If one were a bottle of mustard, one would be leading an awfully sad life in my kitchen.
Three or four jars of mustard are permanent tenants in our fridge; what a quiet family they are, sitting on the up-most shelf patiently, waiting to be noticed. Waiting. And waiting... No one ever sees them; they are invisible to the eye of the household. When they finally grab my attention, once in a blue moon, it is the hot dog they make me think of, the sausages, sauerkraut and Bollito Misto. Sometimes the three little jars evoke the memories of the last summer’s barbecue, they bring a smile to my face and for a brief moment the heat of the grill takes over the apartment, until the hand reaches for something else, and the summer is gone and it’s business as usual in our little kitchen.
Mustard is an unsung tragic hero of our little kitchen; despite being a miracle worker to the vinaigrettes we make, a secret little buddy to myriad of sauces and diligent helper in countless cooking experiments, sadly it never received an ounce of culinary attention on its own. And just as it looked positively certain that the three little jars are doomed forever to their solitary life, the good folks at Food52 came to the rescue. It’s Food52 and their weekly recipe contest that helped me rediscover mustard and gave the little jars a new life.
Food52’s contests are the invisible fuel to my week. You must be thinking that I am a pathetic little creature, and most likely I am, but let’s face it, life is not about epic developments, grand vacations and big moments – it is the tiny ones that count the most, it is the everyday pinches of excitement and inspiration that make us alive, vibrant and content. Like when you are stuck on a subway, and the thing is not moving, and you are squeezed with another hundred or so unfortunate souls breathing down your neck. The options are limited on a stalled subway -- you can breathe down their necks too and be jointly miserable, or you can plan your next dish, combine the ingredients in a virtual melting pot right there in the middle of that stalled car, experiment with flavors and be happy cooking until the thing finally moves. Ditto with the supermarket lines, boring meetings and traffic jams. Imagine waiting for a parent-teacher conference in a New York city public school, which perpetually runs 45 minutes behind schedule, and you are sitting on a mini-chair that barely fits a seven year old, let alone a five-foot-eight body, if you are lucky enough to sit at all, and the little ones are all over the hallways screaming and kicking and occasionally pinching you, and as much as you love the tiniest members of the mankind, this is your idea of Inferno and to reach Paradiso there is nothing else to do but turn that mental switch and cook.
And so the Food52’s “Your Best Recipe with Mustard” contest got me thinking. It looks like I had my share of subway rides and parent-teacher conferences last week because instead of one dish, I came up with three; three dishes with mustard for all the years of neglect, three dishes for three little jars, three dishes from three little halves to pay respect where respect is due.
Hot Dog with Fake Sauerkraut Relish
for the fake sauerkraut relish
* 300 g (10 oz) red onions, sliced thinly
* 300 g (10 oz) yellow onions, sliced thinly
* 75 ml (1/3 cup) aged balsamic vinegar
* 3 tbsp turbinado or demerara sugar
* 2 tsp yellow mustard
* 2 tsp whole grain mustard
* 2 tbsp vegetable oil
* salt and freshly ground white pepper
1. In a medium skillet combine the oil and onions. Place the skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 15 minutes. Add the sugar, mustard and a pinch of salt and mix to combine.
2. Add the vinegar. When the mixture is about to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 35 minutes, until the vinegar has reduced completely and the acidic fumes have evaporated. (Do not attempt to expedite cooking by increasing the heat, you want the mixture gently steaming, otherwise it will be too acidic. If needed, add a tiny bit of water from time to time to prevent onions from drying.)
3. Remove the relish from the heat, if needed adjust the salt, season with white pepper and let it cool at room temperature before serving.
for the hot dogs
* 6 whole wheat hot dog buns
* 6 hot dogs
* fake sauerkraut relish
* ketchup (optional)
1. Cook or grill your hot dog. (This one is up to you. I like mine grilled. My husband likes his cooked. Opposites attract.)
2. Open the buns on a work surface. Spoon the relish on the bottom half of the bun, top with the hot dog, sprinkle with ketchup. Close the bun carefully. Have fun.
Cider Glazed Five Hour Ribs
for the rub
* 1 tsp ground black pepper
* 2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
* 2 tsp ground allspice
for the ribs
* 2 lb pork spare ribs
* 2 cups apple cider
* 1/3 cup maple syrup
* 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, plus extra for serving
* 3 tbsp whiskey
* 1 tsp kosher salt
1. Prepare the rub. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients. Rub the ribs all over with the spice rub. Wrap the ribs in plastic wrap and put them into the fridge to rest overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
3. Combine cider, maple syrup, Dijon, salt and whiskey. Place the ribs in a Dutch oven or a casserole with a lid. Pour the cider mixture around the ribs in the casserole. Cover the ribs with foil or wet parchment paper. Cover the casserole with lid and roast until tender, about 4 hours.
4. Remove the ribs from the oven and preheat the broiler.
5. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and skim off all the fat. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced to thick syrup.
6. Arrange the ribs on a rack. Glaze the upper side of the ribs with the syrup, and place under the broiler for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the glaze starts to bubble. Reserve the remaining syrup for serving. Remove the ribs from the oven. Let them rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
p.s. You can bake the ribs one day ahead, and then finish under the broiler later.
Roasted Celeriac with Orchard Glaze
* 2 lb celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
* 5 oz applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice
* 1 cup apple cider
* 2 tbsp demerara or turbinado sugar
* 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
* 1 tbsp vegetable oil
* a pinch of nutmeg
* salt and freshly grated pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 380°F.
2. Toss the celeriac with oil, salt and pepper, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast the celeriac until soft and caramelized, for about 25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
4. Discard the fat from skillet and deglaze the pan with cider. Add the brown sugar and mustard to the cider, bring to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the cider reduces to about third of its original volume and turns into a thick syrup.
5. Remove the celeriac from the oven and toss it with the cider syrup. Return to the oven for another five minutes. Serve warm.