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Going for the gold

(ran SP edition)

There used to be just one kind of mustard in American refrigerators, but our tastes have changed. Now there's a mustard festival, an international mustard competition and a mustard museum with 3,433 varieties.

If you have a refrigerator, chances are at least two jars of mustard are tucked inside the door.

One is the old standby: ballpark yellow mustard for hot dogs and burgers. The other is the more sophisticated Dijon.

The biggest-selling Dijon-style mustard in America wouldn't even have a spot on the shelf if it hadn't first been plucked from the glove compartment of a Rolls-Royce in a television commercial that etched the pop culture tag line:

"Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"

The Grey Poupon commercial, which first aired in 1981, inspired Americans to make room for this simple, assertive mustard that originated in France. Nearly 20 years later, mustards of all flavors, textures and colors have become the "affordable luxury" that fit very well, thank you, with the average American lifestyle.

Many people now make room in the fridge for three or four mustards; maybe a sweet-hot and a honey mustard in addition to Dijon and yellow. Mustard flavors have become so diverse, cooking with mustard is an adventure. Of course, the right mustard with the right dipping pretzel always is a welcome party snack.

"Mustard is low in fat and low in calories; it's a perfect, affordable luxury," said Barry Levenson, founder of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum near Madison, Wis.

Levenson, who has 3,433 varieties of mustard from all over the world displayed in his museum, offers 500 types of mustard for sale, along with mustard memorabilia. Check out his Web site, http://www.mustardmuseum.com, or call (800) 438-6878 to receive a catalog.

If you opened the refrigerator door at Levenson's house, you'd find about 40 mustards competing for his attention.

"I love a good, sharp Dijon mustard and a good, dry sweet-hot with a bite," Levenson said.

What does he do with all that mustard?

Well, for starters, Levenson offered these suggested pairings:

+ Sweet-hot mustard with pretzels, fried chicken or glaze for chicken or pork.

+ Honey mustard for salad dressing.

+ Classic Dijon for salad dressing, sandwiches, mustard cream sauce and any kind of meat.

+ Coarse-grain mustard with cheddar cheese on a baked potato.

+ Classic hot mustard on a baked potato, brat or pretzel.

+ Fruit mustard, such as cranberry, on a turkey sandwich.

+ A spirits mustard, such as beer or wine mustard, for pretzel dipping or with deli meat.

+ Herb mustard in salad dressing or spread on fish.

Jeri Mesching first offered her old-fashioned, cooked Sweet and Tangy Mustard at a holiday festival in the 1980s. Based on customer demand, Mesching started a business in 1986, East Shore Specialty Foods.

Today, East Shore sells its mustards and other products at specialty food stores nationwide, said Mesching's daughter, Kristin Graves. The company's most popular mustard flavors are Key Lime With Ginger and the original Sweet and Tangy. East Shore also sells seasoned pretzels, popular for dipping in mustards. To order, call (800) 236-1069, or visit the Web site at http://www.eastshorefoods.com.

East Shore's Chipotle Jalapeno Mustard earned a bronze medal in the pepper hot mustards category of the 2000 World Wide Mustard Competition at the Napa Valley Mustard Festival last spring.

Wisconsin Wilderness Cranberry Mustard, made in Milwaukee, earned a gold medal in the fruit mustards category. Margaret Gunn, who owns Wisconsin Wilderness Food Products with her husband, Neil, said they think their cranberry mustard was the first on the market.

The company, which has been in business 12 years, also makes garlic balsamic mustard, honey mustard, a heavier, traditional Bavarian mustard, and their newest variety, ginger peach. "We try very hard to do very distinct mustards," Margaret Gunn said. Their products are available at food stores nationwide, or by calling (800) 359-3039.

Mustardmakers across the country have tapped into flavor trends by adding such ingredients as garlic, honey, key lime, pineapple, apricot and raspberry.

Overall mustard sales in the United States last year were $277-million, according to 1999 supermarket sales data compiled by Information Resources Inc. Yellow mustard still rules, holding 44.5 percent of the market, while Dijon has 18 percent, spicy brown has 13.5 percent and honey mustard 11.2 percent. Various other flavors hold the rest of the market.

Grey Poupon costs an average $2.82 per jar, more than twice the average jar of French's. Specialty mustards are available in a wide price range, generally costing $3 to $7 per jar.

Though Grey Poupon is credited with broadening American mustard horizons, Beaverton Foods owner Gene Biggi of Beaverton, Ore., first put American mustards on the map.

Thirty years ago, Biggi brought his honey mustards and horseradish to the International Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, only to be laughed at by distributors who considered foreign mustards far superior.

America made acceptable yellow mustard, distributors told him, but European mustardmakers owned the rest of the market.

In the mid '70s, James Beard wrote an article for Esquire magazine, choosing the top 28 mustards sold in America. Five of the top 15 mustards were from Biggi's Beaverton Foods.

After that, sales took off, and Biggi began duplicating European flavors, such as Bavarian and English hot, that he could sell more cheaply than European brands.

"Today I have 110 varieties of mustard; I think it's the world's record," Biggi said.

Mustard-Encrusted Salmon

cup Dijon mustard (Delouis Fils Dijon preferred)

1 cup bread crumbs

1 egg white

\ cup ({ stick) butter, room temperature

4 pieces (6 ounces each) raw salmon, cut about 1 inch thick

Salt and white pepper to taste

7 tablespoons olive oil (divided)

4 medium portobello mushroom caps

6 ounces small green beans cooked in boiling salted water

Caramelized shallot vinaigrette (see recipe)

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

In bowl, mix the mustard, bread crumbs, egg white and butter until smooth. Season both sides of salmon with salt and white pepper. In hot saute pan, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and saute each piece of salmon on one side for about 1 minute. Remove from pan and let cool. Coat seared surface of each piece of salmon with [-inch-thick layer of prepared mustard mixture.

In moderately hot saute pan, saute mushroom caps in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 4 minutes; keep warm. Place salmon, encrusted side down, in hot saute pan with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. After 30 seconds (when crust is lightly browned), flip salmon over and cook for 30 more seconds. Place salmon in 350-degree oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until desired doneness is reached. Place mushroom cap in middle of each plate and top with warm green beans. Place piece of salmon on top of green beans. Spoon some caramelized shallot vinaigrette around salmon and sprinkle with parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Carmelized Shallot Vinaigrette

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sliced peeled shallot (divided)

11 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

\ cup water

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1{ teaspoons salt

{ teaspoon white pepper

In saute pan, cook 1 cup of shallots in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat until lightly browned. Combine cooked shallots and remaining ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. It may be necessary to add more water if too thick. Makes about 1{ cups.

Peppered Steak With

Two Mustard Cream Sauce

Here's a recipe from http://www.mustardmuseum.com, the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum's Web site.

2 boneless strip steaks (about 10 ounces each)

2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon dry white wine or dry

vermouth

{ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon smooth Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Trim steaks and press cracked peppercorns into each side of steaks. (Steaks can rest, covered, up to four hours in refrigerator.) Heat saute pan and add oil. Sear steaks on both sides, then cook to desired degree. Remove steaks to warm platter. Pour off any excess oil or fat from saute pan. Over high heat, add wine or vermouth, scraping pan. Add heavy cream and boil vigorously, scraping pan continuously, until cream is reduced by about half, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cream should be thick enough to coat spoon. Remove from heat and stir in mustard. Spoon sauce over steaks. Makes 2 servings.

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