I’ve always felt that any amuse-bouche worth its salt should be more than a whimsical little bite before you get down to business at the dinner table. It should be elegant in appearance; it should be clever in design; it should taste great with a long finish that both teases the palate as well as serve notice of things to come in the rest of the meal. For my Big Fat Sicilian Christmas Dinner I made an amuse-bouche that was a spin off from Keller’s “Oysters & Pearls”. The premise is tapioca that has been soaked in milk to rehydrate it, then cooked and finished with some cream and creme fraîche, and then plated with an oyster or two, topped with some caviar, and drizzled with a vermouth, shallot and oyster liquor reduction sauce.
For my amuse-bouche I used jarred Willapoint oysters instead of fresh shucked because I find that there is more oyster liquor in the bottled oysters for the reduction sauce. I also splashed the reduction sauce with a tablespoon of Vietnamese fish sauce and a tablespoon of mirin. (I was tempted to stir in a tablespoon or two of Thai red curry paste, but I was afraid that I’d overwhelm the delicacy of the oyster and tapioca.)
Finally, since this was an amuse-bouche, and not an appetizer, I plated it on a ceramic spoon with just one oyster (Willapoint oysters tend to be on the large side, and they’re briny…just the way you want an oyster to be). I used salmon roe caviar, and just before sending them to the table I gave each serving a healthy grind of black pepper. Needless to say they were incredible and all my guests were immediately looking around for more. Several times I heard the feeble protest “you mean, we only get one?” That’s an amuse-bouch doing its job.