Here at la Domestique, I’m wrapping up the winter pantry, and I’ve got a major case of spring fever. We’ve enjoyed a few days of warm, sunny weather in Colorado, and I’m dreaming of early spring produce like asparagus, leeks, and salad greens. The extra hour of daylight that comes with springing forward is playing tricks on my mind, tempting me to box up the sweaters and dig through the closet for my cute sandals. We aren’t out of the woods yet, though, and I must remember that the official start of spring is still a couple of weeks away. During this transition, I’m not only adapting my wardrobe, but also my cooking. I crave green in the form of salads and gently steamed vegetables dressed in bright and tangy vinaigrettes. Roast chicken, pork, and fish take the place of heavy beef stews and hearty soups. I’m looking for fresh flavors to wake my palate from the hibernation of winter.
This week at la Domestique, I’m cooking with spicy prepared mustard, a condiment found in every pantry, across the globe. From the famous French Dijon to super hot Chinese and English mustard to milder versions in the United States, this spread varies in heat, color, and texture. Prepared mustard is made from mustard seeds, which can be white/yellow, brown, or black (the hottest). Depending on whether the seeds are crushed, the texture can be smooth or grainy. Reading Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference, I learned that soaking the mustard seeds in water activates the enzyme myrosinase, which begins a chemical process that releases the spicy flavor. Once the desired level of heat is reached, the enzyme is stopped. Mustard seeds can be combined with any of several liquids: vinegar, wine, beer, or water. The hottest mustard is made with water, but water contains nothing to stop the enzyme, so the mustard is very unstable and must be used immediately. A good example of this is English mustard, made by combining an extremely hot mixture of powdered yellow and black/brown mustard seeds with water. Other ingredients commonly found in prepared mustard include the spice turmeric (which contributes to the yellow color), fresh herbs (like tarragon or dill), and sugar. According to Herbs & Spices, it’s really best to store prepared mustard at room temperature even after opening, where it will keep for a couple of months. I’ve written about mustard from seed to the plant (which we eat as mustard greens) here at la Domestique, and you can take a look at mustard week from last spring here. Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday, and I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with prepared mustard during late winter and early spring. This pungent, spicy condiment adds zip to vinaigrettes, brings out the sweet notes in ham and salmon, and contributes depth of flavor to sauces. It’s one of my favorite pantry staples, and I’m looking forward to sharing some easy and unique ways to cook with prepared mustard throughout the week at la Domestique.