frank anything made with that sauce would be fabulous. You could put it on air conditioning coils and they would taste great.

The recipe calls for the boneless, skinless chicken breasts to be sautéed in clarified butter, which only adds that much more flavor to the dish. It can be a pain to make your own clarified butter, so I usually just use bottled ghee, which is the same thing. But the cookbook includes a sidebar recipe for a ridiculously easy way to clarify butter. It takes a little time to make, but you can spend nearly all of that doing other things, and it is a lot cheaper than ghee.

If you want that great sauce but you don’t want the extra calories from the butter, the dish would work just as well on chicken that had been grilled, baked or even steamed. Or try the sauce on veal or fish.

Next up was an inspired pairing of grilled swordfish with a sauce of Dijon mustard, shallots, and chives. Swordfish is notable for its fresh sweetness, and the sharp flavors of the mustard, shallots, and chives made an intriguing contrast. But the true genius of this sauce is the inclusion of briny clam juice, which effectively married the earthbound taste of the sauce to the sea-like flavor of the fish.

I went back to chicken, dark meat this time, for a variation on one of my favorite, go-to meals. I make sautéed chicken about a million different ways but with always the same basic formula. I brown the meat on both sides, add liquid (wine, stock, or water) and herbs, cover the pan, and braise it until it is done. As I sometimes do, I added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard to the liquid (white wine in this case, to complement the white wine in the mustard).

Once the meat was fully cooked, I added honey to the sauce. I first tried it with a little honey, just one teaspoon, and then a lot, one tablespoon. Admittedly, I am not as fond of the honey-mustard combination as many other people, so I preferred the single teaspoon; rather than making the dish noticeably sweet, it just added a hint of mystery. If you’d prefer the sweet warmth of honey-mustard, by all means go ahead with the tablespoon.

And if you are unfamiliar with mustard greens, certainly give them a try. They are sort of like spinach, or perhaps Swiss chard, but with more of a peppery bite. I like to cook them simply, in a splash of hot olive oil and garlic, with plenty of salt. A squirt of lemon juice helps to brighten the flavor at the end, and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts always helps.

It’s just the thing to cut the richness of, well, a good, hearty mustard sauce.

Contact Daniel Neman at: dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.


RECIPES

Chicken à la Dauphin

6 chicken thighs or 3 leg quarters, with skin

Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons oil

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¾ cup dry white wine

2 sprigs thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon honey

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown chicken on both sides, beginning with the skin side. While the chicken browns, whisk together the mustard and the wine.

Using tongs, remove chicken to a platter and pour off oil and grease in the pan. Add wine-mixture mix to hot skillet, return chicken pieces, and add thyme. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook until chicken is done, about 30 minutes. Remove sprigs of thyme, return chicken to a clean platter, stir honey into jus until it dissolves, and serve chicken with the jus.

Yield: 3-6 servings


Chicken Breasts with Brandied Mustard Cream Sauce

4 boneless chicken breast halves, skinned

½ cup flour seasoned with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

¼ cup clarified butter (recipe follows)

2 teaspoons minced shallots

½ cup dry vermouth

2 tablespoons brandy

5 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 200°. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Heat the butter in a skillet. Add the chicken and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and sauté 3-5 minutes more or until just done. Remove from the skillet and keep warm in the oven.

Discard any butter left in the pan. Add the shallots, vermouth, and brandy to the pan; turn the heat to high and reduce the liquid to 3 tablespoons while stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Whisk in the mustard. Add the salt, pepper, and cream and cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is the consistency of a light gravy. Transfer the chicken from the oven to dinner plates, mask with the sauce, dust with parsley, and serve at once.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: The Frog/Commissary Cookbook, by Steven Poses, Anne Clark, and Becky Roller


Easy Clarified Butter

1-2 sticks butter, or more

Heat oven to 200°. Place butter in a stainless steel bowl, and put in oven for 1 hour. Skim off the crust on top. Put the bowl in the refrigerator. When the butter has resolidified, turn it out of the bowl. Scrape off and discard the white layer of milk solids (this is what burns during frying). Wrap and refrigerate the yellow layer of clarified butter until needed. One pound of butter yields about 14 ounces of clarified butter.

Source: The Frog/Commissary Cookbook, by Steven Poses, Anne Clark, and Becky Roller


Rosemary Dijon Pork Loin

1 (4-pound) boneless pork loin

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°.

Evenly rub the entire pork loin with the Dijon mustard followed by the onion, salt, pepper, and garlic. Make sure to really rub in the spices, and then sprinkle the rosemary evenly all over the top.

Place the pork in roasting pan lined with a rack, and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 300°, and continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickets part reads 145°, about 1 hour more. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and arrange on a platter garnished with rosemary sprigs.

Yield: 8 servings

Source: Food Network, via George Stella


Grilled Swordfish with Mustard

5 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons clam juice

½ cup minced shallots

½ cup chopped fresh chives

½ teaspoon white pepper

6 (7-ounce) swordfish fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil for brushing

Preheat grill as hot as possible.

Mix mustard, olive oil, clam juice, shallots, chives, and pepper in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and reserve.

Season fish all over with salt and pepper. Grill about 3 minutes per side, brushing with olive oil after turning. Transfer onto serving plates, spoon sauce onto plates, place grilled fish on sauce, and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: City Cuisine, by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken


Italian Mustard Greens

1 bunch mustard greens

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 wedge lemon

1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted, optional

Rinse and dry mustard greens. Remove thick stems and tear leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Put oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add torn mustard greens, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until greens are just wilted and tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, squeeze lemon over greens, and add optional pine nuts.

Serve immediately.

Yield: About 4 servings



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