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A recipe appreciated by the ‘mustardarius’ and bee alike

May 30, 2009
By ALEC RADER Staff Writer

It's called a rut. A recent Johnsonville braut commercial called it flavor amnesia. Whatever you call it, eating the same boring foods, every night, over and over will cause it. One of the simplest ways is to take a familiar dish or entree and change it ever so slightly. Sometimes the best dishes are created out of despair for something new.

The traditional pork chops and mashed potatoes is one dish that has a habit of becoming mundane. Marinade is always an option when dealing with pork or chicken. This too can become tedious. Changing up the method of cooking can shake things up. Instead of pan frying, try baking, or, if the weather is nice, grill some thick cut chops to juicy perfection.

When I hit a flavor wall with pork chops my family and I delved into the half-dozen cookbooks in our possesion. As we were drowning in recipes, my sister showed one to our mother for Honey-mustard Pork Chops. Being desperate for a change, we took a chance. What we ended up with was something delicious.

The Recipe

The one pan dish will yield four chops. In the original book, cheesy-garlic mashed potatoes were suggested as the side dish, but simple buttery ones will do just fine. A rich sauce will be soaked up by the chops and potatoes infusing everything with the honey-mustard and white wine flavor.

My family had never really done much cooking with wine and, as far as my own cooking goes, this is one of two dishs that calls for any kind of booze. I'm not a big fan of the taste of most wines, but this dish renders almost all of the wine taste out. The end result is more honey and mustard than it is wine.

Once cooked, the dish makes good leftovers. If there are any leftovers. The wine suggested in the recipe is a dry, white wine. I most always use white zinfandel, which is a pinkish wine as opposed to a traditional white. The zinfandel also has a sweeter flavor that works well with the honey.

The History

While the history of the pork chop is extremely long and drawn out, such as the entries on beef, chicken and bread. I don't want to bore readers with pages of information on the origins of the pig as we know it. Entries in the "Oxford Companion to Food" (OCF) for mustard and honey are much more succinct and interesting.

Honey has been around for centuries, with the earliest recording coming from circa 5,500 BCE Egypt. Like many things in ancient history, honey was used as a trade item similar to currency. According to the OCF, accountants in the court of Seti I set the value of 110 pots of honey equal to that of "an ass or an ox."

The production of honey is a complex chemical process. Honey bees make all honey and two of the main ingredients for its production is pollen, collected by the bees from flowers that can be "several hundred yards from the hive," and bee saliva. Studies, conducted by people who are apparently very interested in bees, show that "as each bee returns (to the hive) it performs a wriggling 'dance' at the entrance of the hive. ... the enthusiasm with which the bee wriggles, shows how good a source of nectar the plant (from which he brought the nectar) is."

Mustard also had monetary importance however this time in Europe. Unlike most spices used in Europe throughout the medieval period, mustard grew locally. To the feudal lords, this was very important. Mustard production and procurement became so imperative in the workings of government, often European courts hired a person whos job it was to over see mustard growth, cultivation and preparation. These lucky few were called a "mustardarius."

Surprisingly or not, the first largest center for mustard production was near the French region of Dijon. Within the 14th century, French mustard makers perfected the art of turning the relative of the cabbage into the brown, yellow topping we eat today.



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