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Amusing Rick Tramonto (January 2, 2003)


The Windy City is blowing them away: it's let loose an explosion of terrific, inventive restaurants the last few years. Chicago is at last a gourmet paradise, and one favourite of the cognoscenti is Tru, where Executive Chef/partner Rick Tramonto makes magic night after night. Tramonto was named one of Food & Wine's Top Ten Best chefs in 1994, and has been nominated for and collected James Beard Awards as easily as we collect good cookware.

Tramonto loves to surprise his patrons with an amuse-bouche, little nubbins of bite-sized treats that excite the tongue and delight the eye before the meal is served. He's mastered the culinary art of miniature food and, lucky for us, is sharing his techniques in Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites of Delight Before the Meal Begins.

We've had our share of these tiny treats around the world, and we can tell you that nobody does it better then Rick Tramonto!

Oh, Rick... are there seconds, please?

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (49 KB)


Warm Mini Foie Gras Club Sandwich

Rick Tramonto told us that he's passionate about searching the world for the greatest club sandwich ever made. We agree and waxed happily over memories of gastronomic masterpieces between slices of bread. This version has to be the ultimate sandwich. As you have read in past columns, we adore foie gras, and here it is again, in a bite-sized, too-easy-to-eat version of a baby club. Sigh.

Serves 4 (two for me, two for you!)

  • ½ pound foie gras (250 g)
  • 12 slices good brioche
  • ½ cup Pesto Aioli (recipe follows)
  • 1 tomato, very thinly sliced
  • About 4 ounces microsprouts or tender greens (125 g)
  1. With a sharp knife, cut the foie gras into 8 slices.
  2. Heat a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, sauté the foie gras for about 1 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Use 3 slices of brioche for each sandwich.
  4. Assemble each sandwich by spreading aioli on each slice of brioche. Top the bottom slice of brioche with a slice of foie gras, a tomato slice, some microsprouts, and another slice of bread. Top this with another slice of foie gras, another tomato and more sprouts. Lay the third slice of brioche on top, aioli side down. Repeat for each sandwich. Cut in half and serve.

Pesto Aioli

Makes about 1 cup (250 mL)

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup olive oil (125 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (15 mL)
  • About 4 ounces fresh basil leaves (125 g)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts (25 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (25 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp olive, canola or grapeseed oil (25 mL)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk with a wire whisk. Whisking constantly, slowly add ¼ cup oil (50 mL). Begin very slowly, a few drops at a time. When the oil is emulsified, add the remaining ¼ cup (50 mL) in a steady stream.
  2. Stir the lemon juice into the mayonnaise. Set aside.
  3. Put the basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts and cheese in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. With the machine running add, the 2 Tbsp oil and process until emulsified.
  4. Stir the basil mixture into the mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Whisk before using.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a medium to full-boded, off-dry white wine – California Viognier, off-dry Vouvray or Moulin-Touchais from the Loire – or, better still, Champagne Extra Dry.


Truffled Lentil Spoon with Bacon Vinaigrette

Lentils? With Truffle Vinaigrette? No peasant food here, the lowly staple has been given a title and dressed to the nines. You'll dazzle them with this little appetizer; it's worth the effort.

Serves 6

  • ¼ cup warm cooked orange lentils (see note) (50 mL)
  • ¼ cup warm cooked black lentils (50 mL)
  • ¼ cup warm cooked French green lentils (50 mL)
  • 3 Tbsp Truffle Vinaigrette (recipe follows) (50 mL)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp Bacon Vinaigrette (recipe follows) (50 mL)
  • 6 sprigs fresh chervil or flat-leaf parsley for garnishing
  1. Combine the lentils in a medium-sized bowl and toss gently with the truffle vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. To serve, spoon about 2 tablespoon of the truffled lentils onto a decorative spoon, such as a long-handled iced tea spoon. Set the spoon on a small plate and drizzle the bacon vinaigrette over and around the "truffles." Garnish each with a sprig of chervil. Repeat to make 5 more servings.

Truffle Vinaigrette

Makes about ¾ cup

  • 3 fresh black truffles
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp truffle juice (available in specialty stores) (150 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar (25 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (15 mL)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup white truffle oil (125 mL)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a blender, combine the truffles, truffle juice, vinegar, mustard, and lemon juice. Puree until smooth.
  2. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and blend until emulsified.
  3. Transfer to a small glass or ceramic bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Use immediately or refrigerate the vinaigrette in a tightly lidded nonreactive container for up to 2 weeks. Whisk well before using.

Bacon Vinaigrette

  • 4 ounces thick-cut bacon (125 g), cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar (25 mL)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (5 mL)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a small skillet or sauté pan, cook the bacon over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow the bacon and bacon fat to cool slightly. Stir in the vinegar and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve warm.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
A full-bodied dry white, preferably Sauvignon Blanc – California, New Zealand or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc or Puilly-Fumé from the Loire.


We wish to thank Random House Canada Limited for permission to publish material and photographs from Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites that Delight Before the Meal Begins by Rick Tramonto. ©2002 by Rick Tramonto.

Photography by Tim Turner.


Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (49 KB)




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