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.
Good Eating tasters sampled a variety of mustards in the Dusseldorf style. Four were made in the United States, the fifth in Germany.
Look for most of these mustards in your area supermarkets or gourmet grocers. All but the White Castle mustard are available via the online store (store.mustardmuseum.com) of the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wis. Prices below are from the museum’s website. The White Castle Dusseldorf mustard is sold in the chain’s restaurants, but only in certain regions, including the Midwest; telephone a local franchise first to check availability.
The mustards are ranked in order, from most favored (1) to the least (5):
Koops’ Dusseldorf: This very smooth, khaki-colored mustard had a nice vinegary bite and a spicy, almost meaty, mouth feel. Made by Olds Products Co. of Pleasant Prairie, Wis. $3.75 (12 ounces)
Lakeside’s Hot German Dusseldorf mustard: Grainy, dark yellow in appearance, this mustard had a strong vinegar flavor. Distributed by Lakeside Foods of St. Francis, Wis. $4.75 (8 ounces)
White Castle Dusseldorf mustard: Made for the Columbus, Ohio-based fast-food chain’s Midwestern outlets and available there as a retail item, this mustard has a ruddy brownish color, perhaps from the turmeric and caramel color listed among the ingredients. Strong flavor and scent of cloves. $2.49 (10 ounces)
Beaver Dusseldorf mustard: Made by Beaverton Foods of Beaverton, Ore., this mustard had a vegetal, herbal aroma and a pronounced celery flavor. Medium-coarse grind, bright yellow color. $3 (4 ounces)
Alstertor Dusseldorf Style mustard: Made in Hamburg, Germany, this mustard is packaged in a distinctive glass container shaped like a beer stein. A vivid yellow, the mustard has a sharp vinegar aroma and flavor. $6.25 (8.45 ounces)
Prepared mustards range widely in texture, color and flavor because mustard-makers have long sought to put their own unique spin on the product.
Producers choose the mustard seed — white, brown, black — and determine how finely the seeds will be ground or crushed. For some, the choice is governed by personal taste or commercial appeal. For others, the seed is determined as a matter of law.
To make the prepared mustards, the ground seeds are mixed with a liquid — water, white wine, beer, vinegar, whatever — to form a paste. Distinctive flavors are developed by stirring in various other ingredients, which might include spices, herbs, pureed vegetables or even crystallized fruit.
What we choose in the mustard aisle can range from the very mild yellow American mustard squirted on countless charred hot dogs at backyard barbecues to the sinus-clearing blast of an English mustard freshly made from mustard powder and cold water.
Home cooks curious to make their own mustard can find a number of recipes in “The Mustard Book,” by Rosamond Man and Robin Weir.
BLACK FOREST BEEF ROULADES
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 55 minutes
Note: Chef Walter Staib of Philadelphia’s City Tavern uses Dusseldorf mustard in this dish but called for Dijon mustard in his 2006 book, “Black Forest Cuisine,” because Dijon was more widely available. You may sub with a commercially prepared brown sauce or demi-glace instead of making your own.
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 white onion, sliced
6 slices lean beef top round, 8 to 10 inches long, 3 to 4 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons Dusseldorf mustard
1 large bunch fresh curly-leaf parsley, stemmed, chopped, plus whole sprigs for garnish
1 pound bacon, sliced into strips about 2 inches long and 1/8 inch wide
6 dill pickle spears
2 cups red wine
3 cups demi-glace or prepared brown sauce
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the onion; cook until softened and translucent. Remove from the heat to cool.
2. Line up the beef slices on a work surface, laying them flat; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread 1 generous teaspoon mustard on each slice; sprinkle evenly with sauteed onion, parsley and bacon. Place a pickle spear on the edge of each strip. Roll the beef slices tightly; tie with kitchen twine or pierce with toothpicks to hold the rolls in place.
3. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. (The skillet should be just large enough to hold all the roulades snugly.) Season the roulades with salt and pepper to taste; arrange in the skillet. Brown well on all sides. Add the wine to deglaze, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet; lower heat and simmer until the skillet is nearly dry.
4. Pour in the demi-glace or brown sauce; cover. Place in oven; roast until the meat is fully cooked but still tender, about 30 minutes. (Check the roulades after about 15 minutes and be careful not to overcook them or they will fall apart.)
5. To serve, remove the twine or toothpicks; arrange roulades on a platter or on individual plates. Garnish with parsley.
Per serving: 585 calories, 33 g fat, 14 g saturated fat, 160 mg cholesterol, 16 g carbohydrates, 53 g protein, 1,260 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.