When the word "condiments" pops up in conversation, thoughts immediately turn to ketchup packets and bright yellow mustard. Condiments, however, mean so much more than something to squirt on a burger. With the potential to transform a dish from mundane into magnificent, contemporary condiments are essential for the home chef. 1. Dijon Mustard: Deeper, richer, and definitely more powerful than average American mustards, Dijon combines brown or black mustard seeds with an acid-usually vinegar or juice left over from pressing wine grapes. In 1856, Jean Naigeon invented this iconic condiment, using unripe grape juice instead of vinegar. Substitute this mustard wherever the yellow variety crops up-on hot dogs or in a salad dressing. Check out this recipe for portobello mushrooms with white bean Dijon.
2. Sriracha: An innocuous bottle emblazoned with a rooster and topped with a green cap contains a super-powered chili sauce known as Sriracha. Huy Fong Foods produces the condiment, which is named after a town in Thailand. The sauce has an intense, firey afterburn that lends a sweet heat to beef, stews, and dips.
3. Japanese Mayo: Think outside the Hellman's jar. Japanese mayo, particularly the Kewpie brand, possesses a unique vinegary tang. Lighter than American-style mayonnaise, the Japanese variety brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables. Try combining it with Sriracha for a spectacular sandwich spread. You can also try homemade mayo for a simple but impressive condiment. Careful though, this won't last more than a day or two in the fridge.
4. Honey: Usually thought of as a sweetener, not a condiment, honey is an essential addition to the pantry. Drizzled over biscuits or smeared on chicken before roasting, honey contributes depth of flavor where sugar just adds sweetness. Look for honey made from particular kinds of flowers-buy a few different types and taste-test them against each other to determine your favorite. Try making Red Rooster's cornbread and using that special honey as a topping.
5. Barbecue Sauce: Barbecue sauce isn't just for roasted meats. Added to a sandwich or a salad dressing, this condiment is smoky, sweet, salty, and tangy all at once. Truly American, barbecue sauce transforms any protein into a luxurious feast. Whether you're from Memphis or Kansas City, barbecue sauce is a key component in everyday cooking. Buy it at the supermarket or try your hand at an original batch. If you're interested in regional barbecue styles, read this guide.
Condiments don't need to be dreary. An entire world exists beyond conventional ketchup, mustard, and mayo-a cosmopolitan selection of condiments that make a humble lunch an event to anticipate all day. Learn more about the mustard revolution in particular here.