Again With Those Damn Mustard Greens

A quick word from me here. I thought I had put the saga of the trio of “red” greens behind me. But the truth is I have been thinking about that Red Mustard Gratin and why it was so blah…. You might think it’s odd that something so forgettable could stick in my craw the way it has. But as you get to know me you’ll see. That’s just how I am.

I got some great advice from imafoodblog, once again. This time Geoff. He felt that the greens “inherent mildness” was the issue. He is right, the greens got lost in all the creamy ricotta, crunchy breadcrumbs, and salty Parmesan.

Others piped in and gave me advice about the texture. I got a lot of emails saying that the damn thing looked burnt to them. Well, that’s an over statement, but I took their deeper meaning to be they thought it should be a lighter, more subtle, sophisticated dish. The gratin “format” was just too “rustic”.

I processed all this overnight and decided that I needed to do this one again. That’s right I started all over. Only this time I would not be doing a gratin. I decided to do what the Italians might call a timbale or at least my interpretation of that. I am calling it Savory Custard Timbales of Mustard Greens & Mushrooms just to cover all my bases!

Another way to describe it might be as a crust-less quiche. But in reality, it’s probably a savory custard with some bits of this and that inside.

It’s all the same ingredients as the gratin pretty much, just more deftly handled.

In my opinion, good custard holds together, but just barely. I needed this one to have enough to it to support the short rib I wanted to serve on top of it. I addressed this by building in a bit of strength into its structure with chiffonades of mustard greens and small diced mushroom. But when you cut into it, I still wanted the whole thing to collapse and intermingle with the meat and sauce.

I got what I was going for.

Here is what I did:

I took chiffonades of GREEN mustard and barely wilted them in butter and garlic with an equal volume of diced baby Bella mushrooms.

I made a basic custard by combining milk, cream, eggs, and some ricotta cheese.

To this, I added the greens and mushroom mixture.

I used a muffin tin as a mold to form individually sized timbales. Then I baked them in a bain-marie for about 45 minutes at 300 degrees F.

I cooled them overnight in the fridge and they popped out of the molds the next day just fine. Okay…maybe a tiny bit overcooked. But I am such a perfectionist. Really it was quite good. Next time 275 degrees F (maybe, I can’t decide…).

They were surprisingly good at room temperature. They were that rich accompaniment I was looking for with my red wine braised short ribs. They were creamy and delicate.

The mustard greens were so much more present on the palate than they were in the gratin version. This is probably due to the quieter cooking method (no crunchy brown crust) as much as it was due to the decision to use the bigger tasting, bitter, green version of the mustard.

Thanks to all of you who helped me put this behind me! The only downside is I had to eat braised short ribs twice in one week. Oh, wait…that was an upside!


Greg Henry