Friday, May 6, 2011

Francois Payard: Elegant Party Appetizers





An inviting selection of delectable hors d'oeuvres and chilled bottles of Champagne are the perfect ingredients for any elegant cocktail party. Wonderful as they are to attend, they can be a little daunting to any host, unless you have a few secrets up your sleeve. I came across a fabulous cookbook a few years ago — 'Bite Size' by legendary chef François Payard. In his book, he shows home cooks how to prepare simple, sensational appetizers that will leave guests impressed and hosts with energy to spare. 




Payard's Delectable Sweet Corn Madeleines with Caviar and Crème Fraîche 


François knows how to throw a great party — in addition to his renowned 'Francois Payard Bakery' and 'FC Chocolate Bar' in New York, and 'Payard' at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, he also ran the upscale catering company, 'Tastings', for many years. Several times a week, he prepared sophisticated canapés and light bites for hundreds of people. In 'Bite Size', he presents a collection of his favorite recipes made easy for everyday cooks. Along with chapters on meat, fish, vegetable, and cheese hors d'oeuvres, François includes a wealth of helpful hosting tips, hints, and serving suggestions — try serving soup in shot glasses as an appetizer, for example. 


Smokey Tomato and Clam Shooters


The innovative recipes use simple, easy-to-find ingredients for spectacular results such as Prosciutto-Wrapped Gnocchi, Lobster Vol-au-Vent, Classic Gougere, and Basmati Cakes with Curried Crab. Each recipe is accompanied by a lush, full-color photograph of the finished dish. It's one of his recipes that I have adopted as my own — his Sweet Corn Madeleines with Caviar and Crème Fraîche. They're unbelievably simple to make and look spectacular at an elegant cocktail party! 


A wonderful little cookbook full of inspiring photos and recipes




Sweet Corn Madeleines with Caviar and Crème Fraîche
Makes 20 to 24 madeleines
Recipe courtesy of Francois Payard


Softened unsalted butter and all-purpose flour for the molds
2 ears fresh corn, roasted with kernels sliced off (or canned corn!)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
3 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp unsalted butter, melted
3 tbs very cold crème fraîche
1 oz caviar (Sevruga or Salmon Roe)


Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush a mini madeleine mold with softened butter then dust it with flour.

In a blender, purée the roasted (or tinned) corn kernels with the milk. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the eggs and sugar at low speed until they become white and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the cornmeal, pureed corn, flour, baking powder and salt. Once the flour is incorporated, slowly mix in the melted butter.

Place the batter in a pastry bag or a resealable plastic bag, and cut a 1/4" opening in the tip or corner. Pipe the batter into the prepared molds. Tap the molds lightly to remove an air bubbles from the batter and to prevent holes from forming in the madeleines.

Bake the madeleines for 8-10 minutes until they're lightly golden. Remove from the oven, unmold and arrange them on a platter. Top each madeleine with a tiny dollop of creme fraiche and a few grains of caviar, or just a sprig of dill. Serve warm.









Savoury Madeleines with Red Bell Pepper, Basil and Mozzarella

Madeleines with Red Bell Peppers, Basil & Mozzarella
Makes 16 madeleines
Softened unsalted butter and all-purpose flour for the molds
2 tsp basil leaves, julienned
1 roasted red bell pepper
2 tbsp red pepper, chopped fine for garnish
3 eggs
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven 350°F. Brush a mini madeleine mold with softened butter then dust it with flour.

Dice the mozzarella and peppers. Mix the flour and baking powder. Whisk the eggs with the parmesan cheese, then combine the flour and baking powder with the eggs and parmesan. Fold in the mozzarella, peppers, basil, oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine well. Refrigerate for at least for one hour.

Place the batter in a pastry bag or a resealable plastic bag, and cut a 1/4" opening in the tip or corner. Pipe the batter into the prepared molds and fill only to 2/3. Tap the molds lightly to remove an air bubbles from the batter and to prevent holes from forming in the madeleines. Bake the madeleines for 7 minutes placing the mold on the hot baking tray. Remove from the oven, unmold and arrange them on a platter. Top each madeleine with a tiny dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of diced red pepper. Serve warm.








Blinis with Smoked Salmon, Caviar and Crème Fraîche





Smoked Salmon Blini with Caviar & Crème Fraîche
Makes 40 canapés

For the blini: 
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, skin on
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp crème fraîche
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 to 2 tbsp whole milk
salt & white pepper

For the garnish:
3 oz. of black caviar or salmon roe
1 lb of smoked salmon
1/2 cup crème fraîche
Fresh dill, for garnish

To make the blini: 
Put the potatoes in a pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer until cooked. Drain and peel the potatoes while they are still hot, then press through a potato ricer while they’re still warm. Place the potatoes in a medium bowl and quickly work in the flour with a fork and then add in the crème fraîche and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing. Season with salt and white pepper. The batter should resemble thick pancake batter.

Preheat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat and allow it to heat up thoroughly. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the batter into the hot pan, about the size of a silver dollar, and cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, then flip the blini over and continue to cook on the other side for one more minute. Remove to a small cookie sheet and keep warm in a 200°F oven while you cook the remaining blini.

To serve: 
Top each blini with a folded sliver of smoked salmon, a dollop of crème fraîche and a whisper of caviar. Garnish with a sprig of dill and serve immediately. Heaven!

COOK'S NOTE: Making blini can be fast-tracked if you use leftover mashed potatoes!