Updated September 2010.
Truth, or fiction?
Isabella Martinque, on the way to her first day of work at the National Mustard Museum, came within a foot – more like six inches to be precise – of killing a handsome young man in the prime of his youth.
Luckily for both Isabella and the young man, the right front bumper of her 1993 Toyota Tercel caught only the tattered brown leather suitcase he was carrying in his left hand, propelling it onto the shoulder where it opened and spilled out its contents. Socks, underwear, jeans, a few shirts, and several books were strewn along the side of Highway 78 about a quarter mile outside the village of Mount Horeb.
Isabella had been preoccupied with her new job as chef-in-residence at the Mustard Museum. Her brain was racing, conjuring up new and unique recipes for the golden condiment. Mustard creme brulee. Eggplant a la Dijon. Fig and mustard coulis...
Truth: There really is a National Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Open to the public since 1992, the collection has grown to more than 4,700 prepared mustards from all 50 states and 60 countries, plus oodles of mustard-abilia.
Fiction: Seeds of Passion, from which the paragraphs above are excerpted, is this year's Mustard Museum writing contest. Download Chapter One, craft a dynamite Chapter Two and synopsis for the rest of the novel, and you might win $5,000.
If you do win, you'll be able to stock your pantry with as much mustard as you could ever want (and maybe some bread and a cold beer to wash it down!). No pantry needs as much as Barry Levenson has collected for the museum, but every pantry should have should have a few prepared mustards at the ready.
The mustard plant is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, related to cabbage and horseradish. The dark green leaves are cooked, like collards. To make prepared mustard, the seeds (brown, black, white, yellow) are soaked in water, which activates the enzyme myrosinase. When the desired heat level is achieved, the activation is stopped with an acidic liquid, usually wine (for stronger mustards) or vinegar (milder). The level of enzyme action combined with the particular acidic fixative used gives each mustard its characteristic flavor.
Mustard fixed with an acid can be stored at room temperature, which is how it tastes best, for 2-3 months. To prolong their lifespan, I always keep opened jars of mustard in the refrigerator.
Prepared mustards, though used primarily as a condiment, are quite versatile, and though many recipes call for Dijon, you can substitute any mustards in your pantry. From a basic salad dressing, to a marinade, to barbecue sauce, mustard has a place in almost everything except ice cream -- or am I wrong about that?!
When our granddaughter Sabina came to visit recently, she brought a cookbook to share with me. Gadgetology, by Pam Abrams, is perfect for kids 4-10 years old and their adult sous chefs. The recipe for deviled eggs is designed to teach children how to use a pastry bag; the lesson for the rest of us is that almost any prepared mustard can form the flavor basis for deviled eggs. If you don't have a pastry bag, fill a ziploc bag with the egg yolk mixture, then snip one corner to create a makeshift piping bag. I've updated the egg cooking method; feel free to create your own combination of flavorings (curry? pistachio? chipotle?). Makes 8 deviled eggs; can -- and should-- be doubled or tripled or quadrupled.
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp prepared mustard of your choice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Paprika or smoked paprika, for garnish (optional)
In a medium saucepan, place the eggs, and cover with water by one inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let sit for 12 minutes. Then, drain the hot water, rinse the eggs under cold water, and shell the eggs. Set on a plate and place in the refrigerator for an hour or more.
Cut eggs in half lengthwise; gently remove the yolks and place them in a food processor or small bowl. (Tip: if the egg white halves are rolling around on your plate, slice a tiny bit off the outside of the bottoms, to make them sit up straight.) Add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt and parsley, if desired, to the yolks and process or mash together until smooth. Using a spatula, place the yolk mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a plain or fancy tip. Pipe the filling into the egg-white halves, swirling upward as you go.
Sprinkle eggs with paprika, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Other recipes that use prepared mustards:
Mustard, lemon and coriander grilled chicken breasts with lemon-basil vinaigrette, from Kalyn's Kitchen
South Carolina mustard bbq sauce, from Simply Recipes
Onion tart with mustard and fennel, from Smitten Kitchen
Boxty with mustard-chutney sauce, from Stephencooks
Lamb chops with Dijon mustard and thyme, from Blue Kitchen
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