Oh the French, they do give us some wonderful food and great phrases. And the one that starts it all off is the Amuse-bouche. The literal translation is mouth amuser. In a restaurant, this is the appetizer before the appetizer. Not ordered from the menu by a customer, but given as a complimentary single bite from the chef to start your meal. It is meant to amuse the mouth. Get it ready for the meal. Whet the appetite and get the patron excited for what is to come.
Only the French would think of amusing your mouth. I dare say that the Italians aren't into amusing so much, but straight up satisfying from the onset. I do love the idea of tickling the tongue with a little nosh to get you primed. A little food foreplay, wouldn't you say?
This practice doesn't need to be limited to restaurants. As JuanCarlos and I prepare for a trip to France, I reasoned that this was a perfect time to honor their tradition and share some ideas on the subject. So go ahead, treat your guests to an Amuse Bouche. You like them, don't you? So amuse their bouche.
Remember this is meant to be just one little bite not a full blown appetizer. However, any of these can be an appetizer. (Just love when things can do double duty). An amuse bouche can range from the elaborate to a very simple offering.
Here are six offerings, each providing the all important combination of salty, sweet, tang, texture to get the mouth party off to the races.
Goat Cheese & Nut Topped Grapes
These are an easy, pop in your mouth kind of bite. Refreshing and textural, and create the "more please" effect.
- Use the stemmed end as the base, as this will help the grape stand up.
- Slice a tiny bit off the top of the grape to have a level landing spot for a dollop of goat cheese.
- Using a small spoon gather 1/2 tsp of room temp goat cheese and place it atop the grape. (I use my clean fingers to create a little dollop)
- Dip it in the crushed/ground nuts (such as pistachios or a mix of pecans, walnuts or whatever nut you like). These can be made ahead of time, but save the nut dipping til just before serving. You don't want the nuts to get soggy in the refrigerate. NOBODY likes soggy nuts.
Salmon Topped Cucumber or Apple
Alright, this may be two bites, but satisfying ones, for sure. These deliver a creamy texture paired with a cool crisp and salty bite.
- Cut a 1/2" slice of cucumber.
- Pipe a dollop of soften cream cheese on top.
- Place a small piece of smoked salmon laid down in a crossed fashion.
- Pipe another dollop of cream cheese in the center and top with capers and dill.
(You can also use the Salmon Roll method. On a large piece of plastic wrap lay the salmon down, making sure to overlay slightly. Spread softened cream cheese on top. Sprinkle with capers, then roll up like a sushi roll, Refrigerate. Once chilled, cut into 1/2” rounds placing atop each cucumber slice. Adorn with dill, as seen above.)
Dates Packed & Wrapped
Boy, does this one get every part of your mouth ready. It's got salty, sweet, crunch and tang.
Cranked up Caprese Skewers
This is an amped up Caprese salad on a stick.
- Skewer a grape tomato, a bocconcino, piece of basil and another grape tomato. (You can certainly serve them as is. But I highly recommend you go the next steps. Also, you can prepare these ahead of time and refrigerate until grilling.)
- Coat with oil, salt and pepper and lightly grill, then roll in Parmesano Reggiano, and serve immediately.
A one bite tapa mix that makes a hearty first nibble.
Honestly, I feel like I could create one every week. The options and ideas are 'to infinity and beyond'. Just think of little bites that would get your guests ready for more. Oh la la to the French for their playful amusement. What a fun game of enticement.