Mustard is both a fruit and a vegetable in my house. Specifically, I try to eat at least the Recommended Daily Servings, which, as I recall, is nine (that can be tough during breakfast). Lest you think that mustard is boring, take a look at the incredible variety available, even in a typical market. And move on to an upscale grocery or specialty store, and the choices become overwhelming. But even good old brown deli mustard is pretty good, especially on a Katz’s Deli hot pastrami on rye. However, I draw the line at yellow mustard, which is adulterated with turmeric for that horrid color. If I am stuck I will use it on a hot dog, but that’s about it.
The king of mustard seems to be Dijon, if not for its taste, which is excellent, then for its versatility. I will happily use it on sausages and sandwiches, but wouldn’t dream of using anything else in my vinaigrette. It seems to help emulsify the dressing without dominating it with that characteristic mustard bite. I have tried other mustards and they don’t work quite as well, but I have no idea why. Hopefully one of my many chemistry PhD readers will answer this burning question.
What I find fascinating about mustard is that it goes nicely with a huge variety of foods. We all know the usual suspects, but there are some truly odd mustard pairings that are just great. Boiled shrimp comes to mind, and of course corned beef. But not sliced on a sandwich. I mean corned beef and cabbage.
My current dry rub has a fair amount of mustard powder, and that’s pretty common in many parts of barbecue country. What I just figured out was why it tasted better when I allowed the rub to soak in overnight. Dry mustard is activated by water, and the colder the water, the hotter the resulting paste. So that 12 hour rest in the refrigerator does more than let the rub soak into the meat. I like my barbecue dry, so sauce is nowhere to be found on my barbecue, unless I am making pulled pork according to a recipe that I happily stole from a friend (hi Mike!). The sauce, which is mixed into the pulled pork, and then used again as a condiment, has a huge amount of brown mustard. Good stuff, and great for parties, because the only time-consuming part is pulling the pork — and that is hugely entertaining — especially when you’ve had a few.