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Get saucy

(article, Matthew Card)

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For the most part, I like my meat simply prepared, and think that a perfectly cooked roast, grilled chicken, or fish fillet needs little to bring out its best besides a fitting condiment. A little bite of something sweet-and-sour, spicy hot, or pungent can provide just the right accent to maximize the meat’s flavor. 

[%image marmalade float='left' width='200' caption='Onion and Citrus Marmalade' credit="Photo: Culinate"]

Three of my favorite condiments are onion marmalade, mostarda, and horseradish cream. Each sauce is easy to prepare, keeps well, and is versatile enough to pair with a variety of dishes.

While most onion marmalades or jams are dark, sweet affairs best paired with rich beef, gamy lamb, or triple-cream cheese, I prefer a lighter rendition laced with citrus that matches the more delicate flavor of seafood, shellfish, and poultry. I blend orange and lemon zest with onion and simmer the mixture in citrusy sauvignon blanc wine with bay leaves, thyme, and a little sugar. Finishing the “marmalade” with a little butter blends the flavors well and makes the texture silky-smooth and lush.

[%image mostarda float='right' width='200' caption='Pear Mostarda' credit="Photo: Culinate"]

Mostarda is an Italian fruit-based condiment composed of fruit poached in a mustard-flavored sugar syrup. Part sweet, part savory, this medieval concoction is slightly odd at first bite, but highly addictive after the second and third tastes. While mostarda can be made with virtually any fruit, I favor an autumnal blend of fresh pears and dried apricots and cherries, because it pairs well with both pork and turkey and suits any number of rich cheeses.

[%image horseradish float='left' width='200' caption='Horseradish Cream' credit="Photo: Culinate"]

Traditional recipes flavor the syrup with mustard oil, but, unfortunately, mustard oil is now considered questionably potable by the USDA and can be tricky to find outside of Indian specialty stores. I found that the flavor of the oil can be mimicked with a combination of prepared Dijon mustard, whole mustard seeds, and a pinch of cayenne. A splash of vegetable oil lends luster and tempers the otherwise assertive flavors. Mostarda is the sort of thing that stores well and actually improves in flavor after a few days, so try to make it far in advance.


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Horseradish cream is a classic sauce for roast beef or steaks. Most traditional recipes simply mix horseradish with sour cream or crème fraîche and call it a day. I much prefer a more complex rendition blending the horseradish — freshly grated for the fullest flavor — with garlic and thyme in sour cream tempered with heavy cream. Left in the refrigerator for a few hours, the sauce’s flavors meld into one another and the once-harsh horseradish mellows.

p(bio). Matthew Card is a contributing editor to Cook’s Illustrated and writes a monthly column for the Oregonian.

*Also on Culinate: Tips for pickling.

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