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Apr 1, 2011 06:15 AM

APRIL COTM AMFT/Greenspan: Nibbles and hors d'oeuvres; soups; salads, starters, and small plates

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  1. GERARD'S MUSTARD TART - really, really good.

    I love mustard, so this was a must. I am NOT a baker, though, and have never mastered dough (no patience) so while I was tempted to buy dough, I tried the full recipe anyway.

    The dough was not too difficult but it takes a lot of time. Make it the day before, it sits in the fridge overnight, you roll it the next day, put it in the tart pan AND then (which I missed) it has to chill again before pre-baking. Well, even without the hour chill before prebaking it came out pretty good. I don't think I rolled it thin enough, will do so next time. Short version: if I can do this, and the crust come out pretty good, anyone can.

    The filling was terrific. I ended up making four small tarts rather than one large tart and it worked perfectly (picture attached). You could easily do this without the steamed veggies on top. And it was just as good room temp the next day as it was right out of the oven.

    I made it when a friend came to dinner and when it came out of the oven, we had to pop some bubbly, it just seemed to call for it. Well worth the effort, which, other than time, is not too difficult. I'll make this again many time.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Tom P

      I like mustard just fine, but have only used it as a condiment. These are savory egg custard tarts, would you say, flavored with mustard? New to me, I'll look further. Your picture is a nice one!

      By the way, the "Gerard's...Tarts" are page 154 in the book,
      are the Batards called Batons on page 15?

      1. re: blue room

        Blue Room -

        That is a pretty good description! It is fairly unique, but very good. Give it a try! There are a lot of pages on the web where people have tried it, with lots of advice and comments. One such example:

        And those are indeed the page #'s. I did not have the book in front of me when I did the post. One website called the Batons Batards ... I should have waited until I had the book with me :)

        1. re: Tom P

          The recipe in Bon Appetit omits the ice water in the pastry ingredient list. Since it calls for mixing the water with the egg, it would be nice to know the least amount. Then you could add a bit more until the consistency is right.

      2. re: Tom P

        Tom your photo is beautiful and your description has inspired me to add this to my list of dishes to try. Hats off to you for giving the pastry a try as well. I've made a lot of pastry but lately I've fallen in to the trap of selecting convenience over authenticity. Be sure I won't do that when I make this dish, I'll be thinking of you! Love the bubbly too, lucky friend!!

        1. re: Tom P

          Gerard's Mustard Tart

          I spotted the most lovely, thin leeks at this week's farmer's market and I knew exactly what to do with them. As noted by Tom, you make the dough on a different day. [I did it on Monday since I had time.] After the dough has chilled overnight, the dough is rolled out and placed in a butter tart pan. WHOOPS! Missed that the first time. Believe it or not, I flipped the dough out being careful to keep its shape upside down, buttered the tart pan, and then re-inserted. At this point, the dough goes into the freezer or fridge. The poor dough had been manhandled so it went to the freezer. Then you par-bake the dough. And then you chill it again. [Darn good thing is was tasty dough eh?]

          Meanwhile you steam the vegetables for 10 minutes. I only did leeks. The last step is to make the filling which couldn't be any easier. Whisk up some eggs with mustard and creme fraiche. Then pour it into the prepared tart pan and bake for 30 minutes.

          This was really, really good. Served with a carrot-ginger soup and some French bread. A salad would have been a great addition.

          1. re: Tom P

            Gerard's Mustard Tart

            This has become the most frequently requested brunch dish by the hubby, so I've made it quite a few times over the years, for just the two of us and also for a crowd (in which case the hubby always requests that I make at least two, so that he can be assured leftovers). I've made both versions, the carrot-leek (which I tend to think of as the Winter version) and the tomato (which is definitely the preferred variation in our family).

            Things I've noticed: the crust, while excellent in texture and crispness, has a tendency to shrink excessively during baking. I've tried chilling as directed, freezing, and paying extra attention to ensure that I wasn't stretching the dough when placing it in the tart shell, all to no avail. The best solution (for me) is to build up the side walls of the crust to double the height of the tart shell. Perhaps this is the way it's supposed to be done, and I just didn't know any better? Or perhaps I'm the only one who struggles with shrinkage from this dough, as I noticed no one else mentioning problems with shrinkage?

            I've also used a variety of mustards over the years (including Maille), sometimes all grainy, sometimes all dijon, sometimes a mixture of the two as directed. It really is true that the freshness/strength of the mustard makes a big difference in the flavor of the final tart, so I do judge with a sniff, as directed by Dorie, then adjust the amount accordingly, adding an extra tablespoon or two if the smell isn't too strong.

            I've used the recommended 9" round tart pan and also, occasionally, a narrow-ish rectangular pan, and both work well. I particularly like the way the tomato variation appears in either tart pan -- really beautiful. I should take a picture next time I make it...

            Clearly, we love this one. It's a family favorite, really.

          2. MUSTARD BATARDS - good.

            These were not as amazing as I was hoping, though to be fair, everyone who ate them at my house both times I made them loved them a lot more than I did. I think I had too high of expectations.

            PROS: ridiculously easy to make. I mean, EASY. I made both the mustard version and, because I always have homemade tapenade in the fridge, the tapenade version.

            CONS: not really a con, but unless you use a killer, spicy mustard, they are a little bland. The second time I made them, I used a really spicy mustard, a lot of course sea salt sprinkled on them, and some herbs and black pepper inside, and they improved. The tapenade version was very good.

            Also, I used Trader Joe's Puff Pastry, which I had, and which I do not like nearly as much as Pepperidge Farm. I look forward to trying them again with PF Puff Pastry.

            Very well worth trying.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Tom P

              Pepperidge Farm IS really good. I feel no guilt about using a frozen puff p. with that stuff. Hope I haven't just blown any cred I had (not that I expect it was much).

              1. re: LulusMom

                OH NO! LulusMom! I was going to nominate you for the James Beard award and now I read THIS! I no longer have the will to live!

                Actually, I use frozen puff pastry every once in a while, along with filo.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  There goes ANOTHER award out the window ...

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    Too funny oakjoan!

                    Puff pastry is one of those things that I don't see myself ever making since the frozen I have access to is really good and it seems like it would be one of those time consuming recipes w a high likelihood of something going wrong (especially w me at the rolling pin!)

                2. re: Tom P

                  If you really want to be blown away by something made with purchased puff pastry, and are willing to lay out some serious dough (har har) for a special meal or treat, I recommend getting Dufour, which you can buy at Whole Foods (have seen/bought at WF in NY and CA, assume they stock it elsewhere in the country). It's around $10, but is all-butter and bakes up extremely well. I've made something as simple as puff pinwheels, which have nothing besides a dot of jam in the center and a sprinkle of sugar, and had them just inhaled with raves about the flavor of the pastry, using Dufour.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Wow, I'll look for the Dufour, definitely. Thanks for the tip.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      For years I made my own pie dough but I've just started using store bought puff pastry... Trader Joe's. It's good to know there are other brands out there that are better.

                      Tom P: Bravo for making those tarts and the pastry. I minimally scanned both recipes then turned the page. Now I think I'll at least try for the mustard one. Do you think Maille grainy mustrad would work?

                      1. re: Gio

                        I think the Maille would be wonderful, I love that mustard.

                        Just FYI, my favorite current mustard is a Trader Joe's Dijon with White Wine that has a really nice kick to it. Not a grainy mustard but it really does the job.

                        Cannot wait to save up and try the Dufour!

                      2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        They carry Dufour puff pastry at the Whole Foods here in Raleigh. I discovered it last month when I made JO's sweet leek chicken pie, which has a puff pastry crust. I think it has ruined me for any other. Man, is it good! It is also $12, which I find totally scandalous.

                        1. re: greeneggsnham

                          Well the price for the Dufour has gone up $2 since Caitlin McGrath posted 2 days ago--
                          but I know I won't be able to resist trying it. Thanks (I think) for the recommendation.
                          Can anyone compare it to homemade? I know homemade takes time, but it's mostly inactive time, while dough chills. Very roughly, one package of Dufour would cover --
                          how many 8x8 square casseroles ?

                      3. re: Tom P

                        A late-ish response to the batons: Bought the TJ's Dijon for these and was underwhelmed; far too bland. Tapenade indeed much better.

                        However, I baked them a day before using, put them in airtight containers and discovered the next day a pervasive sogginess. Irritated, I returned them to the oven on a perforated sheet I use on the barbecue and ran them @ 350 for about 25 minutes, ? a little more. Much butter, and the crispness has persisted even with the leftovers the following day.

                      4. Tzatziki – p. 24

                        Ok, so one of my first recipes isn’t French at all but since DG included it and, it worked well w my other dishes, onto our menu it went.

                        Nothing especially unusual in terms of prep though DG does suggest that you “finely cube” the cucumber vs grating it. The ingredients also are standard w the exception of the 1tbsp of extra virgin olive oil that DG calls for. She suggests you add equal amounts of dill and mint whereas I chose to do a 3:1 ratio of dill to mint.

                        I picked up some wonderful, super-thick Greek yogurt at a fabulous Persian market I discovered during Arabesque month so, no draining required. DG has you mix all ingredients together once the cucumber has drained for 30 mins whereas I prefer to mix all the ingredients except the cucumber together to allow the garlic flavour to develop and then I just stir in the well-drained cucumber right before serving.

                        This was good, as we expected it would be. I’d skip the evoo next time as I didn’t feel it added anything.

                        Sardine Rillettes – p. 25

                        DG had me at “made in under 10 minutes”!! Quick, delicious and different; we loved this and will definitely make it again!

                        DG calls for 2 x 3.75 oz cans of sardines. Since I wasn’t sure how fish-forward we wanted this to be, I opted to use just one can for our first go at this dish. Once you’ve boned your sardines you combine all the other ingredients in a bowl then add them by mashing them in w a fork. DG calls for Neufchatel or cream cheese. Since I had Quark, I chose to use that. Shallots, green onions, herbs (I went w dill and parsley), piment d’Espelette or cayenne, S&P and lemon or lime juice are added. This is a case where a specific quantity of citrus juice is not specified. DG calls for juice of 2 limes or, 1 lemon or, to taste. I found 2tbsp to be just right. I might have wanted more if I’d used the 2 cans of fish but in our case the tang of the Quark still came through so 2 tbsp of lemon juice was enough.

                        In my experience, Rillettes have been rather dense, similar to pate but w larger pieces of meat. In this case, my mixture was loose, like a dip and it would have been even if another can of sardines had been added. Perhaps this is partially due to the fact that Quark is much looser than cream cheese. I’ll be interested to see how others make out if they prepare this dish.

                        I’d whole-heartedly recommend this dish. It’s flavours far exceed the effort it takes to prepare the dish and it’s a different option to serve dinner guests. I served it w grilled pitas and, an assortment of crackers. Saltines were my preferred option in the end. Do try this; it’s wonderful!

                        Our main course included another COTM dish, some yummy mashed potatoes. Here's a link to that review if you're interested:


                        26 Replies
                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          Very interesting about the sardine rillettes, as I just made (again) the tuna mousse from last year's Patricia Wells month (the Italy book), and this sounds fairly similar. We like canned sardines but always go ahead and eat the bones; do you think the step of deboning them was necessary? With the mousse (which basically has the texture of a pate) you put it all in a cuisinart - it seems with the rillettes you skip that step. Maybe doing so would mean the bones would be ok? Very interested in your thoughts.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            Hi LM, yes I de-boned the sardines since DG recommended it however I don't think we'd have noticed them in the final dish if I'd left them in since they are so fine. I don't think I'd bother w the cuisinart for this since it was so quick and easy to mix by hand. If you'd prefer not to de-bone then maybe you could just mash the sardines separately prior to incorporating into the other ingredients.

                            I'll have to take a look at the Wells mousse you mention, I think we'd like that too.

                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                              I think I might just try this, sounds good, and different. Nice on crackers for a fairly healthy snack. Thanks!

                          2. re: Breadcrumbs

                            "Ok, so one of my first recipes isn’t French at all..."
                            Oakjoan mentioned this before--this book is food she puts on her table in France, not French food. Slightly tricky title.
                            I'd love to try the Rillettes, but with salmon. I know mashed sardines would be met with resistance in my house! By the way -- how is "rillettes" pronounced? I tried to listen on one of those audio sites, but I just got sort of "RYAY".
                            Yes, saltines are crisp, unobtrusively flavored, and you can get them with unsalted tops.

                            1. re: blue room

                              blueroom, there is a recipe for Salmon Rillettes on the very next page (p. 26) in the book. Haven't tried it yet, but it looks good.

                              1. re: foodtrip

                                Oh thank you -- ! Some go through new cookbook front to back, bookmarking -- I'm afraid my method is catch as catch can.

                              2. re: blue room

                                I think the salmon would work well with the tuna recipe too - basically canned tuna (or salmon), lemon rind and juice, butter, oregano, a little olive oil, S&P ... hope I'm not forgetting anything, and then zapped to blend.

                                I've always heard rillettes pronounced -rey-ette (but I'm far from French, so please take with a grain of salt).

                                1. re: blue room

                                  Hi br, thanks for pointing out Oakjoan's observation, good to know and, it also explains some of the other dishes that appealed but, didn't seem at all French!

                                  As for the Rillettes, do give them a try, I think they'd be wonderful w salmon or even smoked salmon. As for the pronunciation, we say "rea –yeht."

                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    It's definitely "ree-yette" (French degree and have acutally just been there for the weekend - the joys of being European!) and it doesn't sound to me like these really are rillettes, which have to be gently cooked in fat. I love them but they are sooo rich. This dish sounds good but more of a quick sardine paté than proper rillettes.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      Greedygirl makes a good point about the distinctive character of rillettes. I made the Salmon Rillettes on page 26. While the recipe turns out a tasty salmon spread (a combination of fresh and smoked salmon), it was nothing like the rillettes I've had in France. They always had that rich, embrace your tongue feel that only comes from quantities of fat.

                                2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  We made the sardine rillettes with neufchatel and cilantro. I did not debone the sardines and gently mixed everything in my mini-processor.

                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      I enjoyed them very much. I can see making different variations of this with different herbs.

                                      1. re: BigSal

                                        I totally agree w you and w the growing season just starting, our options are going to be abundant in the months ahead. I figure this is a perfect summer dish because its so quick and easy to prepare.

                                        Next time I'm going to try lime juice instead of lemon and I'll use thyme and a couple of dashes of hot sauce to give them a Caribbean feel.

                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    I made the Sardine Rillettes as part of a dinner consisting of appetizers and sides, which will be posted somewhere further down this thread.
                                    I started trying to debone the sardines, but the bones were so tiny and soft, I decided it wasn't worth the time and trouble, so I stopped about a third of the way through.
                                    I used neufchatel cheese and lime juice. I only used the juice of one lime, it seemed to me that any more would have been too liquid. I used chives, parsley and dill.
                                    Dorie has a sidebar that explains how a bistro in Paris serve this with a cornichon sorbet, and the home cook can simulate this concept by adding cornichons or capers. That was all it took for me to want to make a cornichon sorbet. I pureed a handful of cornichons with a dash of vodka (to impair hard freezing). This was weird. I added a little salt and pepper, hoping for improvement. Still tasted weird, but I froze it anyway. After it became sorbet, it tasted fine, and was a great accompaniment to the rillettes. This dish was a big success, very tasty. Mr Nightshade ate it by the forkful. (I daintily placed dabs on crackers, of course.)
                                    Photos show the rillette in the chilling dish, and then "plated" with the cornichon sorbet.

                                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                                      So, so beautiful! I love your silver serving dishes :)

                                      1. re: tall sarah

                                        Thank you, tall sarah! The sidebar states that the Paris bistro serves the rillettes in martini glasses. Mine are silver. I kept feeling like I should raise a toast with my sardines.

                                      2. re: L.Nightshade

                                        LN how elegant this looks and congrats on making that sorbet, I can imagine how perfectly it would match w the flavours in the rillettes. I'm salivating!!

                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Thanks, Breadcrumbs! I think the flavor combination could be captured equally well with a couple cornichons on the plate, but the sorbet was a quirky little twist that made for an interesting texture and fun presentation.

                                      3. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        My turn with the Sardine Rillettes. I made a half recipe and used cream cheese. I used small sardines and did not debone them (figured I could use the extra calcium). I used lemon juice and cilantro. As BC and LN have described, this is an easy dish with a great payoff. I made this on a whim as we were waiting for dinner one night and it was really no sweat. I gave some on a cracker to my husband and he said "great tuna salad". Inspired by that, I made a sandwich with the leftovers and packed it in my lunch. Delicious, but only appropriate if you will be working alone all day!

                                        Next time I will get some cornichon to serve with (not sure I'm up for the sorbet, but sounds like a great flavor compliment.)

                                        1. re: greeneggsnham

                                          Glad you enjoyed them genh. Your "only appropriate if you're working alone" comment made me laugh out loud. Also reminded me of a woman I used to work w who would bring a raw fish to work each day and cook it in the microwave!!

                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                            Yes, I don't want to be "that girl"! Between the sardines and the raw onion, it's a little much for the community lunch room :)

                                            1. re: greeneggsnham

                                              That's right, I'd forgotten about those pesky red onions . . . what a combo! . . . and so delicious though!

                                        2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          While in Albania a few years ago (where the food is heavily influenced by Greek and Italian cuisines), I had tzatziki once where the hostess added finely shredded sweet pepper (red and yellow) along with the cucumber and it was not only colourful but very tasty. Have never seen it done this way since but make it sometimes at home.

                                          1. re: herby

                                            What a lovely idea Herby; thanks for sharing your memory. I'll definitely give this a try!

                                        3. Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans page 146
                                          I have been dying to try these flans. I made them for a first course last night, part of my first COTM menu where every dish disappointed!
                                          The flan is made with 15 ounces of canned pumpkin, 3 eggs and one yolk, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, salt and pepper. The ingredients are whirred in a blender, poured into ramekins and topped with crumbled gorgonzola and toasted walnuts. They are baked in a water bath for 35 or 40 minutes.
                                          Too much egg or cream, or too much whirring. Too flan-y (light, creamy, and mousse-like) to stand up to the gorgonzola and walnut. I'd like to make them again, but make the pumpkin denser, like a savory pumpkin pie, because the flavor combination did appeal to me. Mr Nightshade suggested that we just mash up a sweet potato and bake it topped with gorgonzola and walnuts.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: L.Nightshade

                                            I'm going to back off on this critique a bit. I think we just had a bad taste bud night. I had one left over, and warmed it up a couple days later. The mousse quality had given way to a firmer custard. I have to say that I really enjoyed this rich little dish. Great flavors.

                                            1. re: L.Nightshade

                                              Funny how that happens sometimes, isn't it? Glad to hear that on second tasting it was better.

                                            2. re: L.Nightshade

                                              Pumpkin Gorgonzola (Saga Blue) Flans

                                              I've made these twice over the years and think they're great. I do have a hard time finding good Gorgonzola in my area, so I've always substituted Saga blue in it's place. Perhaps Saga is milder than Gorgonzola? It's true that they come out of the oven mousse-like and firm up after they've been chilled, but I actually prefer the lighter consistency of the warm version. That said, I happily eat them at any temperature and will continue to make them when I have the opportunity.

                                            3. The vanilla vegetable light and unusual.
                                              Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snap Peas en papillote...very east and light.