Amuse-Bouches, the Art Of The French Welcome
Amuses in the kitchen

Amuse-Bouches, the Art Of The French Welcome

amuses bouche
Amuses in the kitchen
Amuses in the kitchen
Freshly sautéed, salted, and peppered bouquets roses, or tiny shrimp from the English Channel

The amuse-bouche is the French answer to an appetizer.  It can also be called  “mise-en-bouche,” or literally “put it in the mouth,” and when I was growing up we called little pre-meal delicacies “hors d’oeuvres.”  This latter term seems to have  disappeared from the culinary lexicon which is a shame, since it has a great history.  In the 15th century  it was an architectural term that referred to an  outbuilding, the  “hors d’oeuvre,” or “outside the work”.  By the 16th century it had somehow segued into culinary realm. Maybe we should bring it back?

Lexicography aside, these little bites of deliciousness have a clear purpose.  They are intended to whet but not quash the appetite, welcome the guest, and give everyone a moment together before the “oeuvre” or meal, to come together, and ease the ravenous hunger.  I love serving a  selection of amuse-bouches, as anyone who has ever had dinner at my home or taken a class with me knows.  Why? Because they’re a chance to get even more creative than with the meal, and tempt the palate with tasty little bursts of flavor.   They’re also a ruse.  If you serve a selection of appetizers, you can dispense with a first course and head straight to the main dish, which works perfectly for a casual evening in the warmth of late spring and summer. Not that I have anything against a multi-course meal, but reality dictates that guests can only enjoy so many things, and if you go wild with the amuse-bouches, your guests will thank you for moving right along to the main course.

cherry tomatoes
Local cherry tomatoes, greenhouse grown, already at the . market last week

The amuse-bouches excites the imagination as much as the palate, and everyone who walks in the door and sees them laid out on the kitchen island, or the table in the courtyard, or the coffee table in the living room is already excited before tasting even a bite.

Spritz
“Le Spreetz”

Because we’ve been sun-starved in France this year, now that it’s warm we’re  eagerly serving forth  fine weather aperitifs like a crisp and gorgeous rosé, a vivid orange Spritz (Aperol with Prosecco), a Pastis “sur glaçons” or “on the rocks” or one of my favorite whites, Muscat Sec from Domaine de Barroubio.  It’s so exciting to dress the table in the front courtyard, or open wide the windows if you’re in an apartment and feel that heavenly, change of season breeze.

So I encourage you to do as the French do and have fun with the amuse-bouches. As always, think seasonal – serve the first of the cherry tomatoes or radishes, a puree of spring carrots with a touch of cardamom, some sweet local shrimp…whatever your region offers right at the moment. As for drinks, I have a suggestion here, too.  Serve one.   This creates harmony, because all the guests are sipping the same thing, their palates are on the same page.  It makes for a wonderful evening, and a clear path to enjoying all those amuse-bouches and the meal that follows.

French Grill is ready for pre-order at all your local bookstores, and it will soon be on the shelf! Join me, your French grill expert, for a fine season of grilling (that can last throughout the year!).

Print Recipe
CARDAMOM CARROT “VERRINE”
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • For the yogurt:
  • 1-1/4 cups (310ml) plain yogurt
  • teaspoon Scant ½freshly ground cardamom
  • Pinch fine sea salt to taste
  • For the carrots:
  • 1-1/2 pound carrots peeled, trimmed, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces, 750g
  • Three 3 x 1/2-inch strips (8.75cm) lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 fresh bay leaves from the Laurus nobilis or dried, imported bay leaves
  • 30 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Scant ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • For the yogurt:
  • 1-1/4 cups (310ml) plain yogurt
  • teaspoon Scant ½freshly ground cardamom
  • Pinch fine sea salt to taste
  • For the carrots:
  • 1-1/2 pound carrots peeled, trimmed, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces, 750g
  • Three 3 x 1/2-inch strips (8.75cm) lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 fresh bay leaves from the Laurus nobilis or dried, imported bay leaves
  • 30 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Scant ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Instructions
  1. About one hour before you plan to make this, line a sieve with cheesecloth and place it over a medium-sized bowl. Pour the yogurt into the sieve and let it drain. When the yogurt has drained and become thicker, turn it into a small bowl, add the cardamom stir, and let sit for at least 1 hour, and up to 8 hours, refrigerated.
  2. Place the carrots in a medium-sized saucepan and just cover them by 1-inch (2.5cm) with water. Add the lemon zest, the sugar, the bay leaves, the thyme, and the salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and cook until the carrots are completely tender through, 20 to 25 minutes and most, but not all, of the water has been absorbed. Remove the carrots from the heat.
  3. Remove the bay leaves and the thyme from the carrots. Transfer the carrots and the lemon zest, without the cooking liquid, to the work bowl of a food processor and puree. If the carrots won’t puree, add a bit of the cooking liquid to help them along. They won’t ever be silken smooth, but will be a fine blend. Taste the puree for seasoning and adjust with salt if necessary. Reserve.
  4. Place equal amounts of carrot puree in four glasses. Top with equal amounts of the spiced yogurt. Garnish with equal amounts of pistachios, and serve while the carrots are warm, or at room temperature.
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