Chapter 6: Hors d’oeuvre and Appetizers
‘Faire manger-les sans appetit, faire briller l’esprit de ceux en out et faire trouver
a ceux qui en desirent, est le supreme role des hors d’oeuvre’
(For those who are not hungry…….to perk up the spirit of some and to give spirit to
others who are without it, this is the task of the hors d’oeuvre on a menu)
This definition/explanation of the hors d’oeuvre, was presented by Escoffier in one of his
Hors d’oeuvre is a French expression and its true definition is a preparation served
outside of the menu proper, at the beginning of the meal before the main course. It
comes from the French term outside (hors) and goes back to the early times when at
banquets, the appetizer (hors d’oeuvre) was served in a separate room (ante
chamber/room) while the guests assembled and waited for the arrival of the host and the
chief guest. Hors d’oeuvre or appetizer as it is called in English can be described as a
small tidbit, which should be light, delicate attractive and tasty. The term hors d’oeuvre
should never be spelt with the final s, since there is plural form for the term in French.
An hors d’oeuvre can be either in the solid form (appetizer) or in the liquid form
(aperitif) which may be an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage.
Hors d’oeuvre may be classified in various ways:
Hot and Cold hors d’oeuvre
Vegetarian and Non vegetarian hors d’oeuvre
Classical and Contemporary hors d’oeuvre
Hors d’oeuvre Singulaire and Compound hors d’oeuvre
However, a more comprehensive classification would include:
- Meat based hors d’oeuvre
Pate, Terrines, Sausages (salami and mortadella), Ham
- Fish based hors d’oeuvre
Oysters, Caviar, Roll mops, Snails, Prawn cocktail
- Egg based hors d’oeuvre
Egg mayonnaise, stuffed eggs, devilled eggs, Gulls/Plovers eggs
- Vegetable based hors d’oeuvre : Asparagus, Artichokes, Corn-on-the-cob
- Fruit based hors d’oeuvre : Melon, Grapefruit, Florida cocktail
Sometimes, Hors d’oeuvre are classified as:
Cold Hors d’oeuvre
Hot Hors d’oeuvre
Cold Hors d’oeuvre are of two categories:
1. The ready to serve variety, available in the market off the shelves, like smoked
salmon, pate, sausages.
2. Those which require culinary preparation and that, when made properly have the
advantage of being freshly prepared from fresh ingredients with maximum flavor
and appeal. This is where fine cuisine can make a contribution to eating pleasure.
Hors d’oeuvre varies are often served at lunch and consist of many items served in a
container called raviers. Various items can qualify to be called a part of hors d’oeuvre
varies such as olives, pickled onions, cornichons (pickled gherkins), sliced salami, ham and
even items like smoked salmon and gulls/plovers eggs
Hot hors d’oeuvre could generally be served at a cocktail party or before a dinner but
seldom at lunch. Although there are some hot hors d’oeuvre that are considered to b
classical, there are many others that are strictly prototype and serve as a basis for many
different preparations. As a matter of fact, every branch of cookery that is reduced to a
smaller portion is or could be used in the preparation of hot hors d’oeuvre. Paillettes,
allumettes, beignets, frittes, bouchees, croustades, rissoles, ramequins and even the
classsic quiche can all be served as hot hors d’oeuvre when reduced in size.
What are Zakuskis?
In the 1890s, zakuski, or hors d’oeuvre a la russe or canapés a la russe became very
These cold hors d’oeuvre are considered to be classical and made up of certain specified
ingredients. Chefs in Russia were patronized by the Czars and reached the pinnacle of
heir profession. It consists of a base of Blinis; the famous Russian pancake made out of
buckwheat flour. This was topped with a topping that would be meat, fish, vegetable or
combination of these. A characteristic of the topping is that it would most often be
flavored with a smoked fish or meat. The surface would be decorated elaborately; and
here is where the chef had the chance to demonstrate his imagination and his skill.
Intricate garnishes of exquisite designs would decorate the zakuski. This would then be
finished off with a glaze of aspic. The zakuski is a dinner hors d’oeuvre and are larger in
size than the canapé. They are presented to the guest individually, without an
accompaniment or sauce.
How would you describe a canapé?
These are tiny open faced snacks, which are cut into a variety of shapes – round,
rectangular, oval, triangle or other shapes. The size and thickness will depend upon the
nature of the ingredients used. A canapé will have three parts:
The base – which would normally be bread – toasted or plain, white or brown. However, a
variety of other base ingredients could also be used – puff pastry, flaky pastry, short
crust, pizza dough, choux pastry, are examples of the variety that can be used.
Sometimes, a spread would be applied to the base to prevent it from soaking up the
moisture of the topping.
The topping – almost anything could be used to top the base. However, it should be
suitable and must complement the base. It should be fairy dry and must hold shape. A
slice of cheese, hard boiled egg, ham, salami, mushrooms or chicken coated with a thick
cream sauce, marinated mushrooms and prawns could all be used as topping. The list is
limitless and can only be contained by the imagination.
The garnish – this is done more to increase the visual appeal and the appearance than for
any functional value. A slice of olive, a sprig of parley, a dice of capsicum or even a green
pea can all be used to increase the presentation of the platter of canapés
Canapés are usually served as snacks at cocktail parties and are never featured on the
regular menu. Some classical canapés are served as the savory course. Here are some
Canapé Rigoletto: Butter a canapé with cayenne butter. Sprinkle with a mixture of finely
chopped whites and yolks of egg, ham, tongue, fine herbes and truffles.
Canapés a la danoise: Butter rye bread with horseradish butter, arrange slices of
smoked salmon and filets of marinated herrings on top.
Canapés cancalaise: Butter a canapé with tuna fish butter, top with a poached mussel and
decorate with a sprig of parsley.
Canapé rejane: Butter a slice of bread with lobster butter, top with a mound of chopped
egg and mayonnaise and decorate with lobster coral.
Canapés a la nicoise: Butter the bread with anchovy butter. Pile stuffed olives on top
and fill the gaps with anchovy butter.
Canapés poulette: Butter round canapés with anchovy butter, sprinkle sieved boiled egg
yolks and top with a shrimp.
Canapés vie vile: cover a canapé with tarragon butter, top with a slice of ham and
decorate with tarragon leaves.
Assignment: make a list of innovative canapés breaking them into the base, the topping
and the garnish.