How to Make Canapés Like a Professional Chef

The French chef Yann Nury wants you to remember that the winter holidays will be over soon. Roasts will be sliced, served and forgotten; Champagne will be drunk. And, if you choose to serve canapés, each one you make, no matter how labor-intensive, will be gone in a single bite. “Enjoy the specific moments,” Nury, 40, says. “It’s [only] once a year.”

Despite their transience, Nury believes canapés are important: They can set the tone for a whole meal. Indeed, the amuse-bouche has become one of the hallmarks of the namesake catering company he founded in2011after working on the chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud’s private events team. “Seductive single bites define our business,” Nury says. Working from his headquarters in a nearly 3,000-square-foot loft in New York’s SoHo, he’s planned meals for fashion brands and art-world clients in cities around the world, among them a Cuban-inspired feast in honor of what turned out to be the final show that the fashion designer Virgil Abloh stagedfor Louis Vuitton, in Miami. Nury’s inventive takes on classic hors d’oeuvres — for example, thyme-laced tartletsfilled withtendrils of Iberico and creamy stracciatella, as a play on ham and cheese — highlight his exacting but playful approach.

For a holiday party, Nury recommends preparing canapés that are elegant but comforting and not overly serious. In the videos below, he shares the steps for making three such small bites. First are his tater tots garnished with caviar and Sorrento lemon, which he sometimes finishes instead with juicy orbs of salmon roe or a thin slice of orange and a sprinkle of spices (if you nail the flavor and texture of the canapé’s base, says Nury, the topping can be unfussy). To accompany these, he suggests tiny wedges of tomato jam-topped grilled cheese. “For a great party trick,” Nury says, you can stick a barbecue grate in your fireplace and cook the miniature sandwiches to order. And completing the trio is his surprisingly hearty beef tartare with chips. For a plant-based alternative, grated carrot or golden beet can be used in place of beef, Nury says, and you could even serve the dish deconstructed, allowing people to assemble their ideal bites.

That last twist satisfies another of his tenets of special-occasion hosting: Guests should be invited to tailor your creations to their own tastes. The best holiday food, after all, fulfills a personal fantasy of the season. But he also recommends being kind to yourself and abiding by his firmest rule: Don’t do the dishes until the next day.

Yann Nury’s Holiday Canapés


Tater Tots With Caviar and Lemon Zest

The chef Yann Nury makes his tater tots from scratch, frying them in duck fat for extra flavor.

My name is Yann Nury, and I’m a chef. I wanted to become a chef when I fell in love with a very special dinner when I was eight — the anniversary of my parents, three-Michelin-star restaurant, all the atmosphere, the food, the formality. Today, we’re going to focus on canapés or hors d’oeuvres, little one-bite delicacies. As a child, before Christmas dinners, they were always my favorite moment. So our first canapé today will be the tater tots and caviar. And for that, you’ll need a russet potato, your favorite form of fat — in this case, we use duck fat — sea salt, fresh lemon, and of course, to finish, your favorite caviar. So we’ll start by peeling your potatoes. Once your potatoes are grated, you want to go straight into your first bath, cooking until they get transparent. Cover and press. So once your potatoes have time to cool down, ideally overnight, you get this potato cake. And we shape small bite-size tater tots. You’re going to have to fry your tater tots to a golden crispy texture. Take them out when they just start to turn golden and assemble the tater tots. And the way to finish them here in-house, we confit our Sorrento lemon. That brings a touch to the tater tots, or you can simply zest some fresh lemon on top.

The chef Yann Nury makes his tater tots from scratch, frying them in duck fat for extra flavor.CreditCredit…David Chow

Tater Tots With Caviar and Lemon Zest


  • 6 large russet potatoes (GPOD, also known as russet Burbank, potatoes are the best quality)

  • 4 cups duck fat (or peanut oil, beef fat or ghee)

  • Sea salt, to taste (Nury’s favorite is fleur de sel)

  • 2 cups canola oil, or your preferred oil for frying

  • 1 lemon (preferably Sorrento, but organic California works too)

  • ¼ teaspoon caviar per canapé

The day(s) before the event:

1. Peel and rinse all of the potatoes. If you like, you can peel them and soak them in water 2 to 3 days in advance, but be sure to squeeze out any excess liquid before you grate the potatoes. (Also, whether you are rinsing or soaking, be sure to do so only with whole potatoes — otherwise you risk removing the starch that holds them together.)

2. In a heavy-bottomedpot, such as a cast-iron or Dutch oven, warm the duck fat over medium heat until a candy thermometer registers 220 degrees. Working in batches, grate the potatoes on the largest holes of a box grater and add them immediately to the duck fat. Blanch the gratings for 3 to 4 minutes or until translucent. Remove them with a chinois, or cone-shaped strainer, to drain excess fat. Repeat until all of the gratings are blanched.

3. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and add the potatoes as they finish blanching, sprinkling with sea salt as you go.

4. Gently mold the partially cooked, grated potatoes so that they stick together. Add another layer of parchment paper on top of the potatoes, and then stack a second sheet pan and any additional weighted items you have on hand (such as canned or jarred foods) on top of that, compressing the gratings into one thin, even layer. Let this cool, ideally overnight, in the refrigerator.

The day of the event:

5. Cut the potato “cake” into small rectangles of 3 by 1 inches or into circles of 2 inches in diameter.

Just before your guests arrive:

6. Flash fry the tots in 2 cups of canola oil at about 350 to 360 degrees in the same pot as before, until they start to turn golden and crispy. Remove them with a chinois and place them on a rack to cool.

7. Top each tater tot with caviar and a very thin strip of julienned lemon rind.


Grilled Cheese Wedges With Tomato Jam

Nury uses three different kinds of cheese for depth of flavor in these mini sandwiches.

For your grilled cheese, we use sourdough. We’re going to blend three cheeses — Comté for flavor, Fontina for creaminess, some dry Parmesan. You will also need a little bit of room temp. butter to brush your bread. To finish your grilled cheese, you can either go truffles, tomato jam, and we have some thyme blossom. So before we start with our grilled cheese, we’re going to make a quick tomato jam. Simply take your tomatoes whole, a generous amount of olive oil, sugar, pinch of salt to balance the sweetness. In this case, some really good sherry vinegar, but any vinegar will be great. Simply let this simmer 20 to 25 minutes and blend. And here is your tomato jam. Our sourdough. Lay down our sandwiches and get ready to grate some cheese. Some room temp. butter and a little brush. A good grilled cheese is slow. Two to three minutes, rest. Going to cut first some strips. A little bit of this jam. A little thyme blossom. Here you can also just use basil leaves. Our other favorite is, of course, Burgundy truffles.

Nury uses three different kinds of cheese for depth of flavor in these mini sandwiches.CreditCredit…David Chow

Grilled Cheese Wedges With Tomato Jam


  • 8 slices dense sourdough bread

  • 12 oz. each sliced, shredded or grated Fontina, Comté and dry Parmesan cheese

  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

  • Basil or thyme blossoms (or micro basil leaves)

  • Parmesan chips (optional)

For the tomato jam:

  • 1 pint organic cherry tomatoes

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)

  • Freshthyme, to taste

To prepare the jam:

1. Roast the cherry tomatoes, whole, in the olive oil in a saucepan overmedium-highheat until they start to soften, after about 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Mix in brown sugar, a pinch of saltand some fresh thyme leaves. Season with black pepper. Lower the heat.

3. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes over low heat until the tomatoes start to caramelize. Then add a splash of sherry vinegar and blend with a stick mixer or in a blender until smooth. Let the jam cool for at least 2 hours. Reserve in a squeeze bottle or a jar.

To create the sandwich wedges:

4. Clarify the butterby melting it in a small saucepan over low heat and then skimming off the white solids that rise to the top.

5. Assemble each sandwich by layeringFontina,Comté and Parmesan between the slices of sourdough.

6. Brush the clarified butter on both sides of each sandwich and grill them, over medium heat, for 5 minutes on each side or until the bread is golden. Let the sandwiches rest until the cheese re-sets, then slice each into rectangular strips of about 3 by 1 inches (about 9 per sandwich). Top each strip with 3 dots of cold jam and 2 or 3 basil or thyme blossoms. Serve with Parmesan chips on the side if you like.


Beef Tartare With Celery-Root Chips

Nury serves this classic steak tartare on celery-root chips.

This bite includes one of my favorite preparations — steak tartare. In this case, we’re going to use wagyu tenderloin. We’ll use some pepper, salt, chive, raw egg yolks, mustard, some pickles. As a base, celery root chips. So we’re going to prepare a very simple tartare sauce. Take egg, remove all the white. Equal part of your egg yolk of mustard. Here we use five different peppers, all cracked pretty coarse. Some very good sea salt. The best olive oil you can find. I’m going to make this sauce very thick. To finish, we’re going to season with very small pickles and some chopped chive. One last time. Take our tenderloin, always cut with a knife. Never ground beef because you want that texture inside. Bring your tartare sauce into your beef. And I like a little heat. We’re going to use Espelette pepper. Just going to gently mix. And now we’ll assemble our little tartare.

Nury serves this classic steak tartare on celery-root chips.CreditCredit…David Chow

Beef Tartare With Celery-Root Chips


  • 1 oz. filet of Wagyu (or other) beef tenderloin

  • Coarse cracked black pepper and sea salt, to taste

  • 1 egg

  • Olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon chives, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon cornichons, finely chopped

  • ½ celery root, for homemade chips (or you can substitute your preferred root or store-bought potato chips)

  • 4 cups oil for frying (peanut oil preferred)

  • Ground Espelette pepper, to taste

To prepare the sauce:

1. You can use raw egg for this tartaresque sauce, but if you want a more stable sauce with a longer shelf life, opt for a soft-boiled egg, cooked for 4 minutes.

2. Separate the yolk and add that and the mustard to a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk while slowly adding in the olive oil.

3. Add the chopped chives and cornichons and whisk once more. (You could also garnish with lemon zest, parsley or raw shallots.)

To prepare the chips:

4. Shave the celery root as thinly as possible on a truffle shaver or Japanese mandoline. For a more uniform shape, you can use a ring cutter to cut the shavings to the desired chip size.

5. Fry the chips in the peanut oil in a cast-iron potat 300 degrees until they are golden brown. (You could alternatively use an air fryer or dehydrator.) Season with salt and pepper or your preferred seasoning.

To prepare the steak:

6. Finely chop the filet of beef.

7. In a bowl, gently mix the meat with some of the sauce (as much or as little as you like) and some Espelette pepper, for heat.

8. Sandwich small scoops of the tartare in between the chips. Present sideways.

Director of photography: Joshua Charow. Assistant camera: Timothy Mulcare. Sound recording: Colin Barry-Jester. Editor: Jordan Taylor Fuller

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