French Fridays with Dorie
Who wouldn’t love showing up to a cocktail party and being hit up by these savory mustard batons? That would certainly set the mood for cocktails and chatter, n’cest pas ?
I mourn the loss of the all-but-lost-art of the proper cocktail party. They were a huge part of my early childhood and I miss them. I remember fondly the my fly-on-the-wall observations of the adults in their natural habitat. Arriving to loud hellos, the sincere and not so sincere outfit compliments, fun cocktails with garnishes, mingling and catching up on neighborhood gossip. All observed easily from my perch at the top of the stairs. And they were over as quickly as they began.
These parties were not intended to take the place of dinner but rather meant only precede it. I don’t know if they were just a sign of those times or just a sign of my parents being too old to enjoy the all night blowouts of their college years. My mother had not yet gained the confidence to throw what would eventually become her signature dinner party extravaganzas so the easier but the just-as-showy cocktail party fit the bill nicely. Much cheaper too!
Guests would show up at 5:30 or 6. Some would come dressed in their tennis whites having just left a game. Others would be wearing the nice dress they just bought and were eager to show off. A specialty cocktail would be waiting for them(or a beer or wine) followed by a snack consisting of the few light appetizers my mother would offer, some chit chat and mingling with the crowd of about 20 people expertly chosen guests and then leave around 7 or 7:30 to pursue their own dinner plans.
No lingering allowed past that awkward dinner hour was allowed. Mom made it clear that while tasty appetizers and witty conversation were on the menu, dinner was not. I think it was the expectation that these parties were short and the closing time enforced that gave them their life.
Don’t these parties seem perfectly poised for a comeback in these more economically frugal times?
My mother’s 1953 edition of The Joy of Cooking begins with these words about cocktails: “The chief virtue of cocktails is their informal quality. They loosen tongues and unbutton the reserves of the socially diffident.” The same can be said for the chic snacks that accompany them. As much as I love the idea of just opening a bag of chips and calling it a party, the perfect cocktail snack will help set a mood which kicks off the night’s conversation and revelry.
These Mustard Batons are certainly up to the task. As everyone who cooks should know by now, a box of puff pastry in the freezer is just as required in inventory as a sauce pan. And who doesn’t have mustard on hand? There you go.
If you don’t have mustard on hand use tapenade, pesto, chutney, or just some grated cheese and herbs. While you are at it, make a ton of these and freeze them on the sheet pan and store them in a ziplock. They bake up from frozen at a moments notice or when the urge to invite a few friends over for a drink before dinner strikes your fancy.
This is what you will need:
- All-purpose flour, for rolling
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (each about 8½ ounces), thawed
- ½ cup Dijon mustard
- 1 large egg
- Poppy seeds, for topping (optional)
This is how you make it:
- Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Have a ruler and a pizza cutter (or sharp knife) at hand.
- Working with 1 sheet of pastry at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until you have a rectangle that’s about 12 x 16 inches. If necessary, turn the dough so that a short side of the rectangle is closest to you. Measure the length so that you can find the middle, and spread ¼ cup of the mustard over the lower half of the dough, stopping about 1/8 inch from the side and bottom edges. Fold the top portion of the dough over the bottom and, using the pizza cutter (or knife), with your ruler as a guide, cut the pastry from top to bottom into strips about 1 inch wide (I actually use the width of the ruler itself as my guide), then cut the strips crosswise in half. (If you prefer, you can leave the strips long.)
- Carefully transfer the batons to one of the baking sheets and chill or freeze them while you work on the second batch. (You can make all the strips to this point and freeze them on the baking sheets, then pack them airtight and keep them frozen for up to 2 months.)
- Lightly beat the egg with a splash of cold water and brush just the tops of the strips with this glaze. If you’d like, sprinkle them with poppy seeds.
- Bake the batons for 8 minutes. Rotate the sheets from front to back and top to bottom and bake for another 7 or 8 minutes, or until the strips are puffed and golden brown. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the batons rest for a couple of minutes before serving.