Sunday, December 15, 2013

THE Mustard

I reserve the last posting of the year for one of my favorite recipes, and this year I'm pleased to share with you "Sweet 'n' Hot Mustard", which my mustard-loving friend declared to be THE MUSTARD.

I have to be honest with you -- I grew up hating mustard.  I am still not fond of the basic yellow mustard but someone got me to try a honey mustard (that made my sweet tooth happy) and then I discovered this recipe in a booklet called Gifts from Your Kitchen, published by the Current company.
The recipe is on page 7
It was published in 1982, so I guess that at 31 years old, I can call it "historical".  But no matter, this posting doesn't have to be historical as much as general foodie fun.  I've been making it for about 12 years.

It is absolutely fabulous with smoked salmon, or you can try dipping chunks of cheese into it, or put it on sandwiches, or use your imagination because I don't think you can go wrong with it.

Sweet 'n' Hot Mustard

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup dry mustard
3 eggs, well beaten
2/3 cup white vinegar

 In a medium (non-aluminum) saucepan, whisk together sugar and mustard until well blended.  Add eggs and vinegar, blending well.  Using a wooden spoon, cook over low heat, stirring until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Pour into a separate container to stop cooking.  Cool slightly, spoon into gift containers, cover and refrigerate up to one month.   Makes 1 7/8 cups.

Could this be any easier?  The hardest part is standing there stirring constantly until the mixture gets thick, and believe me, you don't want to walk away from it.  I don't think it has ever taken 10 minutes to get thick, though.

My advice:  Have your gift containers (or whatever you plan on storing it in) ready before you start cooking.  I usually put out more than I think will hold the recipe, just in case I need it.  I prefer glass to plastic since the mix goes in pretty warm.

I see the process as three steps to making a good, smooth mustard:  Whisking the mustard and sugar together helps to break up any clumps.  Stirring in the vinegar and eggs (still using the whisk) is another opportunity to break up clumps.  And finally, stirring with the wooden spoon gives you a final chance to smash any remaining bits with the back of the spoon against the side of the pan.

The dry mustard used here can be Coleman's Superfine Mustard or just mustard flour, which I get at a local store as a bulk item.  It is not as fine textured as Coleman's but still makes a good mustard.
Mixed and ready for cooking
When you first start stirring it, the mixture is very liquid.  The thickening starts at the bottom (this is why you must stir it constantly) and then suddenly you'll see the mix coating the sides of the pan and the spoon.  It feels thicker when stirring, too.
After cooking -- smooth and thick
The thing to know about this recipe is the longer you cook it, the less heat it has.  If you just want the mustard flavor without much bite, cook it a minute or two longer after it thickens.  But if you want to have your sinuses cleared out, get it off the stove as soon as it is thick all through.  I go a little longer than just thick and sometimes it is hot and sometimes it is not so hot. I like it both ways, which is saying a lot since I don't usually enjoy spicy food.

The Verdict
Success!  As the name tells you, it tastes both sweet and hot.  Mustard hot, not like a chili pepper, and the sweet is inspiring, not cloying.  Mustard with a kick and a sweet kiss.

If I didn't love this recipe, it wouldn't be on my favorites list.  I'm not a big mustard fan but I am a big fan of this mustard.  My mustard-loving friends think it is the best.  I once shared this with a professional chef who was curious about the recipe -- he made it for the company he worked for and it went over quite well.  He said people were excited to put it on their food.

Just remember that a little goes a long way.  I wouldn't slather it on because it can overwhelm whatever you are putting it with. 

I've used it as a spread but I've also put some in sauces (it is really good in a turkey gravy).  I've also mixed it with crushed fresh rosemary and spread it on the outside of a chicken before roasting it.  It smells heavenly while cooking and then the meat is flavored and slightly perfumed from the rosemary.  The fire of the mustard is gone but I think the sugar in it carmelizes just a little, which is a lovely touch.

It makes a great gift any time of the year but especially at the holidays when people are eating ham, roast beef, and turkey.  Just make sure the recipient knows to keep it in the refrigerator.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

And Yet More on the Ymbre Tart

I had the opportunity to bring something to a holiday gathering, so I decided to make the onion tarts as individual servings, in mini-phyllo cups.  For the original recipe, see

I bought the pre-made cups, 15 to a package and I used three packages.

The only difference in the recipe was that I used the food processor to chop the onions finely.   This is to make sure the batter spooned easily into the tiny phyllo cups.

I used finely-chopped prunes instead of currants since I liked them so much last time.

Fill the cups very full.  Even though the filling puffs during cooking, it settles once it cools.

I used all 45 cups and probably could have gone to about 50.  The left-over batter went into a glass custard dish and it baked along with the second batch of cups.

I baked each batch at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 - 25 minutes -- until the edges were brown and a little stick poked in the middle of the deepest one came out clean.

The Verdict
This worked great!  I tasted one and it was marvelous (as usual).

I am happy to take these to share with others.

Update:  The batch sat in the refrigerator overnight, which caused the tart shells to soften.  They didn't fall apart so it wasn't a problem, just a small worry.  People who ate them said the tarts were sweeter than they expected -- I think the word "onion" made them think "strongly flavored".  The overall opinion was that they were like a quiche.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Different Type of Pumpkin Pie

Also known as

Baked Whole Pumpkin

I got this from a cookbook that doesn't necessarily claim its recipes are historical, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, (by Jeff Smith; published 1987) but it does say "This dish was a favorite of George Washington."  I also found a web page that lists a similar recipe from Eastern Europe.

ISBN 0-688-06347-0
Instead of your usual pumpkin puree mixed with eggs, sugar, and spices and baked in a crust, this starts with a highly-spiced egg and cream custard and bakes it inside the pumpkin.

It's great for the gluten-intolerant among us and is an unusual way to serve a holiday dessert.

(Page 177)

1 pumpkin, 5 - 7 pounds
6 whole eggs
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 brown sugar (packed)
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons butter

Cut the lid off the pumpkin just as you would for a jack-o'-lantern.  Remove the seeds and save for toasting later.

Mix the remaining ingredients together with the exception of the butter.  Fill the pumpkin with this mixture and top with the butter.  Cover with the pumpkin lid and place in a baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the mixture has set like a custard.

The butter floats!
Serve from the pumpkin at the table, scraping some of the meat from the pumpkin with each serving.  

Fresh out of the oven.

Serves 8.

My Notes
Be sure to wash the outside of the pumpkin first.

When cutting the top off the pumpkin, I recommend aiming for a wide opening to make it easier to scoop out the custard later.

Before preheating the oven, check to see where the shelf needs to be set in order to fit the pumpkin in its pan.  You don't want it hitting the top of the oven.

I put all the custard ingredients into a bowl and beat it with a whisk.  I think next time I would beat the eggs first then add the other ingredients.

The butter should be cut into small pieces and dropped onto the top of the liquid custard, where they will float.

This is truly an easy recipe to put together.  The benefit is that you don't have to mess with a pie crust!

Baked custards are typically put into cups and baked in a pan with water around them -- this moderates the heat so the eggs don't scramble.  The pumpkin does this well since the walls are so thick.

It took my 7 pound pumpkin 2 1/4 hours to get the custard set.  When the custard looks set, push a table knife into the middle of the custard and lift it out.  If it comes out clean, the custard is done.

Plan ahead!  If you don't think the whole dessert will be eaten after baking, make sure you have enough room to store the leftovers in the refrigerator.  

The Verdict
It is not pretty to look at.  In fact, my dinner guest thought perhaps it wasn't going to taste good at all, because the custard is brownish and the spices tend to float to the top, looking somewhat muddy.  Scooping it out with the pumpkin looked a little strange, too.  But we gave it an honest try.  
This does look pretty weird.
The custard is actually very tasty and delicate in texture.  It was reminiscent of flan.  I know this to be accurate for a baked custard, which many in my culture haven't had (unless they like flan) and our taste buds are accustomed to those thicker, heavier instant puddings.  This almost feels like something is "missing" in the mouth-feel because it is so delicate.

This is not visually appealing, either.
Eating the custard alone was good; eating it with the pumpkin definitely added more to the flavor.  The pumpkin alone was bland. 

We both decided the flavor was better with a light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar over the top.  Based on that, I would put in more brown sugar in the original recipe.  The Eastern European recipes recommended 3/4 cup (versus this recipe's 1/2 cup) and only use less if you had a very sweet sugar pumpkin.  I think that would be much better. 

Finally, I would not put in two tablespoons of butter on top.  I think I would use one tablespoon at most because the top of the custard was just swimming in butter, which was not appealing.

After all of these comments, how would I judge it?  Success!  It was good, just different from what I am normally used to.  The delicate texture is definitely a plus.

If I did this again, I might alter the flavor a little by either putting in brandy flavoring, rum flavoring, or vanilla extract into the custard.  Or maybe sweetening it with maple syrup.  I would also try to get a sweet sugar pumpkin rather than the run-of-the-mill Halloween pumpkin.