By Sean Moon
Dating to a period when ancient Romans mixed unfermented grape juice (known as “must”) with ground mustard seeds, mustard has grown to become one of the most popular condiments or seasonings in the world today.
Often paired with meats and cheeses, it is also ubiquitous as a topping for such modern North American fare as hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches and is increasingly used in marinades, sauces, dressings, glazes and soups in a variety of cultures around the world, from the Indian subcontinent to the upscale eateries of Paris and New York.
Stands the test of time
As a time-tested flavour enhancer and seasoning ingredient, mustard generally consists of whole, ground or cracked mustard seeds blended with water, vinegar, salt and other spices and flavourings to create a paste ranging in colour from bright yellow to dark brown. With so many variations and styles, including the ever-popular Dijon, it’s no wonder today chefs are experimenting with mustard to develop exciting new recipes and cater to consumers’ increasing desire for healthy, natural ingredients with an ethnic flair.
“As Canadians become more in tune with gourmet food trends and healthy options from the condiment carousel, Dijon mustard has started to gain its place of pride in restaurants and households,” says Harry Lalousis, Headmaster Sommelier at La Maison Maille. “Unlike condiments and sauces that drown out and smother the flavour of the foods they are paired with, Dijon mustard enhances flavours by tenfold, on top of offering incredible cooking properties that chefs have been exploring with its properties to create signature dishes.”
Jon Stewart, Key Account Manager, Foodservice and Graham Hayes, Corporate Chef, The French’s Food Company, say that a common trend they now see is chefs turning to mustard as an ingredient, not just a condiment.
“We are seeing more and more menu items with mustard in the description, such as a sous-vide pork chop with a maple mustard glaze. The fact that most mustards are made with natural ingredients is an attraction to chefs.”
Jeremy Kessler, owner and “chief mustardologist” of Kozlik’s Canadian Mustard, agrees, adding that there is a clear trend of mustard meeting consumers’ demands for natural, wholesome ingredients. “There is continued acceptance that ingredients matter,” says Kessler.
While addressing many of the popular consumer trends for new flavours, healthy ingredients and ethnic variety, mustard is also inspiring menu and recipe innovation with Canadian chefs. La Maison Maille’s Harry Lalousis says that for health-minded chefs who don’t want to compromise on quality and flavour, Dijon can be used to create innovative dishes and pairings.
“Dijon is much thicker than standard mustards, and acts as an emulsifier that replaces the need for butter or cream in sauces, spreads and dips. It is also a powerful binding agent and flavour enhancer, and has even been making an appearance in cocktail recipes to harmonize ingredients and cut the acidity of drinks.”
Stewart and Hayes of French’s say that creative chefs can capitalize on mustard’s natural ingredients by coming up with innovative uses, such as ethnic or fusion variations.
“At the recent Taste of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, there was a chef doing a taco with three types of chicken and a crunchy Brussels sprout slaw with a tangy mustard dressing,” says Hayes. “Mustard with tacos — who thinks of that? But, the taste was incredible!”
Kessler joins the chorus touting mustard’s way of spurring creativity, adding: “The so-called little things make a difference. While mustard is one of the healthiest ingredients out there, most chefs are more interested in the results they provide, such as taste and texture.”
As a result of the abundant flavourful properties found in mustard, many manufacturers and suppliers are discovering increased opportunities to develop new products or revamp old ones. French’s, for example, has continued to innovate with new twists like their Classic Yellow Mustard that now comes in a Sweet or Spicy format. “We have also introduced an Organic Yellow which offers great flavor,” says Stewart.
Revamping old favourites
Similar developments are happening at Kozlik’s, says Kessler. “We are slowly adding new flavours and updating old favourites. On the quality level, we are better than any imported mustard and we are local to the Toronto area. The main benefit for restaurant operators is that they can pick up the phone (or visit) and we will work with them. Because we are so local, our products are also fresher.”
Flavour and creativity aside, mustard also has a number of unique qualities that often go unnoticed by the general public, from an impressive health-halo to honouring a commitment to locally grown and manufactured ingredients.
“There’s a lot more to Dijon mustard than what is commonly known,” says Lalousis. “Dijon boasts a wide array of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, fibre, protein, magnesium, iron and calcium to name a few. It also helps with appetite stimulation and digestion, and is one of the only condiments allowed in most diets. It is the perfect replacement for sugary, fatty and caloric condiments.”
Local is king
Jon Stewart and Graham Hayes say that French’s recent success in promoting their locally produced ketchup lends itself well to their mustard production as well.
“We believe that local and good for you is now playing a much bigger part in our everyday lives. This is even coming true in the condiment aisle. We at French’s have seen this first hand with the development of our ketchup. We will continue to source as many Canadian ingredients as we can as part of the French’s promise, which is quality ingredients, great taste, and a commitment to our community.”
So for chefs looking to add punch to old-standby recipes, or for consumers on the hunt for bolder, healthier flavours, mustard fits the bill.
“People are much more adventurous today,” says Kessler. “They want new flavour experiences and are prepared to spoil themselves (in a small way), to get that.”
Maple Mustard Grilled Chicken Wings
Yield: 6 servings
|1/2 cup (125 mL)||real maple syrup|
|1/4 cup (60 mL)||FRENCH’S® Classic Yellow® Mustard|
|1 Tbsp. (15 mL)||soy sauce|
|1 dash||FRENCH’S® Worcestershire Sauce|
|5 lbs. (2.25 kg)||chicken wings, separated at the joint, tips removed|
|salt and pepper to taste|
LIGHTLY grease a grill with vegetable oil, then preheat to medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, French’s mustard, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Pour half of the sauce into a microwave safe bowl.
Season the wings with salt and pepper. Place the wings on the grill in a single layer. Cook for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.
Using the small bowl of sauce, brush the wings with half of the sauce. Grill for 10 more minutes, then flip and brush with the remaining sauce. Continue to grill for another 5 minutes, or until the wings are cooked through.
Meanwhile, microwave the remaining sauce until slightly thickened, a minute or two. Alternately, pour the sauce into a small saucepan and cook, just until slightly thickened.
Once the wings are cooked, place in a large bowl. Pour the thickened sauce over the wings and toss to coat. Serve topped with the chives and with the dipping sauce.
Sean Moon is the managing editor of Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News.