Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hors-d'oeuvres from Hell



Well, not really from Hell, but it makes a nice title, don't ya think?

Actually, it was more like I was in hell, or rather my feet were. Damned plantar crap is popping up again. It was so bad this weekend, that I put my feet in the pool as soon as I got home...in the 40-degree pool. Hey--I figured they were inflammed, and cold sometimes takes out inflammation, and it was easier than making an ice foot bath. I lasted all of 2 minutes. Polar bear girl I am not. And, it came back with a new development--shooting heel pain in my right heel. Loverly.

Back to the food, because that's what we're all here for, anyway. Monday's Pantry class was all about (mostly) cold hors-d'oeuvres and appetizers, and what the difference between an app and a hors-d'oeuvre (which is hands down the hardest word on the planet to spell consistently...even worse that the fear of the number 13...that triske--whatever.) According to our text, the translation from the French is "outside the meal," because hors-d'oeuvres are literally served before you sit down for the meal. If it's part of the meal, then it's an appetizer and is usually a bit larger portion than the 1-2 bite hors-doeuvre. Both serve basically the same function--to perk up your appetite for the meal to come.

Here's our menu:

Blue Cheese Mousse piped into Belgian Endive leaves
Clam Fritters with cocktail sauce
Guacamole
Hummus
Curried Onion Relish
Red Pepper Mousse
Salsa Fresca/Salsa Verde
Spiced Mango Chutney
Olive Tapenade
Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Strudel with Madeira sauce

The strudel was the best thing we did. The sauce was out of this world, and I could have just drank it...which, at one point, several of my classmates and I were doing. It was like "want a little strudel with your sauce?"

The blue cheese and red pepper mousses were okay...the blue cheese one got a little salty, but it looked very good. And it was incredibly easy to do. Mousse is French for "froth" or "foam," and it should be light and smooth. We were quizzing Chef on the difference between mousse and mousseline, and the nearest definition we could come to was, for our purposes, mousseline usually involved ground/pureed meat that is cooked and chilled and then put into something else.

Blue Cheese Mousse in Endive leaves (makes 1 pound of mousse)

Ingredients

10 oz Blue cheese (If you don't like blue cheese, you can substitute the same amount of goat cheese...you could use herbed goat cheese as well)

6 oz Cream cheese

1 tsp Kosher salt

.25 tsp Ground black pepper

6 fl oz Heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

Small endive leaves (or you could use toasted baguette rounds, etc.)

Procedure

1. Purée blue cheese and cream cheese until very smooth. Season with S&P.

2. Fold whipped cream into the mousse until well blended, without lumps. Chill for 15 minutes or so--don't let it get too hard, because you want to put it in a piping bag.

3. Use a piping bag with a smallish tip--not too small, but not a giant one, either, or you can spoon it into a plastic bag and cut the corner off. Pipe a nice line down the endive leave, sort of squiggle it to make it look pretty. Chef Pantry says he sometimes garnishes these with a candied walnut or pecan, which would give it added flavor, texture, and color. Or, you can use it as a dip.

The key when making this type of hors-d'oeuvre is to take into account the climate of the area you are going to serve it in...i.e., not at an outdoor wedding reception in July at 95 degrees, because it would just melt and wilt and look damned ugly. (Although, anyone who has an outdoor wedding reception in the South in the summer deserves whatever might melt and wilt and look damned ugly. Then, they truly would be the hors-d'ouvres from hell. I can see having your guests wilt for the 15 minutes it should take for the ceremony in the lovely botanical garden or in Great Uncle Willie's hay field where you had so many memories as a child, but for the love of Pete, get the guests inside soon! And, double the amount of liquids (punch, water, tea), nay triple! the amount of liquid you plan to serve, or you'll be sorry!)

The red pepper mousse involved gelatin, which can be tricky to work with, and to be honest, it was pretty bland. It looked pretty, because the team that made it piped it onto chilled spoons, which gave it some visual interest. I think the spoonful type hors-d'ouvres are kinda neat, but I always think about the poor schmoe who will have to wash all those spoons...some poor schmoe like a culinary student who has to slave away for hours at some volunteer gig.

On today's schedule is the written part of our mid-term and some hot appetizers. From the recipes we were given, there was a lot of seafood--crab cakes, Clams Casino, Oysters Diamond Jim Brady--so, I hope we get to do all the good stuff.

1 comment:

Linna said...

Thank you for the defintional difference between hors-d'oeuvres and appetizers. I never knew that.

Loved your little digression on outdoor weddings. I got sunburn one time at an outdoor wedding in Colorado Springs. In May. A mile high in that much thinner air in full sun. I turned bright red waiting for the silly thing to be over (one of those New Age weddings where they had to do a little Indian skit asking for a blessing from each of the cardinal directions). I hated the turquoise pantsuit I had on so much that I gave it to Goodwill when I got home.

The strudel sounds to die for!