According to Martha Stewart, cocktail parties are the greatest contribution to the world of entertaining. On the other hand, Charles Merrill Smith terms a cocktail party as a means of paying off obligations to people you do not want to invite to dinner. My opinion somehow sways in the middle of these two extremes. Organizing a cocktail party requires much more attention to be paid towards detailing. Designing, creating and implementing each hors d’ ouevre is much more taxing than cooking main meals for the same number of people. Each uniquely crafted piece of manna needs to complement the cocktails, excite your palate and seduce your eyes.
Fine dining restaurants world over, call these little tidbits, amuse-bouche, literally meaning mouth amuser in French. Don your chef’s hat and whip up delectable canapes to amuse the palate of your guests. Cocktail parties have a general aura of aristocracy to them, ladies dressed in their finest attire, sipping exquisite cocktails and feasting on beautifully designed amuse-bouches. For my amuse-bouche recipe, I deviated from French cooking into the realm of Asian fusion cuisine, as always with a kick of spices. The intense flavor of the shrimps is complemented by the cooling taste of the cucumbers makes this recipe ideal for all food lovers.
- 4 large cucumbers
- 1/2 kg medium-sized shrimps
- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 5 red chillies, chopped (preferably bird’s eye chilli)
- Handful chopped coriander
- 1 tsp garlic, crushed
- 1tsp ginger, crushed
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- In a bowl whisk together soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, chillies, coriander and sugar
- If frozen, thaw the shrimps and add to the marinade with their tails intact. Coat the shrimps evenly with the marinade (Note: Buy the shrimps that have already been cleaned and de-veined from before)
- Cover the bowl and leave the shrimps to soak the flavor in for at least 4-5 hours.
- In the meanwhile, peel the skin off the cucumbers and slice horizontally, maintaining a thickness of 2 inches
- Scoop the flesh out from the middle of the cucumber, leaving a small amount at the bottom to prevent the shrimps from falling through. If done correctly, your chopped cucumbers should resemble small cups
- Refrigerate till ready to use
- Heat a grill pan and ladle some peanut oil on it, coating evenly
- Grill the shrimps for about 4-5 minutes, turning over once. Make sure the shrimps are not overcooked as they will lose their juices
- Heat the remaining marinade in a pan and bring to a boil till it thickens slightly
- Place the cucumber cups on a serving tray and carefully add 2 shrimps per cup with their tail facing outwards
- Drizzle the marinade on top of the shrimps and serve
Presentation is key for cocktail canapes, hence dress up your serving tray before it goes into the limelight. Chop coriander or cilantro roughly and set aside. Paint the edges of your serving tray with butter and stick the chopped coriander/cilantro on all four sides of your tray. Spread the chopped coriander/cilantro evening so no gaps are evident. Against a white backdrop, the dark and light shades of green will resemble the canvas of an artist at work.
In Fred Allen’s words, “Cocktail party: A gathering to enable 40 people to talk about themselves at the same time. The man who remains after the liquor is gone is the host.” In this case, the person who remains after the food is wiped out, is the gracious host.