In preparation for the tasting party I’m giving for some of my friends at the end of November, I’ve been previewing the items I’ve never made before. One reason for this is to make sure there are no nasty surprises in the preparation of them, because I know from experience that if I run into a snag, it throws off my carefully concocted plan of attack and gets me “discombobulated”, as my mother used to say. The other reason for pre-testing is to make sure that the recipe that I think sounds wonderful is, in fact, great-tasting. I’m pretty good at looking at a recipe and imagining how it will taste as a finished product, but you just never know. I have been spectacularly wrong before. Besides, for this event I’ve been taking some poetic license, especially with the little one-bite items known as amuse bouche; I’ve been playing with combining different bases with different toppings to make new flavor combinations.
Today I did a test run of one of the amuse bouche ideas that I was most unsure of. The idea was to make a beet mousseline (a beet and balsamic vinegar puree to which whipped cream has been added to lighten it), place it on the little corn blini that I made a couple of weeks ago and stored in the freezer, top it with lime-flavored sour cream, and add bacon bits. I thought it would be good, since I love lime with beets, but to be honest I kind of assigned this bite to the plate-filler niche, something that would look pretty but not be all that spectacular when it came right down to it.
I could not have been more wrong. When I put this little guy into my mouth, I knew I had a winner. An amuse bouche is supposed to “amuse the mouth”, incorporating many flavors, textures, and even temperatures into one lovely bite. The first taste impression here was “creamy”–the sour cream and the whipped cream in the mousseline asserted themselves first. Then I tasted the earthiness of the beets and the citrus bite of the lime, then the saltiness of the bacon bits, and finally, coming up at the end, the sweet corn taste of the blini.
These are going to be a part of a tasting plate with 5 other “bites”. I only hope that my guests will give this bite a moment alone, a savoring of each flavor and texture as it appears and blooms in the mouth.
The other test drive I made today was a lovely cheese and orange cracker. This cracker has orange zest and juice, Parmesan and Swiss cheeses, butter, and flour in it, and it is delicious. In the finished dish, which will be another item on the amuse bouche plate, the cracker will be topped with shredded leeks which have been caramelized and sweated with orange peel and star anise, then topped with a single seared shrimp and a dollop of persimmon puree. I have high hopes for that dish too, though I probably am going to go on instinct and not preview the finished bite. I have to have some surprises, even for myself!
For the crackers:
1/4 C Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
1/2 C Jarlsberg cheese, shredded
6 T flour
1/2 tsp orange zest
2 T cold butter
1 T cold orange juice
Stir together the cheeses, the flour and the zest. Cut the butter into bits add to the bowl. With a pastry blender blend in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add juice and stir with a fork until it starts to form a dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead quickly until the dough is just combined. Roll into a 1-1/2″ diameter log and wrap tightly in waxed paper. Chill the wrapped dough, at least an hour, until firm.
Slice the dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Bake on a baking sheet in a preheated 375º oven until the edges start to brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before serving.
Recipe from this blog post: Sauteed shrimp on a bed of leeks, on a homemade cracker, with persimmon mousse