In the US, mustard is usually restricted to use on sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers, or as an ingredient in potato salad and barbecue sauce, but it has a long and varied history in European cookery that reaches far back into ancient times.
This recipe for Honey Mustard & Beer Braised Chicken is inspired, at least in part, by two very traditional, but very different dishes of European heritage; Carbonnade à la Flamande and Lapin à la Moutarde.
Carbonnade à la Flamande is a traditional Belgian sweet-sour beef and onion stew made with beer and seasoned with thyme, bay and mustard. Carbonnade à la Flamande is usually made with a hearty Belgian or brown ale, but we’ve used a medium-bodied ale instead which won’t overwhelm the dish and which also pairs very nicely with the tang of mustard.
Lapin à la moutarde, or rabbit with mustard, is a French Provencal country classic with many variations; every cook has their own take on it. Most recipes include white wine, but since we’re using a beer-based mustard, it seemed appropriate to use beer instead. Many Americans are uneasy at the thought of eating rabbit, so we’ve transposed this dish into a more familar key by using chicken legs & thighs. (If you are one of those who does enjoy eating rabbit, simply substitute rabbit for the chicken in this recipe.)
Mustard facts & history
Mustard has been a much-loved addition to the table for thousands of years. It was during the Roman era that the French first created mustard in the form which we have come to know so well.
Mustard was so important in medieval Europe that wealthy households employed a mustardarius or “master mustard maker,” who was in charge of carefully selecting mustard seeds and correctly preparing mustard. In those days, mustard was THE condiment of choice and was used as frequently as ketchup is today.
The color of mustard
Mustard seeds range in color from pale yellow to dark brown. The blindingly yellow stuff that shows up at barbecues, on hot dogs, sandwiches and other popular venues gets its vivid color from turmeric, not mustard seed.
In cooking, a little mustard goes a long way. Many dishes are improved by a pinch of dry mustard or a dash of Dijon, but, when used judiciously, they don’t taste overly mustardy. For example, a classic vinaigrette is made with a little mustard, adding both flavor and helping to emulsify the mixture. A spike of powdered mustard adds a bright note to cheese sauce or rarebit.
When whole mustard seeds are ground, pungent compounds are activated, which quickly dissipate. Ancient mustard-makers discovered that mustard’s tang could be preserved by adding an acidic liquid, such as unfermented grape juice, or “must,” giving mustard its name. Many mustards are still made in the same way, although, these days, vinegar is more commonly used.
All mustards will lose their potency over time, however, so keep them in a cool part of the pantry or, better yet, in the refrigerator.
Honey Mustard & Beer Braised Chicken
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 lb chicken thighs and drumsticks, separated, excess fat removed
- Flour for dredging, about 1/2 cup
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup medium-bodied ale or lager beer
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 cup Honey Mustard
- 1 Tbsp chopped thyme leaves
- Additional thyme sprigs for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof saucepan big enough to hold all the chicken pieces.
Dredge the chicken in the flour and season generously with salt and pepper.
Brown the chicken in the hot pan, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. Do not crowd the pan; cook the chicken in batches if necessary. As the chicken is browned, transfer it to a plate and set aside.
Pour off all of the oil except about a tablespoon, but don’t wipe out the pan! Those little brown bits add a lot of flavor and will help thicken the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3-5 minutes. Add the beer, stock, mustard, and thyme. Raise the heat and bring to a boil.
Return the browned chicken to the pan with any accumulated juices, cover tightly with a lid, and slide into the preheated oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken to a warm serving platter. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half and thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with reserved thyme sprigs.
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