Friday, June 06, 2008

Celebrate: Dijon Mustard

There are a few ingredients that are so magnificent that I think we should have national holidays commemorating them. Like the Fourth of July, when we celebrate our nation, certain ingredients deserve to be feted. And we should all get a day off on which to do it.

There actually is a National Mustard Day (the first Saturday in August), but I propose that we pick a day to be National Dijon Mustard Day. It deserves to be recognized by itself, not lumped in with all the other, less spectacular (although still good) mustards. Oh how I adore Dijon mustard. But not just any Dijon mustard; it has to be Grey Poupon. I’ve tried other Dijon mustards and they come up short. Grey Poupon has just the right balance of spice, garlic, and vinegar.

Of course Dijon mustard is excellent on sandwiches, but it’s also a fabulous ingredient. I use it in homemade mayonnaise. It lends a slight tang that I would be hard put to achieve on my own. If I added garlic to the egg, lemon juice, oil, etc to give it that piquancy, it would be overpowering;. In Dijon that flavor is already incorporated into the mustard, so it’s tempered.

I don’t think I’ve ever even made a vinaigrette dressing that didn’t use Dijon mustard. My mother taught me to make vinaigrette, and she always used it. She didn’t measure, she just plopped some mustard in the bowl, added a couple of dashes of white wine vinegar, some salt and pepper, and then whisked in olive oil until it was the right consistency. The first time I read about true vinaigrette, I remember thinking, “This must be a typo—there’s no Dijon mustard in it!”

I also can’t get over the combination of mushrooms, cream, thyme and Dijon. This sauce is my idea of ambrosia. I think if I make one more mushroom-mustard cream sauce with thyme to go with steak on Saturday nights, I may find myself in divorce court. Not that Alex doesn’t like it, but apparently he doesn’t share my insatiable craving for it.

I read about some mushroom custards in a book I have (Slim Forever the French Way or something like that; it had recipes that looked good, so I bought it, sucker that I am). The original recipe looked pretty good, but it was just mushrooms, cream and eggs. I felt like that would produce a somewhat bland result, and that it would need some pep. Since it was cream and mushrooms, my natural inclination was to pop in some Dijon mustard.

These custards are silky and creamy, kind of like the world’s nicest, most sophisticated baby food. That’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, if you will, but they just slip down with the slightest chew on the mushrooms—earthy yet soothing. They would make a good side dish in place of a starch with a steak. You’d have to skip the mushroom-mustard cream sauce, of course, but you’d get it in another form. Shhh, maybe that’s what I’ll do to Alex this weekend in place of the mushroom-mustard cream sauce.

While these are nobody’s idea of healthy (except maybe the guy who wrote Slim Forever the French Way), they would be a lovely thing to serve to guests on a special occasion. They can be made with any variety of mushroom, although of course the more flavorful the mushroom, the better the custards will be. With a salad, they can even be a meal in themselves, suitable for vegetarians.

Mushroom Custards
adapted from Slim Forever the French Way by Michel Montignac
makes 6 servings

1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil, butter or a combination of both
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.

Heat butter (if using) and/or olive oil in a medium skillet until butter melts and/or oil is hot. Add mushrooms and onions and sauté until mushrooms have cooked down and are somewhat dry, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir through fresh thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, mustard and cream. Add mushrooms and stir to combine.

Ladle into 6 – 6 ounce ramekins that have been buttered or sprayed with cooking spray, and place in a large roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with warm water to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake 30-40 minutes or until custards are set. Tops will brown slightly, and centers should be well set. Serve warm.

These actually reheat quite well, even in a microwave.


Tim said...

I've been getting into the wonders of dijon mustard lately. I love how it can perk up an otherwise bland or heavy dish without stealing the spotlight. I bet this would make a great quiche filling!

TD said...


I think you're right--after all, it's really nothing more than "crustless quiche" even though they were called custards in the book...but they're quite good even without the crust.


Sophie said...

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