Sunday, July 21, 2013

Canapes and H'ors D'oeuvres

canapes  

Web definitions
A canapé is a small, prepared and usually decorative food, held in the fingers and often eaten in one bite..

Thanks, Martha Stewart!
Deviled Quail Eggs w/ dill & Caviar
Don't you like how I'm starting off my blogs lately with definitions? Because I do. I think it gives a wonderful, scientific note to begin on. Food is science, after all, and since smart/nerdy girls are becoming more and more acceptable in the mainstream(and I'm not talking about hot girls that put on thick glasses for Facebook profiles and caption themselves "nerd lol"), I'm going to stretch my nerd wings and fly by making this a running theme. Hooray!

So! A canape! It sounds a LOT like h'ors doeuvres, doesn't it? (You know, those fancy little snacks that you get at weddings during their cocktail hour? Or at a buffet for a friend's little cousin's Bar Mitzvah?) Well, that's because a canape is just a certain kind of h'ors doeuvres. Nowadays, however, it seems that both terms are mostly interchangeable, and that's okay. If you want the actual, specific definition, then check out how FreeDictionary.com defines the term: 

can•a•pé (ˈkæn ə pi, -ˌpeɪ) 

n., pl. -pés.
a cracker or piece of bread topped with cheese, caviar, or other savory food.
[1885–90; < French: literally, a covering or netting, orig. for a bed (see canopy)]

See, this makes sense. Canape? Canopy? Something covering a cracker, like the canopy of the trees covering the brush with shadows? Doesn't that sound just lovely? H'ors d'oeuvres can be just bout anything you want them to be, so long as you can eat them in one bite, and a canape is an h'ors d'oeuvres that's got a crakcer/berad base. At work, however, our canapes are just about anything we want them to be, all served while our guests cocktail before their decadent, three-course meal. 

The idea of h'ors d'oeurvres/canapes is to keep them uniform, keep them small(one bite only, please), and keep them light. We don't necessarily want our guests filling up too much on these babies, do we? But we want them to be sated enough to wait for the meal we serve them. More often than not, if you invite a guest or two over for dinner, they come hungry. Don't make them wait if you have a whole big meal planned; throw them a few canapes to tide them over while you work your magic.

Why am I blogging about this now? Well, it's summer, and summer is quickly fading into autumn, which means the autumnal season will turn into a holiday season, and that means entertaining. Entertain your relatives, your friends, your neighbors, or yourself(I won't judge) with fun canapes, which(by the way) are excellent ways to show-up people at your neighborhood pot-lucks, if done correctly. A well-made h'ors d'oeuvres can be a veritable secret weapon at a neighborhood block party, leaving you, dear reader, the talk of the town.

Toasted wheat bread, mustard aioli, smoked ham, cornichons
From my culinary school days...our take on a "ham sandwich canape"
Now, then, according to my old notes from Garde Manger, a h'ors d'oeuvre(generally) needs a base, a spread, a body, and a garnish. With those four things in mind, you can come up with tons of combinations for very elegant h'ors d'oeuvres that are shockingly easy. I like canapes, however, because they specifically come with some kind of bread/cracker base, and I'm lazy when I entertain! (Seriously, who doesn't have crackers at any moment's notice?)

I love canapes because they are so fast. They immediately give you a base, so the other three are quick to come up with on a moment's notice. Canapes can be made using any kind of bread base, be they the heels on your bread loaves that you never eat, the crackers in your cabinet, or even the pita or tortillas you keep on top of your fridge, grilled off quickly. You can grill, fry, broil, dry toast, or even saute your bases for your canapes. Got white bread? Cut them into squares or use a round cookie cutter to make uniform shapes and toast them in the oven or saute them in butter. Pita? Tortillas? Wedges, man. Wedges, grilled. Crackers? They're already in that perfect uniform shape!

Now for your spread and body. 

Buckwheat blinis by Monica Shaw
Buckwheat blinis with varying toppings
What's in your fridge? No, seriously, what's in there? Go look? Got a bit of leftover roast beef? Shave it super-thin to create your body, layering artfully on your base with a bit of horseradish sauce/wasabi mayonnaise. Do you have cucumbers? Shave strips of the skin off and slice in rings as thick as your bread, maybe a bit thicker, and cut your bread the same circumference as the cucumber, and spread an herbed cream cheese between so the bread doesn't get soggy; top that with some smoked salmon and you have yourself a fancy canape, indeed. Tomatoes that aren't SO pretty but still good? Toast bread and rub it with fresh tomato. Seriously. It's a Spanish tapa thing called Pan Tomate, and you can drizzle with olive oil, a fried garlic chip, top with some serrano ham... You would be shocked at how much flavor it has. You can even use leftover shrimp by using your bread circles(toasted, please) some mashed avocado with lime juice, a shrimp, halved lengthwise, and a few cilantro leaves. And you can half these lengthwise because you a.) want to stretch it out so you can have twice as many, and b.) you don't want to fill your guests up before the meal.

Courtesy of MarthaStewartWeddings.com
Wonton napoleon with ricotta, tomato, basil

A good canape can not only say a lot about your party, and what your guests can expect in the coming meal, but they can also say a lot about you. Are you sophisticated yet down-to-earth? Do roasted mushrooms with a spread of Robiola cheese(courtesy of this beautiful recipe from Martha Stewart). Or perhaps you're a dare-devil and want to try these deep-fried wontons-turned-napoleon-layers with seasoned ricotta, fresh tomato and basil for a real wow-factor. You could be like me and just want to Old School with blinis, pictured above.

I love blinis. They're basically mini pancakes dressed with traditional Russian/eastern European toppings of smoked salmon, sour cream, pickled beets, caviar, and chopped herbs. (Maybe not always all at once, though.) I love them because you can make a ton of them all at once and then freeze what you don't use in plastic bags, to stow and keep for your next party. Plus, they are just elegant enough to make your guests/neighbors go: "Wait, you can't just buy those mini buckwheat pancakes at the grocery store...she must have made them from scratch! Just to entertain us! What a fancy lady! I shall go and tell the neighborhood and the rest of the HOMA to stop harassing her about eating ice cream from the carton with her shades open so everyone can see her shamefully stuffing-face in her underwear! I mean, this is America, after all, isn't it? She should have the freedom to do that without being judged! Anyone who makes such fancy blinis should!" Or something.

And, for the record, you can buy blinis in the store...I just haven't cared enough to look, yet, since it's so easy to make them myself. For your next party, if you feel like planning ahead, make this blini recipe, which is NOT from my texbooks from Culinary School(although that's a good recipe). This one is from Ina Garten. These puppies can sit for up to 6 months in the freezer, but I wouldn't actually know because they never last that long in my house.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, clarified, divided
  • 1/2 pound smoked salmon, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • Fresh dill sprig, for garnish

Directions
Combine both flours, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and 1 tablespoon of the clarified butter, then whisk into the flour mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon of the clarified butter in a medium saute pan and drop the batter into the hot skillet, 1 tablespoon at a time. Cook over medium-low heat until bubbles form on the top side of the blini, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 more minute, or until brown. Repeat with the remaining batter. (I clean the hot pan with a dry paper towel between batches.) Set aside.
To serve, top the blini with a piece of smoked salmon. Add a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprig of dill.

PhotoLike I said, stored in a gallon plastic bag, these babies KEEP.  And, remember, just because you're entertaining, doesn't mean you can't use things you already have lying around the house. Just remember to keep them uniform, consistent, and plentiful, and you'll be the toast of the town(no pun intended).  
Now, go on. Have fun entertaining. And enjoy this picture of Bruschetta I did with Jani Bryson some years ago.