Walk the mustard aisle of any store, and “D” will stand for Dijon, a testament, perhaps, to the popularity of all those Grey Poupon commercials. But “D” also means Dusseldorf, an oft-overlooked style that has multiple culinary uses beyond garnishing a hot dog.
“Dusseldorf has much better flavor than Dijon,” says chef Walter Staib of Philadelphia’s City Tavern restaurant. “But it doesn’t have the sex appeal of Dijon or the pedigree.”
“I cook with mustard all the time. The Dusseldorf has more flavor,” adds Staib, host of the public television series “A Taste of History.” Yet even this German-born chef was forced to switch to Dijon when writing his “Black Forest Cuisine” cookbook. Dijon was more widely available, and his editors insisted on it.
“There’s a boldness,” he says of Dusseldorf. “It’s better for cooking, for salads.”
Like Dijon, Dusseldorf has many culinary uses. Yet it is Dijon that gets much of the respect and supermarket shelf space these days. But that may change, at least on a governmental level.
Like Dijon in France, Dusseldorf is an actual place, a city on the Rhine River in western Germany. An application was recently filed with the European Commission to award an appellation-like protected geographical indication status to “Dusseldorfer mostert.” What that means, essentially, is a mustard labeled as Dusseldorf (or Dusseldorfer) has to be made there according to specific regulations, at least as far as sales in the European Union are concerned.
As defined in the application, Dusseldorf’s mustard “consists exclusively of ground brown and yellow mustard seeds, unfiltered spirit vinegar produced in Dusseldorf, the special lime and mineral rich water of Dusseldorf, salt, sugar and spices.” It has “a bright creamy consistency and a malt brown color” and contains “tiny pieces of husks (specks).” And the flavor? “Hot, malty, spicy,” which the application credits to the triple grinding of the mustard husks.
Judging by what’s on the shelves over here, U.S. mustard producers have differing ideas of what Dusseldorf mustard is.
“It may be a smooth brown mustard or more grainy or spicier,” says Barry M. Levenson, founder and curator of the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wis. “Your Dusseldorf and my Dusseldorf could be totally different.”
No wonder Olds Products Co., the Pleasant Prairie, Wis., maker of Koops’ Dusseldorf mustard, tries to help consumers with the descriptions: “a smooth German style mustard” and “America’s Brat Mustard.”
While the mustard is great on brats and hot dogs and sausages, don’t feel limited. Marlena Spieler, a California-born cookbook author now living in Waterlooville, England, reaches for Dusseldorf mustard when she wants to give a “subtly different flavor” to a dish.
“It’s always strong and not sweet, just the way I like it,” she says.
For Spieler, who thinks even the word “Dusseldorf” is cool, the mustard works with tuna, burgers, chicken salad and grilled cheeses of all types.
Dusseldorf can be darker in color than its Dijon counterpart, but Staib, for one, doesn’t believe that’s much of a problem, especially in a sauce that can be lightened with sour cream or another ingredient.
“Close your eyes,” he says, “and you would think it was a very strong Dijon mustard.”
LEEKS WITH A DUSSELDORF VINAIGRETTE
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Note: This recipe from Marlena Spieler was inspired by one in her book “Williams-Sonoma Paris: Authentic Recipes Celebrating the Foods of the World.” Spieler calls for precooked, packaged beets, but you can used leftover cooked beets or cook beets specifically for the dish.
12 small to medium leeks, cleaned, trimmed (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or mixture of half sherry vinegar and half white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dusseldorf mustard
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or dill
1 package (8 ounces) cooked beets, diced
1. Cut leeks into 3 to 4 pieces. Cook them in a steamer over simmering water until just tender, 7-10 minutes.
2. Combine the vinegar with the mustard in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil; season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Arrange leeks on individual plates or on one serving platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette, sprinkle with chives and tarragon. Chill until ready to serve; sprinkle with beets (their color will run if added too early).
Per serving: 254 calories, 17 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 24 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 448 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.
THE FLAVORS OF DUSSELDORF
Mustard comes in many varieties and flavors, and there can be, as a recent blind tasting proved, an equally wide range of tastes and colors even within a specific type of mustard.
Ditto for the wording on the labels, which can read “Dusseldorf,” “Dusseldorf style” or say nothing at all, even when the mustard is made in Dusseldorf. You may need to linger a bit in the condiments aisle and read labels to get some idea of what you’re buying.