Tired of putting out a ho-hum relish tray and crudite for pre-Thanksgiving noshing?
Take a cue from chefs at top-flight restaurants: Serve your guests an amuse-bouche (ah-myuz boosh). These elegant miniature hors d’oeuvres are carefully designed to set the tone and tickle the taste buds for what’s to come — without filling up before the entree.
Sunday’s special “Feast du Jour” Thanksgiving Food section will feature restaurant-inspired recipes from seven local star chefs created with the home cook in mind. To kick off the Big Day coverage, I offer my humble interpretation of an amuse-bouche.
Despite the grand-sounding name, there is absolutely no need to be intimidated. You (or one of your guests) can pull off an impressive snack tray of tiny, no-cook bites by hunting and gathering at your local supermarket or favorite gourmet store.
Sure, cheese and crackers are a great start, but scour the aisles and you’re sure to come up with scores of elegant options.
“An amuse should explode in the mouth with flavor and texture. After meeting this criterion, it can be elegant or casual, made of expensive or everyday ingredients,” Chicago chef Rick Tramonto of Tru writes in his James Beard award-winning book “Amuse Bouche” (Random House).
These days supermarkets offer all manner of miniature party foods. For instance, I found little pita pockets, tiny crostini and itty-bitty toasts in the bakery and deli departments. Or build a bite on puff pastry, phyllo cups and mini quiches available in the frozen foods aisle. Or try prepared polenta in the produce section.
My favorite find was seeded pomegranate in the produce section. Yes, I paid a king’s ransom ($21.99 per pound), but seeding a pomegranate is tedious work, and I always seem to ruin a blouse trying to remove the seeds, so in the end I saved the cost of a replacement.
Another surprise find was the fresh wild salmon and cream cheese pinwheels in the refrigerated seafood case at one supermarket. Consider cold cuts and a selection of gourmet olives from the deli. In the cheese case, I found fresh mozzarella the size of a pearl.
Part of the excitement of an amuse-bouche is the presentation. “At Tru, I use pristine white plates, Asian-style bowls and spoons, sparkling shot glasses, sleek black trays, long-handled spoons and forks, mirrors, granite and marble tiles,” Tramonto writes. “As with the food, the sky is the limit here — get your party off to a charming start with quirky fun or old-school elegance.”
I picked up miniature plates for a modern restaurant look, but for additional ideas, see Sunday’s special Thanksgiving House + Home section.Amuse-bouche themes
Assorted olives, cubed feta, hummus, mini pita pockets, pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds
Assorted cold cuts such as proscuitto and salami, mozzarella pearls, assorted olives and piquillo peppers, crostini
Salmon pinwheels, wasabi peas, store-prepared Asian chicken salad, snow peas, mini toasts
•Other amuse-bouche ingredients: Figs, dates and apricots; roasted pepitas; cashews; deviled quail’s eggs; Champagne grapes; pate; cold soups