The Ingredient You Should Add To Everything, According To Jeff Mauro - Exclusive

Ever since the release of "The Bear" on Hulu, so many people have come to know and love the wonder that is Italian beef. The signature Chicago sandwich dates back a century, and it finds home in the hearts of so many natives. That includes Food Network chef Jeff Mauro, who is more than thrilled that this not-so-humble sandwich is finally having its moment.

But for Mauro, it's not just about the meat. The classic Italian beef sandwich is made with thinly sliced, slow-roasted beef piled onto a french roll and topped off with crunchy, spicy, and tart giardiniera. And that right there is truly what sets this sandwich apart, if you ask Mauro, who says he's "been trying to spread the gospel of this humble pepper for years."

What exactly is giardiniera? It's basically a relish made with vegetables pickled in oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices. While it's a classic condiment on sandwiches and more in Chicago, there's a lot more potential to this crunchy concoction. If you haven't tried it yet, Mauro says you're missing out. "I've never met anybody who doesn't like the eating experience when you taste giardiniera on anything from eggs to pizza to sandwiches to Italian beefs to salads. It's amazing."

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Mauro opened up about the magic of his favorite hometown condiment, including the myriad of ways that it can be used to elevate so much more than sub sandwiches.

Giardiniera is the easy snack hack you didn't know you needed

While the bright, pickled flavor of giardiniera was made to complement the rich, savory flavors you'll find packed into a meaty sandwich, that's not the only place this condiment can shine. It's also great for lighter snacks and even as a breakfast staple. For some inspiration, Jeff Mauro shared his wife's giardiniera hack with Tasting Table. 

"She does a little nice toast ... almost like a smear with cream cheese — a little bit of everything seasoning on multi-grain bread, a smear of that whipped cream cheese, and then you top it with our Honey G, which is our honey-kissed giardiniera. It's all you need." Mauro added that for his part, "I put it on my avocado toast all the time. It's delicious. It punches it up, gives you crunch ... It's bright and vinegary but also has that fermented funk."

Mauro says you should also be cooking with giardiniera

Giardiniera is most often thought of as a ready-made condiment perfect for piling onto whatever handheld delight you're about to devour. But according to Jeff Mauro, there's a whole lot more you can and should be doing with this relish.

"I love cooking with it because it is an oil base," he explained. If you want to try it at home, he said, "Start a mirepoix with the oil and the vegetables already in there, and if you want to add your onions, you can. But it already has the celery, the carrots, the cauliflower, the five kinds of peppers." From there, you can build an endless variety of flavorful dishes, from soups and stews to pastas, stir fry, and more.

Another fun idea? "I love starting a chili with it," shared Mauro, adding, "You don't need much more than that as a base for flavor. Then you add your spices. It's fun to play with."

If you're feeling even more adventurous, Mauro says he's even "deep-fried it before, dusted it in all-purpose flour and some corn starch or rice flour, seasoned it." The result is a crunchy and light "symphony of flavor and texture," which sounds like a must-try.

You can see Jeff Mauro, the whole cast of "The Kitchen," and so much more at the 2022 Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival presented by Capital One on October 13-16. Click here to learn more.