I wonder if the entrée is a bit like a family's first child. Lots of attention. Lots of photos. Lots of fuss. Conversely, the condiments of a meal are more like the third or fourth children. They're loved and cherished, of course, but they don't get the same kind of special notice.
It was close to 100°F today, so there was no cooking in our dinner plans. We ate a big dinner-sized salad made up of farmer's market lettuce, cherry tomatoes, diced rotisserie chicken and pepperoncini slices dressed in a zippy mustard vinaigrette.
It was wonderful... alive with flavor. But the tastes we enjoyed were dependent on the freshness of the lettuce, the juiciness of the rotisserie chicken, the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes and most of all, the bold, lively flavor of the mustard vinaigrette, a delight made possible by J's close proximity to The Pickle Guys and Guss' Pickles.
Pickles & Mustard Crocks at L'Express in Montreal.
Long ago, households made their own mustard as a matter of course. It varied from home to home. It had personality. The mustards of yesteryear developed and matured in flavor as they sat in pottery crocks on the shelves of larders.
But today's mustards are shelf-stable and consistent. They're the same from day 1 to day 321. They're clones. Every bottle of French's is like every other.
Though these United States are awash in dead yellow packets and squeeze bottles of uninspired mass-market mustard, there are still delis and pickle guys and grandmas making their own, god bless 'em. Spicy homemade mustard. Mustard with vigor. Mustard with cojones.
I think summertime is a fine time to have some of the real stuff. It's a time of bratwurst and hamburgers, potato salads and barbecue sauces and picnic sandwiches.
If you happen to live too far from one of the keepers of the ancient yellow flame, you can make mustard yourself without much trouble at all. You can even be generous about it. Divide your batch in half and pack a bottle as a gift. Throw your own custom label on it. Go crazy.
DIY Spicy Horseradish Mustard (Makes 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup wine vinegar (red or white)
1/8 cup brown mustard seeds
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1. Combine the vinegar, mustard seeds, dry mustard, garlic, horseradish, sugar and salt with 1/4 cup of water in a jar with a lid.
2. Cap the jar and shake well.
3. Refrigerate for two days.
4. Puree mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the jar and use immediately or store, chilled. Your mustard will mature and improve over a few weeks' time.
Quick Mustard Vinaigrette (Makes about 1/2 cup)
I find this mustard is particularly tasty with meaty salads and salads that include a cheddar cheese.
1 Tbsp DIY mustard
2 Tbsp wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch sugar (optional)
1. Mix the mustard, water and vinegar.
2. Whisk in the vegetable oil until smooth
3. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, to taste.