Amuse-Gueule

Something on a Spoon

A glass of white wine, perhaps a glass of Crémant d’Alsace or maybe even a glass of Champagne; such a great way to start dinner (or lunch when you feel like treating yourself). You enjoy some bread with homemade Tapenade, or a few nice olives. All good. And then suddenly the chef presents you her or his Amuse-Bouche. Something very special and an indication of the chef’s talent. But in most cases it’s something on a spoon and not very special.

A bit of background: amuse-bouche is actually not a French term. Restaurateurs made it up because they think amuse-gueule (the correct term) is a bit harsh. ‘Gueule’ can refer to both humans and animals. And ‘ferme ta gueule’ is far from polite. So restaurateurs started using ‘bouche’, to eliminate the impression that they think their guests have a snout.

So the correct French term is amuse-gueule. Some say the concept of the amuse was invented by the Nouvelle Cuisine in the 1960s. Not really. In 1946 Francis Ambrière, in his book Les Grandes vacances, writes … Une côtelette à midi. Quelques amuse-gueule à l’heure du goûter. Et le soir, ô splendeur, un gigot bien saignant, le premier gigot depuis l’an 40!

Today’s amuse-gueule is a dish in its own right that amuses the mouth, fools your appetite and makes you want to start on the first course. Small, tasty, full of flavours and maybe a bit out of the ordinary.

We use a traditional coddler for this amuse-gueule, but you could also use a small ramequin. No spoon, please.

Wine Pairing

Typically the amuse-gueule is combined with your aperitif. We combined this amuse gueule with a glass of German Sekt, to be more precise with a glass of Reichsrat von Buhl – Pfalz – Sekt – Spätburgunder Brut rosé 2016, which is a superb pale pink wine, made from 100% Pinot Noir and produced by one of the leading wineries in Germany. Think red berries, brioche, a delicate texture with a nice mousse, fresh acidity and a long-lasting aftertaste.

What You Need (for 4)

  • One Egg
  • Four Medium Sized Raw Prawns
  • 75 grams Spinach
  • ½ Shallot
  • A Generous Tablespoon of Crème Fraiche
  • Dill
  • Blue Cheese
  • Chives
  • 4 Edible flowers

What You Do

Start by cleaning the prawns, removing the head, the shell and the vein. We used Argentine red shrimps. The meat is fairly soft and they become beautifully red when cooked. Fry the shrimps is some olive oil for 3 minutes. Remove the shrimps from the pan, set aside and let cool. Gently fry the shallot in the same pan for 10 minutes until glazed. Remove from the pan and let cool. In a different pan quickly cook the (dry and clean) spinach in some olive oil. Keep stirring! Drain if so required, set aside and let cool.
Cut the prawns in smaller bits. Chop the spinach using a large knife. Whisk the egg until completely smooth. Now add the (cool) bits of prawn, the spinach and the shallot. Whisk with a spoon. Add the Crème Fraiche. Add some chopped dill (depending on your taste), a bit of blue cheese (not too much, just to add a dimension to the dish) and a generous amount of chives. Mix. Coat the coddlers or ramequins with butter. Add the mixture to the coddlers or ramequins. Heat your oven to 170° Celsius (or 340° Fahrenheit). Place the coddlers or ramequins in a shallow dish. Add boiling water up to 2/3 of the height of the coddler or ramequin. Close the oven and reduce the temperature to 120° Celsius (or 250° Fahrenheit). After 30 minutes au bain marie your amuse-gueule should be ready. Test with a needle. Let cool.
If using a coddler, remove and dry the lid, add the flower and close.

Amuse-Gueule © cadwu
Amuse-Gueule © cadwu

 

 

 

Fried Large Prawns

Enjoying the Sea

Shrimps and Prawns, delicacies from the sea, just like lobsters, scampi and crabs. Popular food in many countries, just think shrimp cocktail, paella, salad with shrimps, pasta with seafood, stuffed eggs with shrimps, curry with prawns and of course, fried shrimps with garlic and lemon.

We think shrimps and prawns are as subtle, delicate and tasty as lobster. The prawn should be at the center, not just another ingredient of your fish soup. Not hidden by loads of garlic and lemon. Or even worse, wrapped in bacon (whoever came up with the idea of wrapping prawns and oysters (angels on horseback) in bacon is not a seafood lover).

We will use the shell, the legs and the so-called swimmerets of the prawns to create a sauce; a bisque like sauce.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our fried large prawns with a glass of rose. This Italian rose (from Garofoli) is made from 100% Montepulciano. It comes with beautiful scent of cherries and peaches. The flavor is full, velvety, present and balanced. A great companion for seafood. Other options are Chablis and Soave. A Viognier will probably be too fruity.

What You Need

  • Two large Prawns, either wild or organic
  • One small Shallot
  • Chili Pepper
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Armagnac or Cognac
  • Garlic
  • One Cherry Tomato
  • One Saffron Thread
  • Water
  • Bouquet Garni (Thyme, Parsley)
  • Black Pepper
  • Crusted Bread

What You Do

We start by making a bisque-like sauce, using the shell of the prawns.
Chop the shallot and a bit of chili pepper and glaze gently for 10 minutes in butter and olive oil. In parallel use scissors to cut the shell of the prawn. Start behind the head and cut towards the tail. Just before the tail turn 90 degrees and make a cut around the prawn. This allows you to remove the shell and the legs of the body but keep the head and the tail on the prawn. Remove the black vein (the prawn’s intestines) and the slurry in the head (if any). Since you serve the prawn with the head (and tail) it is essential that the prawn is clean. You could gently rinse the prawn if you want to be absolutely sure about this. Transfer the prawns to the refrigerator.
Break the shell into smaller chunks. Add these to the pan and fry for a few minutes until red. Add a small splash of Cognac or Armagnac and flambé. Never do this when using the exhaust or range hood. Add one garlic glove, water, the quartered cherry tomato, the bouquet garni and the saffron. Stir well, cover the pan and let rest on low heat for 30 minutes.
Remove the bouquet and the shells from the pan and using a spoon and a sieve squeeze the juices from the bouquet and the shells, then discard. Blender the mixture and pass through a sieve. Taste the mixture, add pepper if so required. Leave for another 30 minutes on very low heat, allowing for the flavors to integrate and for the liquid to reduce.
Dry the prawns and fry them in a skillet in oil (depending on the size maximum 4 minutes in total) on both sides and on the back. Use warm plates, and serve the prawn on top of the sauce. Touch of black pepper on the prawn is fine. Enjoy with crusted bread.