Welcome back to Hey Chef, a series where we ask pros around the country for tips on how to use ingredients we love. Today: savory jams.
Last time we brought you tips from the pros on ways to make the most of the jam lingering in your refrigerator. But what about making quick savory jams from scratch, or folding store-bought jams into bigger condiment flavor bombs? Here are some more ideas from chefs around the country for everything from homemade duck sauce to easy mostardas—secret weapons that add complexity to your cooking in just a little time.
Make Quick Savory Jams
Matt McCallister is the chef and owner of FT33 in Dallas, with "seasonal, inspired, modern cuisine." His restaurant was included in Bon Appetit's 2013 Top 50 Restaurants list, Food & Wine's 2014 Best New Chef nods, and a spot on the finalists list for the James Beard award for Best New Chef Southwest.
I'll use savory jams as a way to bring a sweet/spicy/acidic component to dishes; a single onion or garlic jam might throughout our menu. We have one that's essentially an heirloom garlic jam: We make a gastrique with around two cups of white balsamic vinegar and one cup of sugar, reducing it down to a syrup until it's about one quarter of a cup. Then we roast two medium heads of garlic at around 400 degrees until they're nice and roasted but not overdone. We squeeze out the cloves and whisk them into the gastrique to make a paste.
Then we tediously clean six more heads of heirloom garlic, dice them small, sauté them a bit, and fold them into the paste. You get the caramelized profile from the roasted garlic, the fresh garlic, and the acidic/sweet bite from the vinegar and sugar. You can throw in fresh herbs if you want, and you'll have a great condiment to accompany rich savory dishes.
DIY 'Duck Sauce'
Quealy Watson is the executive chef and partner of Hot Joy in San Antonio, which Bon Appetit claimed for a spot on their Hot 10 list of 2014. There he marries common ingredients and dishes—Fritos and fried rice—with full-flavored touches from Sichuan, Mongolia, and beyond.
Eat egg rolls at any Americanized Chinese restaurant and they're served with bright orange duck sauce straight from a packet. We try to mimic that with different fruits, making a sauce with jam instead of using a flavored syrup. Take any tropical fruit jam like pineapple or jackfruit, then thicken it with cornstarch, a little MSG, and salt, and that usually gets you to where you need to be for a sweet sauce to dip egg rolls in.
Blueberry Nuoc Cham
Stephanie Izard is a Top Chef winner and owner of Girl & The Goat and Little Goat Diner in Chicago, where most dishes get kissed by the wood grill.
One of our favorite finishing sauces is a blueberry version of nuoc cham, the dipping sauce you sometimes get with spring or summer rolls. Take blueberry jam (or blackberry, but nothing too sweet like strawberry) and whisk in a little fish sauce, malt vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, and lemon juice. To finish a piece of fish, take a filet out of the pan, then throw a little butter and nuoc cham together in the pan for a blueberry nuoc cham butter sauce.
McGuyver a Mostarda
Chef Jonathan Benno worked in high positions at such esteemed restaurants as Daniel, Craft, The French Laundry and Per Se before opening Lincoln Ristorante in the heart of New York's Lincoln Center, where his Italian cuisine is familiar and comforting, yet highly refined and inventive.
We make a loose interpretation of mostardas a lot, cooking down fruits or vegetables with water until they're chunky and then adding a little bit of pectin, horseradish, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and Calabrian chilies. We've used that basic technique with fresh green tomatoes, dried apricots, cherries, and pears. To pair with salumi, we might add dark raisins, a bit of balsamic vinegar or vancoto (it's made in the style of balsamic vinegar where you cook down grape musks but it's not fermented, so if you close your eyes it tastes like a light balsamic with that light caramelized flavor), and bitter chocolate, which is a nice complement to salumi.
You can do any by taste. Let's say you have some apples and you don't know what to do with them. Put them in a covered pot and cook until they start to break down, then take off the lid and cook out the liquid until you're left with a coarse applesauce. Then add almost equal parts Dijon mustard, horseradish, olive oil and Calabrian chili paste, puréeing them together with an immersion blender and adjusting to your taste, adding more chili for an aggressive balance or cutting back for subtlety.
Mostardas are particularly great with cheese, but also with grilled meats, especially pork. You mix just enough water with mustard powder to make it a paste, then fold it into jam or jelly, adding a few mustard seeds for crunchy bites of texture. This time of year we're using a lot of citrus, so we get really good blood oranges and a lot of kumquats, cooking them quickly down with sugar before making them into an easy mostarda. Dates are great, too; when you macerate dates in juice they get a jammy consistency naturally. Adding shallots and fresh thyme are good for herb jams and mostardas as well.