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Colonel Mustard in the Kitchen

June 25, 1992|MICHAEL ROBERTS | Roberts is chef at Trumps. and

When I was growing up, nearly every refrigerator in America contained a jar of mustard. There was pretty much just one kind then--a bright-yellow, slightly vinegary, vaguely sweet, runny paste--and many people didn't know that any other varieties existed.

So I was surprised to read recently that, with the exception of pepper, Americans now consume more mustard than any other spice. Given the amazing variety on modern supermarket shelves, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. You find mustards with green peppercorns; mustards with herbs; mustards made with Champagne, beer or white wine; mustards sweetened with honey; smooth mustards and grainy mustards.

While most people are now familiar with a variety of mustards, many cooks remain unfamiliar with its many uses. After all, the gooey yellow stuff wasn't good for much more than spreading on a hot dog bun.

Because of its pungent flavor, mustard contrasts well with sweet, sour and salty flavors. Two good examples are mustard and honey to glaze a pork roast and mustard and lemon in a sauce for fish. The reason that mustard is the preferred accompaniment to hot dogs, ham, salami, bologna, corned beef and pastrami is because it cuts the saltiness of preserved meats.

Mustard can also help emulsify cold sauces. A little prepared mustard in a vinaigrette brings the vinegar and oil together. Add a little to the egg yolks when making mayonnaise and you'll have an easier time of it. If your mayonnaise does break, slowly drizzle the broken mess of oil and egg into a tablespoon of mustard thinned with a few drops of water, and the mayonnaise will come back. Mustard thickens, so always add mustard before reducing a liquid to make a hot sauce.

Mustard is the seed of two members of the cabbage family--one with black seeds, the other pale yellow. When the seeds are crushed and liquid is added, volatile oils that give mustard its pungency are released. Since these oils react the moment the liquid is added, freshly prepared mustard is stronger than old mustard. In fact, the quality of a prepared mustard depends on its freshness.

Preparing your own mustard is simple, and it allows you to flavor the mustard to your own taste. The simplest variety can be made by mixing mustard powder with liquid until a paste is formed; just add two to three tablespoons of water, vinegar, white wine, flat beer or Champagne to one-quarter cup dry mustard. It will be pretty hot, like the mustard served in Chinese restaurants. Cooking mellows the hotness of mustard, although the following recipe for Champagne or White Wine Mustard is both sweet and spicy.

Since this mustard is bound with eggs, it must be refrigerated. For a less sweet flavor, decrease the sugar or eliminate it completely. And feel free to experiment by adding herbs or spices to the mixture after it has cooked.

CHAMPAGNE OR WHITE WINE MUSTARD

1/2 cup dry mustard

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup flat Champagne or dry white wine

Combine mustard, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Break in eggs, then slowly stir in Champagne.

Place mixture in top of double boiler set over simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Pour mustard into sterilized jars. Cover and chill thoroughly before using. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

A good, all-purpose dressing for salads, cooked vegetables, cold meats and smoked fish.

MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

2/3 cup olive oil

Combine vinegar, mustard, garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper in bowl. Slowly stir in olive oil until absorbed. Makes about 1 cup.

This sauce is lovely when paired with almost any kind of grilled, sauteed or poached fish.

MUSTARD SAUCE FOR FISH

1 cup bottled clam juice or chicken broth

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons butter

Combine clam juice, shallots and mustard in small saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to boil and cook until liquid reduces by about 1/3 and begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter. Serve immediately or keep warm in water bath. Makes about 1 cup, or enough sauce for 4 portions of fish.

PORK ROAST GLAZED WITH MAPLE SYRUP AND MUSTARD

1 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup grainy mustard

1 1/2 cups fresh or canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast, rolled and tied

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 teaspoons ground coriander

Mix together maple syrup and mustard in medium bowl. Stir in broth and set aside.

Place roast in large glass or ceramic bowl. Pour maple-syrup marinade over top and sprinkle with salt, pepper and coriander. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days, turning once.

Remove pork from marinade and place pork on rack in roasting pan. Reserve marinade. Roast pork at 450 degrees 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and baste roast with remaining marinade. If basting liquid begins to burn on bottom of pan, add some water to pan. Continue to baste with marinade every 15 minutes until roast is cooked to medium, and meat thermometer registers 160 degrees, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Remove pork from pan and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile pour remaining marinade into pan and stir to dissolve baked-on drippings. Pour mixture into small saucepan. Set over medium heat and cook until liquid thickens and becomes sauce-like. Pour mixture into sauce boat.

To serve, slice pork into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange on platter. Serve sauce separately. Accompany with mustard. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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