Small sandwiches, hot dogs, corndogs and pretzels. What do these items all have in common? Not only are they simple bar food, they all pair incredibly well with mustard. When it comes to this iconic spread, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more knowledgeable than Johnson & Wales University associate professor Chef Carl Stybe.
All it took to start Chef Carl on the path with playing with mustard was biting into an icon: the Chicago hot dog. As anyone who has ever had an authentic Chicago dog knows, there is no ketchup allowed on this Windy City staple. Chef Carl noticed that the mustard really set off the other ingredients. Mustard made an impression again in New York, where the chef tried a pretzel with, you guessed it, mustard.
Mustard has been cultivated around the globe by all sorts of cultures for thousands of years. “The French,” says Chef Carl, “have turned mustard into an art form.” With all the types of mustard seeds out there and the ridiculous amounts of ingredients that can be combined to create insanely good spreads, the possibilities for experimentation are limitless. Two fun ingredients to use when making mustard spreads are honey to add a sweet component and lambic beer for the beer and fruit flavors. Stout, of course, goes with just about iteration of mustard one can dream up. Mustard goes great with hot elements, so consider an ingredient like wasabi mayonnaise. If you want heat that will deliver an eye-opening taste experience, try the assertive Chinese mustard seed mixed with more traditional mustard seeds. And then there’s truffle oil.
“Truffle oil is a love-hate,” Chef Carl says, “I love it.”
When creating your spread, a fantastic way to capture the attention of your guests and set apart your bar food menu, consider the palate. Whenever a student or chef asks Chef Carl what a spread their working on is missing, he refuses to answer the question directly. Instead, he asks them what they’re tasting and where they see the spread going. If you manage to come up with a recipe that pops all over the palate, you’ve hit a homerun.
One final thought regarding playing with mustard: use only glass or stainless steel vessels. Mustard is reactive and eats through aluminum.