Sunday, January 24, 2010

Amuse or Refuse?

Found myself browsing through Rick Tramanto's 2002 book, Amuse-Bouche, Little Bites of Delight Before the Meal Begins, at the library last week. I got sucked into the food porn photography by Tim Tucker enough to check it out. But after getting it home and really digging into it, I found myself wondering if I was really the audience they were trying to reach with this cookbook? I'm a home cook, not a chef. Sometimes when chefs undertake a cookbook endeavor they rely on what works best for their restaurant and try to translate that directly onto the printed page. However the general public at large can't always find French Green Lentils, Baby Purple Kohlrabi, or Bresaola in their humble grocery stores or farmer's markets. Still I couldn't be too picky, the amuse bouche course is a restaurant creation. You don't order an amuse, it's a mouth teaser given by the chef as a indicator of how a chef cooks and presents his food. No, I was hoping to find something that would be a fun appetizer to add to the culinary arsenal. I tried picking out something fairly easy and low key. Something that could be whipped up fairly quickly with ingredients I might have on hand. Yukon Gold Potato Chips with White Anchovy seemed to fit the bill.It's an easy recipe but you need one of these unless your knife skills are that good that you can consistantly cut paper thin slices of potatoes you'll need to make the chips. You don't need to spend a ton of money on a mandolin, this once was priced under twenty bucks.

You start by peeling a largish Yukon gold potato. Then you make your thin slices on your mandolin. Choose 5 or 6 similarly shaped slices and cut two slits in the middle. This is so you can thread your white anchovy through like a belt through a belt loop. As it just so happened, I had marinated white anchovies in my fridge. I found them at Whole Food's deli counter. (Unfortunately I'm not sure if this is the same as they used in the cookbook version. It just calls for white anchovies.) Once you've placed all the anchovies in their potato slots, brush all with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and white pepper. It's here that the recipe gets a little funky. It calls for putting the slices on parchment or silpat (on a cookie sheet) and then sandwiching with another layer of silpat or parchment and on top of that another cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. At first I liked the idea of baking them but once the first 15 minutes had passed and I checked on their progress the chips looked like they had barely cooked. Gave them another 10 minutes. A little better but still very limp. I decided to jettison the top layer and let the chips cook unimpeded. Finally after another 10 minutes in the oven, the edges had browned up and they had finally achieved some firmness. They tasted OK, a little chewy but the anchovy totally overpowered the potato chip. Plus if you don't eat these immediately you really shouldn't eat them at all. Some things are fantastic hot and only hot. Now I'm not saying these aren't fantastic in Tramonto's restaurant, I bet they are although I also bet they deep fat fry them. There is that option in the cookbook I just wasn't in the mood to try it. I just wasn't really impressed with the results of this particular recipe. However you know I couldn't let this particular recipe pass without trying a little Baconization.Oh yeah, that helped.

While Tramonto's book is very pretty and a detailed look into how they developed these amuse bouches at their restaurant, I'd definitely check it out from your library first. If it connects more with you than it did with me I'm sure you could find space in your kitchen library to add it to your collection. It would also make a great gift for the restaurant chefs in your life.

11 comments:

Making Space said...

Those look pretty. The bacon one looks really good. They all look pretty fussy. I guess that's part of the point though...

Big Shamu said...

I don't mind fussy if the taste is there. I'm rethinking the whole frying thing.

LaDivaCucina said...

BAH! I laughed out loud when I got to the bacon chippy. Now that's more like it. (oooh...with home made sour cream and onion dip?!) Seems like the chips would be a huge hit of flavor AND calories by just eating one, so how many of these could you eat? (Just one i suppose, it IS an amuse bouche.) I admire you tackling this recipe!

what kind of potatoes did you use? Russet? They look huge.

Love the mandonlin, MUST get one but so limited for space...also want a potato ricer too.

Your comments about the cookbook's ingredients also remind me of other non-user-friendly cookbooks. These are stupid WW diet books I bought a year or two ago when trying to get inspiration for low fat meals. I don't like cookbooks with recipes that start off with 1/2 cup of fat free cool whip or grate 1 cup of fat free cheese. Naturally, they are languishing on my shelves and I should think about throwing them out...no good can come from them! Wish I would have borrowed them first! At least I got them second hand.

LaDivaCucina said...

PS: Yes, Bacon Whore, you SHOULD have made the caviar staircase! haha!

Dani said...

Yep, I'm goin' with the bacon one too. Looks good.

Big Shamu said...

La Diva, you're right, dip would be good. Sadly Shamu's budget does not accommodate "Snacking Caviar". Diva, no used bookstores in your area? Trade those WW cookbooks for credit.

So good to see all my other Bacon Whore chiming in. When all else fails, you can count on the Bacon Whores.

intuitive eggplant said...

Ah, yes, I smiled when I reached the baconization portion of your post. Bacon whores, unite! Although I am also partial to les putains de fromage . . .

Making Space said...

I keep coming back to the crafting aspect of this, which looked fussy to me at first. But I'm thinking this would totally rock my kids' world as a craft project. Thread bacon through potatoes! Who could resist? Yeah.

Deep fried bacon and potatoes? YESSSSS.

Big Shamu said...

Eggy, my french is crappy...ok my french is google language translator but did you mean fornicating cheese?

intuitive eggplant said...

What I meant was more like "cheese sluts." My French is rusty, so not sure I have JJ's phrase quite right (maybe from a long ago TC chat?).

Anyway, off to watch Bourdain in Brittany. I hope cheese - and shellfish - will be involved. Some things we can all agree on, n'est-ce pas?

TROLL Y2K said...

I serve them all the time but have never followed a recipe. I just look at the flavor profiles in (usually) the entree and try to think up a creative way to preview them.