In the most literal sense, amuse gueule translates from the French as an amusement for the mouth - but not a mouth in the human sense - amuse bouche would be used in that case (which indeed it sometimes is). It seems that gueule means a non-human mouth, either that of an animal or more intriguingly, a gun. When used in reference to humans, gueule is a slang term, roughly translating as gob. It gives you an idea of the playfulness of the dish.
In a culinary sense amuse gueule refer to tiny, mouth size morsels of intricately designed food that is presented to the diner before a meal.
Picture this scene; somehow you have gathered the folding to dine at a 3 star Michelin restaurant in France. You are seated, presented with menus, provided with the best mineral water to slake your thirst, and the sommelier is on his way to discuss a deceptively perfect Sancerre to accompany your starters. This does not happen quickly, you are in for a full on, 5-hour gastronomic tour-de-force. Amid all this pleasant cacophony, an uninvited plate arrives - somewhat to your surprise. Perhaps it is a single oyster, garnished with the finest unpasteurized osetra caviar, or it may be a demi-tasse filled with an enchantingly green fresh pea soup - topped with a single sea scallop. The idea behind amuse gueule is not only to "amuse the mouth", but as a display of hospitality as well.
To the chef, amuse gueule provides a breaking of shackles. No longer is the emphasis placed on carefully balanced flavours, which must harmonize with the rest of the menu. An amuse gueule brings a sense of playfulness and decadence to an occasion - one that lets all hell break loose in a single, blissful mouthful.
These days amuse gueule are not only found in the greatest of French restaurants, but fine restaurants the world over - whether the cuisine is French or not. Our restaurant is not so decadent (or pricey) to demand amuse gueule for regular services, but on special occasions, such as New Year's Eve, we let loose. Here is what we did last New Year's Eve.
Tiny Goats cheese soufflés with parsley essence
1/2 quantity of twice cooked cheese soufflé
1 quantity of parsley essence
Make the soufflé, making sure to use goat's cheese. Only fill the dariole moulds 1/3 of the way up, so they are nice and small.
Cool the soufflé and set aside. Place the parsley essence in a plastic squeeze bottle with a small nozzle at the top, like a squeezee ketchup bottle. Inject the bottom of the tiny soufflé with the parsley essence - only a small amount, otherwise they will burst. Place in a 180° C (360° F) oven for 2 minutes to reheat. When bitten into, the pale exterior gives way to a vibrant green interior, which melts in the mouth.
Serve with a chilled glass of kir royale.