If you are anything like me — and I am guessing you are a bit if you are reading a food blog — you probably have a sizable collection of specialty condiments, jams, chutneys, tapenades, mustards, salsas and various other jarred items in your pantry.
If you are remotely interested in food, these invariably end up in lovely baskets sent at the holidays or in a gift bag generously proffered by a grateful guest. These are often specialty items of high quality and price, but can be obscure or unique enough that using them is not always intuitive.
I pulled a small assortment out of my cabinet for the purposes of this article and considered how to use them. I hate to waste food, and I especially hate to waste something that was given with affection at a friend’s expense and inconvenience: Someone bought that jar of chutney at Harrod’s, and carried it home from London just for me!
I was determined to find uses for these jarred specialties, and came up with a few, which I share.
A general rule of thumb is to stick within a flavor profile such as savory with savory, sweet with sweet. There are some exceptions where jam works with the main dish — lingonberry sauce on venison, mint jelly with lamb, apricot preserves in a chicken marinade or sauce — but by and large, it’s best to avoid things like raspberry jam with hamburgers. Creativity is encouraged, but there are limits.
The other guideline to follow is the “KISS” (keep it simple, sweetie.) The honey-horseradish-mustard should be the center of attention; slather it on a turkey sandwich or mix it into tuna salad, don’t throw in nine other strongly flavored competing ingredients.
I was contemplating a jar of tomato ginger sultana chutney that my kind and thoughtful neighbor brought me back from New Zealand when inspiration struck. The slight sweetness and tang of the chutney seemed like it would complement salmon and, lo and behold, it did.
This recipe could easily adapt to any condiment or sauce that you like — honey mustard, mango salsa, olive tapenade, pepper jelly. And, you could probably make it work with chicken or other hearty fish. I would not suggest these strong-flavored ingredients with mild delicate fish like flounder or sole, but halibut, mackerel, sable, tuna, bluefish, bass, cod or grouper would work well.
Here’s what I did:
- 2 salmon filets
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Sprinkle of salt and pepper
- ⅓ cup chutney
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking dish with parchment if desired.
Spritz the salmon with lemon juice, and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.
Spoon the chutney on top of the salmon, spreading it over the fish in a thin layer.
Bake the fish for 20 minutes until done; the fish should be opaque throughout and should flake easily.
In addition, here are some other tasty ways to use these specialty items.
For chutneys and other savory jams like pepper jelly, mostarda or sweet/sour flavor profiles:
Serve on a charcuterie board — dried beef bresaola, smoked turkey and duck “prosciutto” are enhanced by these types of sweet/savory condiments.
Serve on a cheeseboard.
Make a simple and attractive appetizer: Take an 8-ounce block of cream cheese and spread the top thickly with the condiment of your choice. Serve with crackers.
Use it in marinades or salad dressings
Sweet condiments like jam, dulce de leche or chocolate sauce are equally adaptable. Use these delicacies as:
- Crepe filling
- To fill or top a cake
- To spread on toasted challah
- Make stuffed French toast
- Make “Tabula Rasa” (blank slate) cookies
- Make “Russian” tea — stir fruit jam into tea for a traditional Russian way to serve the beverage; I have fond memories of my beloved father-in-law enjoying his afternoon cup this way.
- Make “steamers” — hot milk infused with caramel, dulce de leche, chocolate sauce, gianduja, etc., can be warming, delicious desserts without a ton of guilt or a super-special Sunday morning indulgence, especially for kids.