I am a sucker for small plates and appetizers. While most people think an entrée or a main course is the best way to enjoy a chef’s culinary artistry, I beg to differ. I think appetizers show off a chef’s versatility and creativity, and as I have mentioned in previous posts, big flavors usually come in small packages. So if you want to wow your guests, fill them up with mini bites.
By definition, an appetizer literally means “apart from the main work,” or food served prior to a main course. They can also be small bites in-between meals. They serve as a palate teaser and prepare the eater’s appetite for a more complex meal. It’s a way for the chef to clue in his or her guests to the type of flavors to come.
Last Saturday, while entertaining my guests, I had prepared three types of appetizers: Oysters with Pomegranate Vinaigrette, Shrimp Cocktail with a Spicy Malaysian Cocktail Sauce and a Flounder/Fluke Crudo (I have blogged this recipe before). These bites might be small, but they are seriously packed with dynamite flavors, and they are simple to assemble. They gave me an opportunity to showcase a sample of a few things I really like and to give my picky eaters a better shot of finding something they would enjoy.
Oysters with Pomegranate vinaigrette
Serves 2 oysters per person
Ingredients for the Vinaigrette:
Juice from the shucked oysters
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of mirin (Japanese rice wine)
A few pomegranate seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, except the oysters in a mixing bowl. Adjust the seasonings accordingly. Refrigerate until ready for use. Then, pour a spoonful over each oyster and serve cold.
You will need a special tool to shuck oysters. Here is a good video demonstration that show you how to shuck oysters. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy-rbEXFwLw
Shrimp Cocktail with Spicy Malaysian Cocktail Sauce
Serves 2 Shrimps per person
8 Jumbo shrimps, peeled. Deveined and cleaned.Tail intact.
I clove of garlic
1 piece of ginger (1 cm)
3 tablespoons of ketchup
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of mirin
1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of sambal oelek* or any chili sauce (can be purchased in any Asian grocery store or gourmet markets)
Salt, sugar and white pepper
1) Combine all ingredients except the shrimp in a blender and purée. Transfer to an air-tight container and refrigerate for later use.
2) For the shrimp, fill a pot with water and bring to boil. Add salt, whole white pepper, 1 bay leaf, and a few dried chilies.
3) Once the water reaches a rolling boil dunk in the shrimp.
4) The shrimp is thoroughly cooked once it turns orange or pink, usually within 1-2 minutes, depending on the heat of your stove. Do not overcook the shrimp or it will turn rubbery.
5) Remove from the pot and toss them into an ice-bath to stop the cooking.
6) Remove, pat dry the shrimp and refrigerate until ready to use.
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