We are a household rich in mustard. I believe at some point in the last month there were five tubes of mustard in our cupboards along with two jars in the fridge. Hot, horseradish-spiked, tarragon-flavored or rustic, we've got 'em all. I used to think mustard was about as interesting as math class, until I wised (wizened? wose?) up and starting using mustard in my cooking, and now I can't imagine life without it.
Germany is a good place to live if you like mustard. Plain yellow mustard squirted on a Rostbratwurst is a classic; sweet Bavarian mustard dolloped next to a pair of Weisswürste is some people's idea of heaven. There are poached eggs in mustard sauce and mustard-roasted pork. And our neighbors to the south, the Austrians, have taken the art of mustard packaging and elevated it to an art form. You should hang out in the mustard aisle of an Austrian grocery store sometime. (And that Wiener Würstel mustard? Possibly worth the price of an airline ticket straight to Vienna. We practically ate it by the spoonful.)
I've mentioned before (a hundred times before?) that my pile of newspaper recipe clippings dates back to the early naughts. These days I bookmark the ones I want to try, but the binder of printed recipes is a thick one and well predates this blog. When I unpacked my book boxes back in winter, I shelved the binder and then, frankly, forgot about it. After all, my Bookmarks folder could keep us fed for, um, years. What reminded me was Molly visiting and telling me about Francis's pasta. I knew I had the recipe somewhere...but where? After rifling through the computer and a notebook on my bookshelf, I finally turned to the binder, that gloriously overstuffed binder. There it was. And, o ho, there was so much else.
This, for example, stunning little number from Regina Schrambling in the Los Angeles Times way back in 2002. It's Madeleine Kamman's recipe and is henceforth going to be my Last-Minute Dinner Party Secret Weapon because it is so delicious and so easy and uses so much mustard you will scarcely believe your own measuring spoon.
The original recipe is for duck legs, but I used chicken legs instead. And instead of herbes de Provence (which I sort of loathe because though they might be traditional, I find the mixture to be so over-used that it just tastes like dusty old cupboards to me), I used a mixture of minced fresh herbs from my balcony (a mix of thyme, marjoram, and sage). And instead of Dijon mustard, I used the rest of a truly fabulous tube of Austrian tarragon-scented mustard. It sort of killed me to finish it, I loved it that much, but sometimes dinner party guests must be deferred to over personal greed and that is when being the bigger person really is key.
So, after washing and drying your chicken legs and then rubbing them with chopped herbs and salt and pepper, you paint them lavishly with mustard. A full tablespoon per leg. Don't worry: it seems excessive right now but something happens in the oven heat where the mustard sort of dries up (in a nice way) and becomes part of the salty, savory crust and you might almost find yourself, at the dinner table, wanting to dip the chicken in more mustard as you go. Though maybe that's just me. Germany is in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, perhaps that explains my exuberance.
Panko crumbs were one of the weird things I discovered in my kitchen boxes after I started unpacking my things in Berlin, along with a half-used roll of aluminum foil and a few almost-empty jars of things like dried summer savory and mustard seed. I could have lived without the herbs and aluminum foil, but thank goodness I brought those panko crumbs. You need a handful of them to coat your mustard-swathed chicken legs and plain old breadcrumbs just wouldn't do here.
And that's basically it! A drizzle of melted butter over the top before you slide the pan into a hot oven and before you know it, you've got crisp, herby, mustard chicken legs to grace your table and convince your dining companions that you are a truly fabulous cook. Like I said, Secret Weapon.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more recipes to dig up for you. Oh! I'm totally re-inspired. It's going to be an exciting month.
Chicken Legs Roasted with Mustard
4 chicken legs (thighs included, about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons fresh, minced herbs, such as a mixture of sage, thyme and tarragon or marjoram
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard or tarragon mustard
1/3 cup panko
2 tablespoons melted butter
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Rinse the chicken legs and pat them dry. Rub them all over with the minced fresh herbs. Season well with salt and pepper. Brush the mustard over the skin side of each leg to coat thinly. Lay the legs in a shallow baking dish, leaving space between them. Sprinkle evenly with the panko or breadcrumbs and drizzle evenly with the melted butter.
3. Roast about an hour or until the meat is very tender and the coating is crisp.