Hors d'oeurve, or as we usually spell and say it, "hors d'oeuvres,"
are small portions of food served before a meal to accompany drinks,
alchoholic or otherwise. In the United States, we tend to use the term
hors d'oeuvre interchangeably with appetizer. Hors d'oeuvre, literally
translated, means "outside the work" of the main meal, and it is important
to remember that the hors d'oeuvre course should not forecast any
of the joys that are to follow. If you serve pickled beets or anchovy eggs
on tomatoes with the preliminary drinks, forget the very existence of
beet and tomato when planning the dinner. This is a central concept in
good menu planning.
Hors d'oeurve can be dips, spreads, pastries, olives, or nuts; they can
be based on eggs, fruits, cheeses, meats, vegetables, seafood, breads.
Almost anything served in portions that can be eaten with the fingers will
qualify. Canapes are a specific type of hors d'oeuvre consisting of a thin
bread, cracker, or pastry base, a spread, one or more toppings, and a
garnish- in effect, tiny open-faced sandwiches. Hors d'oeuvre may be served
hot, at room temperature, or cold. The selection is important, so plan the
hors d'oeuvre menu with the whole dinner menu in mind, striking a balance
between tastes and textures and degrees of richness.
If the meal that follows
is to be rich, serve an array of simple, light hors d'oeuvre. If your menu
is plainer, try more complex items with stronger flavors. Before a dinner
party, two or three kinds of hors d'oeuvre of the lighter variety are usually
sufficient; you want to stimulate guests' appetites, not sate them.
cocktail party without dinner to follow, prepare five or six different
hors d'oeuvre, including some more substantial foods. For a reception or
a party that will take the place of dinner, serve six to eight hors d'oeuvre
with lots of variety and with heartier kinds added. As a general rule, figure
two pieces per person of each hors d'oeuvre at any party of party. (These
lose guidelines do not include dips, which may always be included.) Whether
setting out a buffet table laden with hors d'oeuvre or passing trays of bite-
sized foods, vary the shapes, sizes, colors, and textures to make the
selections visually enticing.
It is usually best to choose hors d'oeuvre that don't require last-minute
cooking, so that you can spend some time with your guests before you need
to finish the main meal. If you are serving hot hors d'oeuvre, pass them
after all of your guests have arrived so that everyone has the opportunity to
taste them. A microwave can speed the preparations time; use it to reheat
precooked hors d'oeuvre or heat dips and sauces. Hors d'oeuvre based on
bread, however, do not reheat successfully in a microwave.
Source: The All New, All Purpose, Joy of Cooking