Kitchen Call: Autumn is mustard season
About an hour north of Paris, the roads thread endlessly through fields sprouting yellow flowers, a whimsical sight in springtime. Only after spotting a sign reading “Meaux” does a driver realize that mustard is growing here. And only after the seeds are harvested and blended with vinegar or wine and other flavorful ingredients and sealed into jars does a consumer realize that autumn is mustard’s real season in the sun.
Modern producers have injected the tangy condiment with a firestorm of creativity, boosting the flavor with honey or dried herbs and spices like black or green peppercorns, thyme or dill, or herbes de Provence, an herbal mixture highlighted with lavender. A few teaspoons or tablespoons of that golden magic added to a main ingredient echoes and brightens the colors and flavors of fall, like pork and game birds or newly harvested fruits and vegetables, like apples or potatoes.
A cook with a few pork chops on hand can set them to brown in an ovenproof skillet until the exterior caramelizes. Then take them out and set aside. Swirl some white wine or chicken stock into the pan, bring it to a boil and simmer, scraping up the browned bits that cling to the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon. And then the magic: Add a tablespoon or two of mustard. Put the pork chops back in the skillet and the whole thing into a moderate oven, about 300 degrees Fahrenheit until they are cooked through and tender. The mustard brings an extra piquancy to the sauce in the bottom of the skillet when spooned over the meat. Treat chicken pieces or salmon to the same mustard-spiked sauce.
Potatoes sauteed in butter, then spiked with a little mustard and wine in the skillet, make a nice side dish for grilled or broiled meats or fish. Blanket a casserole with mustard-spiked bread crumbs. Create interest in chicken fingers or plain fish with a lively mustard and dill sauce. Whisk up a mustard-and-maple-syrup-infused dressing for a New England autumn salad after a trip to the orchard, a contemporary combination in this season rife with baked goods.
Mustard Bread Crumbs
Sprinkle this over casseroles to give them extra spark, especially macaroni and cheese. Or over plain steamed green vegetables — broccoli, asparagus, green beans, Brussels sprouts. Makes slightly more than 1 cup.
Ingredients: 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon-style mustard 1 cup coarse bread crumbs
1. Melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat. Whisk in both mustards. Add the bread crumbs, tossing to coat with the mustard butter in the skillet. 2. Cook the mixture, stirring, for 10 minutes, and watching the pan carefully, until the crumbs turn lightly golden.
This doubles easily to use as a dip for chicken fingers or a sauce for broiled fish. Even baked potatoes benefit from a little drizzle.
Ingredients 2-1/2 tablespoons grainy mustard 2-1/2 tablespoons smooth honey mustard 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 1 tablespoon honey 1/2 cup canola oil 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Whisk together both mustards, vinegar and honey in a small bowl. Gradually add the canola oil in a thin, steady stream, constantly whisking. Stir in the dill. Refrigerate until ready to use.
New England Apple Salad with Mustard-Maple Dressing
Celebrate New England’s autumn reds and golds and greens and russets using local ingredients — apples, maple syrup, walnuts — in their own salad. Use real maple syrup, not overly sugary pancake syrup. Do not stray too far from the pan when toasting walnuts. Makes 10 servings.
Ingredients: 1/2 cup olive oil 1 tablespoon real maple syrup 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 3 red-skinned apples 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 4 cups mixed baby lettuces 1/2 cup chopped red onion 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Whisk together oil, maple syrup, mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper. Set aside.
2. Toast walnuts in a skillet over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant and just a shade darker, 5 to 6 minutes; set aside.
3. Core apples; do not peel. Slice or cube; toss well. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss gently to combine. Add the walnuts, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at lindabcooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.