Amuse-bouche is a small bite of magic, a tasty foreshadowing. Pairing the morsel with a cocktail can show your guests that you’re willing to go the extra mile. Plus, making a fantastic amuse-bouche doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Most people skip a pre-nosh because they think it’s too fancy and overly complicated, but most tasty recipes can be conjured in 15 minutes or less.
It’s time to stop seeing this tradition as country club snobbery and start seeing it as a peep in the keyhole of a chef’s master suite. It’s a tease. It’s a slice of spirit. It’s a crumb of personality revelation. It’s not just for big parties either. Kick off a simple amuse-bouche for date night and you’ll be on a bus bound for smooch city.
The history of the amuse-bouche is a bit unclear, but it’s thought to have originated in France in the 18th century. The term itself means “mouth amuser,” served as an appetizer or first course, often in a bite-sized portion. You can put it on a spoon, thimble, or whatever else is tiny.
There are no hard and fast rules about what an amuse-bouche can be, but it’s typically a single bite or small spoonful. It can be sweet or savory, hot or cold, simple or complex. The only limit is your imagination, but there are a few things that generally make an amuse-bouche great. First, it should be visually appealing—the type of thing that your guests will want to Instagram. Second, it should be flavorful. And finally, it should be something that can be eaten in one bite.
Deviled Legs: Hard-boil and peel four eggs, cut each in half, and scoop out the yolks into a bowl. Slice the bottoms of the egg white halves to create a flat surface, so they don’t roll around. Mash the yolks with two dollops of mayonnaise, a spoonful of mustard, a splash of vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste. Then, pipe or spoon the mixture back into the egg whites and garnish as desired. Add 3-4 capers on top, and one shark fin of crisp bacon. Break a tiny doll’s leg off, wash it, and stick it in the egg yolk. Sprinkle with sliced green onions. Try subbing the eggs for quail eggs and the bacon for minced chorizo.
Naked Pork Belly: This sounds too easy. Bake your pork belly. For eight people, place four 1/2-inch slices on a baking sheet in a baking pan. Place the 4-oz. slices of thick pork belly side by side, not touching. Add pepper but do not salt. (I prefer adding smoked paprika or lemon pepper.) It’s thick, so preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 45 minutes, flipping at 25 minutes. Check on them around 35 minutes and 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Let them dry on paper towels. Apply a tiny bit of maple syrup on top with a brush. Cut into bite-sized chunks. Stick with toothpicks or place an appetizer fork display next to the plate, like this one.
She’s My Cherry Pie: This is essentially an inverted cherry pie. Take a paring knife and scoop the pit and stem from a large cherry, making a tiny bowl. Crumble shortbread cookies (glaze the cookies with brown, melted butter and sugar first, if you’d like) and place them inside the cherry bowl.
Martini Bite: Remove the pit from Castelvetrano or Gordal olives, or buy seedless ones. You’ve got another tiny bowl! Now make the rectangular Jell-O booze insert:
- Bring one cup of water to a boil.
- Pour a 3-oz. box of clear, unflavored gelatin mix into a mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over the gelatin and whisk until the powder is completely dissolved.
- Add 1/2 cup vodka, 1/2 cup olive juice, and 1/2 cup cold water to the mixing bowl and whisk them together. Pour into a bowl or baking dish and let set for two hours.
- Cut little rectangles from jello and insert them into olive bowl.
Portuguese Custard Tart: If you’re extra busy, just buy a box of these delightful egg tarts from Trader Joe’s, bake ’em according to the box instructions, and sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar. To make them amuse-bouche size, cut them in half and serve with tiny forks and espresso.