When I was a child my hatred for mustard was very well-known. My brother used to torment me by putting it on my bedroom door knob so the smell would be on my hands. It was not until I moved to London and discovered the seeded variety (I only knew of the yellow American kind) that I became obsessed in a good way. At one point I had seven different jars in my fridge (see photo at the bottom of post). I am always looking for new recipes that feature mustard and so I was quite pleased when I stumbled upon this little gem. I made the palmiers for breakfast and they disappeared very quickly. My mother is adverse to mustard (I wonder where I got it from…) and so I made an additional batch with just the ham and cheese which were just as good (but not better!). They would also make a great bite-size appetizer as they are not too filling.

Édouard Manet, The Ham, 1875
oil on canvas, 13 x 16 cm, The Glasgow Museum

This is my third post to feature a still life by Manet, which is appropriate because this is a post about my mustard obsession which is akin to my Manet obsession. As with his still life A Bunch of Asparagus, Manet pays very little attention to composition, and through the placement of the subject in the centre of the canvas he incorporates little else to direct the eye to other areas. This lack of composition was a very contemporary concept in the late 19th century. According to Silvia Malaguzzi in the book Food and Feasting in Art, “At the time of the Romans, the best ham was imported from Goal. French ham can thus boast ancient origins, and for Manet it was a kind of national gastronomic glory” (1). The ham is further glorified through its placement upon a silver platter which at that time could only be afforded by the mid to upper class in Paris.

The perfect cheese for an art/food lover…Vincent Aged Dutch Cheese!

Palmiers are little cookies made of layers of puff pastry that are then folded to resemble palm leaves. They are baked until the sugar between the layers of buttery pastry become caramelized (or in my case the cheese melts) (2). Although often attributed to the French, the origin of the cookie is unknown, however the tradition of making sweets from many layers of pastry originates in the ancient Middle East. If the palmiers are rolled to tightly the centres do not puff and if rolled too loosely and baked in an oven that is too hot the layers of pastry become brittle and shatter when picked up (3). It is a relatively simple treat made of very few ingredients but it’s generally through trial and error that the best rolling and slicing technique is developed.

{Ham, Gruyère, and Moutarde Palmiers}

Palmiers are wonderful as an appetizer or a light breakfast. Will keep 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This recipe was adapted from a dish featured on the American Public Radio Show, The Splendid Table.

Yield: 4 servings

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
12 slices of ham or prosciutto, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 430 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the sheet of puff pastry on a floured surface. Spread the mustard (or moutarde) over the pastry. Sprinkle over the Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano being sure to evenly coat the entire surface. Arrange the ham or prosciutto in a single layer (you may have to cut to fit).

Cut the pastry in half and starting with the short sides, roll each end to the centre turning the pastry into a double scroll. Wet the pastry so the two rolls stick together. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Slice each roll into 12 individual palmiers, each about 1-inch thick, and arrange on the baking sheet with 1/2 to 1 inch of space between each palmier. Bake until golden, around 10 to 12 minutes.

The mustard collection in my London fridge.