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Caviar Egg Salad Amuse-Bouche


(serves 8)
The combination of the intense savoury flavour and crunchy explosion of caviar just can’t be beat, but caviar can be a tad salty. In this recipe, this saltiness is perfectly balanced by the mild taste of egg salad to make the perfect amuse-bouche. There are just 5 simple ingredients, making this little package of tastiness incredibly easy to make. You can easily scale it up to serve several dozen guests if you need a dazzling canapé for a party.       
 

Ingredients

  1. Caviar (1 bottle, 80g)
  2. Eggs (4)
  3. Shallots (1)
  4. Brioche (8 mini slices)
  5. Mayonnaise

Preparation

  1. Hard boil 4 eggs (i.e. 12 minutes or more). Allow the eggs to cool in cold water and then de-shell them. You can boil the eggs anytime before and keep them in the fridge.
  2. Put the each egg through a wire egg slicer three times. On the first pass, slice the egg as per normal but hold on to the ends of the eggs to keep the egg together.
  3. On the second pass slice the eggs lengthwise. It will be harder to keep the eggs together so do the slicing carefully.
  4. For the third pass you also slice the egg lengthwise but after rotating them 90 degrees. Hold the slicer over a large bowl to catch the falling bits as the egg will basically fall apart after you are done. The idea is to end up with little cubes of egg white. The yolk will disintegrate but that’s fine.
  5. Finely (and I mean finely) dice one shallot. You can use a quarter of an onion if you don’t have shallots.
  6. Add 2 heaped T of mayonnaise, the diced shallot, 0.5t sugar and a generous sprinkle of pepper to the diced egg and mix until the yolk has melted into the mayonnaise.
  7. Add half the caviar to the egg salad and mix some more. Place the bowl into the fridge for about an hour.
  8. Divide the caviar egg mixture onto the brioche. The brioche can be lightly toasted, or left untoasted if fresh.
  9. Decorate each amuse-bouche with the remaining caviar and serve while cold.

Notes

  • Caviar is not as expensive a delicacy as you might think, all you need to do is use a caviar made from a fish other than sturgeon. The cheaper varieties taste perfectly fine and in any case you might not want to use top grade caviar as a flavouring ingredient. The bottle I used (pictured right) was made from herring roe and has a retail price of under ten dollars, as will many other varieties.   
  • Besides brioche you can use any number of other things as the base. Be it a pastry or bread, just make sure it is not of the salty type. The Blini (essentially a mini pancake, second photo) or a Yorkshire Pudding are some alternatives.
  • The amount of caviar you reserve for decoration will determine the colour of your amuse bouche. If you mix the whole bottle of caviar in you will get a darker look as per the Blini photo.
  • For some colour you can add some chopped chives. The stark green specks will make the amuse-bouche look even more attractive. I really should have done that for the photo.
  • In case you were wondering, no that is not a giant ball of caviar in the top photo. It’s an optical illusion. It looks like a large slice of bread on a regular plate but its actually a slice of a mini brioche loaf on a small plate.
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Cauliflower Puree with Morel Mushrooms


(serves 3 as appetizers, 6 as amuse-bouche)
This is a dish that uses the King of Mushrooms, the Morel. For the longest time I wanted to create a signature vegetarian dish which could stand shoulder to shoulder with normal dishes. Finally I managed to come up with a recipe that has a meaty taste without using meat, a buttery nutty taste without using nuts, and good structure without using starch. Everyone always asks me what are the other ingredients and they refuse to believe there is nothing other than morel mushrooms and cauliflower on their plate, but that’s the truth. 
 
Ingredients Cauliflower Puree with Morel
  1. Chopped Cauliflower (1.5 cups)
  2. Dried Morel Mushrooms (0.5 cups)
  3. Butter
  4. Cream
  5. Port
  6. Dill Weed

Preparation

  1. Soak 0.5 cup of dried morel mushrooms in 0.5 cup of cool water.
  2. Crudely chop up your cauliflower into pea sized pieces. Discard the main stem.
  3. After the morels have soaked for at least 20 minutes, squeeze them dry and cut them also into pea sized bits. Keep the liquid.
  4. Stir fry the morel bits with a knob of butter on low heat for 2 minutes. Add 1T of port and a pinch of salt towards the end and turn the fire off as the pan dries. Put the morel bits aside.
  5. Simmer the cauliflower bits in the morel water in the same pan. Add 0.5t salt, 0.5t sugar, 0.5t pepper, 1T port, a knob of butter and 4T cream. When the liquid has been reduced by half, reserve a few T of the thickened liquid as a sauce for dressing.
  6. Puree the cauliflower in a food processor. How fine you want the puree to be is up to you, but I usually like to leave it slightly grainy for that extra texture. Covered with some cling film and refrigerate for half an hour.
  7. Manually stir half the morel bits into the cauliflower puree and then arrange the puree on your plates. Sprinkle on some dill weed and dress with the reserved sauce and remaining morel bits.

Notes

  • You can consider serving this dish in double shot glasses or cappuccino cups if you don’t have those steel round forms. They are not that easy to shape manually.
  • This dish can also be used as a side dish for a meat course – serve it warm of course.
  • The last bit of the morel liquid will contain some sediment, pour that away.
  • Some morel will come with bits of leafy stem, cut those away as they spoil the bouncy texture of the mushrooms.
 
 

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Foie Gras and Orange Reduction Amuse Bouche


(serves 10)
One day I was having a crepe suzette with ice cream and I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be lovely to have some foie gras with this? Somewhere along the way I dropped the crepe and ended up with a superb 3 layer foie gras suzette amuse bouche. The tart but sweet orange reduction provides an interesting contrast to the richness of the foie gras while the shot glass format allows you to control the usual appearance and temperature issues associated with canned foie gras, and to serve portions that are small enough to not overwhelm the stomach or pocket.    
 

Ingredients

  1. Canned ‘Bloc’ Foie Gras (200g)
  2. Oranges (2)
  3. Butter (80g)
  4. Shallots (10)
  5. Vanilla Ice Cream (1 scoop)
  6. Marscapone (1 scoop)
  7. Marmalade
  8. Dark Soya Sauce
  9. Lemon Grass 
  10. Cointreau

Preparation 

  1. First anbd foremost, make sure you have 10 shot glasses (the double shot type).
  2. Squeeze the juice from your oranges after cutting them into halves. Peel and then chop the shallots finely. If you have trouble finding shallots, use a (not 10) red onion instead.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan and stir fry the shallot bits on low heat for about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour in the orange juice and place the orange rind, cut side down in the pan and continue cooking for a minute so some of the bitterness bleeds into the juice.
  5. Next, discard the rind, then add 2 heaped t of orange marmalade and 2t lemon grass. Proceed to boil this down till it begins to thicken. It should take a while, don’t use too high a flame after the initial stage. 
  6. When the volume has been reduced to a thin syrup consistency, stir in 0.5t soya sauce. Allow the mixture to cool; it will thicken as it cools.
  7. Divide the foie gras into the 10 shot glasses. Compact and flatten the foie gras with a small spoon by moving the shot glass in a circular fashion. Clean the oil off the top half of the inner surface of the shot glasses with a tissue for better visual impact.
  8. When the orange butter reduction has cooled, spoon it into the shot glasses as  a second layer over the foie gras. See this picture here:
  9. Left tray has foie gras patted down, right tray has orange butter sauce on top of the foie gras

  10. In a bowl, mix one ice cream scoop of vanilla ice cream, 1 scoop of marscapone and 1T of cointreau. Its ok if the ice cream melts. Spoon the mixture carefully into the shot glasses as the final layer. Add a few needles of lemongrass as a ganish.
  11. Keep the shots refrigerated chill in the freezer for 5 min to bring the temperature down further before serving. Serve with a small spoon, instructing your guests to eat all 3 layers together.

Notes

  • Use the type of canned foie gras that is labeled ‘bloc’. Just use it straight out of the can, its 98% pure foie gras and fully cooked. Do not use fresh foie gras since it is raw. Don’t use foie gras pate or mousse since you are only using a small amount per amuse bouche and you want maximum impact. 
  • Soya sauce is the secret ingredient, don’t skip it. It adds just the right amount of saltiness and darkens the orange reduction to the right colour. Use the dark soya sauce if you can, it is thicker.
  • The marscapone reduces the sweetness from the ice cream and allows for a stiffer consistency at room temperature. Don’t skip it.
  • I do not recommend this but if you are cheating by using store bought orange juice, it is essential you get the type with pulp.
  • You can use Grande Marnier instead of Cointreau. If you absolutely hate alcohol, add the cointreau to the orange juice so the alcohol boils off. However, the top creamy layer will lose all of its orange aroma and undertone.

The Apple Version

this version is made in almost the same way as the orange version. Simply make the following changes to the ingredients: 

  • replace onion with one apple cut to 1/4 inch cubes, without skin
  • replace lemongrasss with 0.5t nutmeg and 0.5t cinnamon
  • replace orange juice with 1/2 cup white wine
  • replace marmalade with 1T sugar
  • replace cointreau with sherry
 
 

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Cod Liver on Leek Amuse-bouche


(serves as 3 appetizers or 6 amuse-bouche)
This is a delicate combination of smoked cod liver, leeks and sesame seeds that will go perfectly as an amuse-bouche. While the ingredients are inexpensive, this dish will still score high on the novelty factor. I know what you’re thinking, isn’t cod liver fishy? Not in this case. It’ll be like seafood flavoured faux foie gras. This dish is served chilled and you can prepare it ahead of time.

note: please refer to my Smoked Cod Liver post before proceeding.

Ingredients

  1. Smoked Cod Liver (1 tin)
  2. Leek (3/4 cup julienned)
  3. Sake (3/4 cup)
  4. Sesame Seeds (3t)
  5. Woustershire Sauce
  6. Mint Leaves (1t chopped)
  7. Coriander Seed Powder

Preparation 

  1. Two hours ahead, decant the oil of the smoked cod liver into a bowl for later use, then soak the cod liver pieces in 3/4 cup of sake. 
  2. Slice the leek into half lengthwise first and then proceed to julienne it diagonally to get long strips.
  3. Its now two hours later. Stir fry the leek in 4T of the cod infused oil under a low flame until the leek softens and just begins to brown. Put aside the cod liver pieces and add the sake to the leek in the pan.
  4. As the sake boils down slowly, add 0.5T woustershire sauce, 0.5t corriander seed powder, 0.5t suger, 1t of chopped mint leaves and a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat when the sake is about a fifth of its original volume. Allow to cool.
  5. After everything has cooled, prepare a bed of leek on each serving dish. Spoon over all the liquid from the pan as well. Evenly, sprinkle 3t of sesame seeds on the leek beds.
  6. Cut the liver pieces to the appropriate size as shown in the photo. You should make the cuts such that a cut surface faces up for each piece where possible. These have a reddish hue which makes for a much better appearance. You’ll notice that we at no point applied heat to the smoked cod liver, that’s the way its meant to be.
  7. Finish off with a light sprinkle of black pepper. Refrigerate until the point of serving.

Notes

  • What happened to the fishy taste? Smoking the cod liver had removes some of it and soaking it in sake neutralizes the rest. I’ve experimented soaking it from half an hour to overnight and I think 2 hours leaves you with just the right residual taste.The beauty here is we are not masking the fishiness with an overpowering smell like garlic, but removing it using a chemical reaction.
  • The accompanying picture is of an appetizer portion. If you are doing amuse-bouche, one of the best ways to serve this is in oriental porcelain spoons. Its just the right size for a mouthful.
 
 

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Runny Yolk Boiled Eggs


(serves 4)
Half a boiled egg is perfect as an amuse-bouche or hors d’oeuvre. Its easy to prepare and can be cooked ahead of time. To avoid the powdery taste of fully cooked yolk, many recipes simply scoop the yolk out and mix it with something creamy like mayonnaise but I prefer the more natural solution, which is to have the yolk still runny after the white has cooked. In Japan, where the practice of eating Ramen with molten yolk eggs was developed, this type of egg is called Ajitsuke Tamago or just plain Ajitama for short.
 

Ingredients

  1. Eggs (4)
  2. Soya Sauce
  3. Chinese Cooking Wine
  4. Vinegar
  5. a Drawing Pin

Optional Ingredients

  1. Garlic (3 cloves)
  2. Smoked Salmon (25g)

Preparation
The first thing anyone learns about boiling eggs is to put cold water in the pot with the eggs to prevent them from cracking and leaking. This golden rule does not hold here as timing is absolutely crucial in having the yolk runny and white solid. Not to worry, there is a trick to that.

  1. Store your eggs in the fridge first and then submerge them in some tap water for 5 minutes to bring the temperature of the shell up but allow the yolk to stay cold.  A fresh egg will sink completely in water. If part of an egg floats above the water surface that means an air pocket has built up inside and it is a few weeks old – you may want to cook that egg fully. Also an air pocket means part of the boiled egg will be flat and the yolk will end up off-centre.
  2. Next heat a pot of water, adding a T of vinegar. Make sure you have sufficient water to cover the eggs.
  3. Using a drawing pin, punch a small hole at the base (the wider end) of the each egg. This will serve to relieve stress on the shell and prevent cracking since you are putting the eggs directly into boiling water.
  4. When the water is boiling strongly, lower the eggs into the boling water. If the water stops boiling momentarily after you put the eggs in, you are using too little water. Simmer from 6 minutes for medium sized eggs to 7 minutes for XL sized eggs. Use a wire mesh ladle so you can put the eggs in and take them out all at the same time.
  5. As the eggs are simmering, prepare a bowl of iced water. Once the eggs are ‘done’ transfer them immediately to the iced water to prevent further cooking.
  6. After the eggs have cooled sufficiently, and it is best to leave them in the fridge for a while, tap them over their entire surface to fully crack the shells. As the eggs are cold, the egg itself should have shrunk enough to detach itself from the shell membrane and this will help you to avoid damaging the eggs’ surface as you peel them.
  7. Mix 4T soya sauce, 2T Chinese Cooking Wine and 1t of sugar in the smallest container you have that can house the eggs without stacking them.  Top off with water, stir and place the eggs in, making sure they are fully submerged. Cover with clear film and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if possible. After the eggs are stained, they will retain some taste from the marinade.
  8. Near the time of dining, slice each egg into two, and place a few drops of the marinade onto the yolk to impart some taste to them.

Optional (i.e. if not eating with Ramen)

  1. While you are letting the eggs warm to room temperature, peel and slice three cloves of garlic as finely as you can and pan fry them in a dash of oil till they are golden.
  2. Cut a slice of smoked salmon into tiny squares.
  3. Use them both as condiments for your egg as shown above.

Notes

  • This type of egg, that is to say Ajitama, is served with many types of Ramen.
  • If you happen to be making Chashu for Ramen you can use the stewing liquid as the marinade instead of making it from scratch. The soya component of the marinade can also be replaced with things like olive tapenade, tea leaves or mashed anchovy.
  • If you want to use a zip-loc bag to marinate the eggs in, make sure the bag is kept in a bowl the entire time.  When you lift the bag without a bowl, its narrow base can squeeze the eggs and cause ruptures, especially if you are making many eggs at once.
  • The iced water is essential. Instant cooling will help ensure that your eggs are cooked to the correct degree each time. Besides, slow cooling results in a grey coating on the yolk which we’d like to avoid.
  • The purpose of the vinegar is to coagulate any egg white that escapes through the tiny holes you punched in the egg shells.
  • The boiled egg is versatile. Other than the garlic/smoked salmon condiment combo suggested, you can try a wide variety of savoury alternatives like caviar, salmon roe, crispy fried bits of Iberico ham etc.
 
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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in Appetizers, Japanese, Recipe

 

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Smoked Cod Liver


Various dishes of liver from fatty fish are served as amuse-bouche in Japanese restaurants. Those fresh fish livers are hard to come by and prepare properly but I recently discovered a canned version from Denmark.

Its somewhat close to foie gras in taste, but comes at a small fraction of the price of foie gras. And you don’t have to get self-conflicted about fish being force fed. The texture is closer to calf sweetbreads except you needn’t worry about mad cow disease.  And best of all, this smoked cod liver is rich in Omega-3. 

The size of these delightul morsels is rather small so this sets some limitations on how you can serve them.  The most obvious way would be as a replacement for foie gras, in dishes which don’t require a whole chunk of goose liver. I myself prefer to serve this delicacy as itself, as I feel many people will take delight in sampling a new taste. I often use this smoked cod liver as the basis for an amuse-bouche, flavoured with various combinations of mustard, vinegar, mirin or fortified wine. Accompany this with something crispy to maintain balance, like thin toast or roasted sesame seeds perhaps. I have a recipe using smoked cod liver on this blog, you can check it out here

An added bonus is oil with a rich smoked flavour. You can’t see it in the photo because I decanted it, but the tin comes full of Omega-3 rich oil.  You can use this oil as part of a pasta sauce or salad dressing etc.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2010 in Ingredients, Seafood

 

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What is an Amuse-bouche?


 

Bastardized from the french term ‘amouz-bouche’, which literally means amuse-the-mouth, the amuse-bouche is a small dish which can be eaten in one or two bites. In a fine french restaurant, it is a complimentry course served after you order your food but before the food that you ordered arrives. Its purpose is to reduce the idle time while your order is being prepared. Its sort of like a hors d’ oeuvre, except only one is served per person and you can’t pick which one. They are almost always served cold as they are usually prepared in advance.

Because of their small stature, greater attention is given to appearance, and amuse-bouches are served on such things as oriental porcelain spoons or glass tiles. In the home setting, you can use less ornate crockery such as shot glasses or expresso cups.

Some ideas for an amuse-bouche are smoked meat, raw or seared tuna, savoury jelly, mini terrine slices, small quantities of rich soups. You can also serve 3 amuse-bouche together (ie a trio) as a full appitizer, especially if they are made under a common theme.

Examples of amuse-bouche from Kobi’s Kitchen are my Smoked Oysters in Tomato Jelly, Cod Liver on Leek and Runny Yolk Boiled Eggs, Foie Gras & Orange Reduction Shots .

Notes

  • The other complimentry courses in fine French dining are sherbet (sorbet) served before your main course, and petits fours served after you ask for the bill.
 
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Posted by on February 11, 2010 in Appetizers, French

 

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