Mastering the Craft of the Cocktail Snack with Chef Chris Gesualdi

Chef Chris Gesualdi is no slouch. Last night, he whipped 16 novice chefs into shape, prepping a 10-course New Year's Eve hors d'oeuvres menu in just under three hours. Not only was it one of the most organized cooking classes I've taken, it was also one of the most intriguing.


Gesualdi is not only a veritable fountain of culinary wisdom (he's logged serious kitchen time with Thomas Keller, and worked at some of New York's most renown restaurants) but a genuinely curious cook. Called "The Scavenger" by his colleagues, he enjoys working with odd bits leftover from other classes. Parsley stems? Throw them in "sachet d'épices" to season your broth. Organ meats? Turn them into such delicacies such as a foie gras terrine. And when it comes to troubleshooting a broken mayonnaise or keeping your mousse from deflating, Chef Chris is your guy.

When learning from a great teacher, it's the tips that aren't in the recipe packet that stick with you. Sure, we made a killer tarragon emulsion last night, but - more importantly - we learned how to properly care for the chinois through which it is strained. I couldn't be more excited to whip up another batch of brandade, but if my guests aren't big salt cod fans, I can also substitute a combination of sole, lobster and scallops. And that immersion blender I was so keen on purchasing? I'd actually get a smoother puree in a high-quality blender like a Vita-Prep.

In short, with Chef Chris, we didn't learn how to follow a recipe - we learned how to cook. So tonight, when I'm assembling these hors-d'oeuvres to share with my New Year's guests, I won't have my eyes glued to a piece of paper. I'll taste, season and combine ingredients instinctually, because - as Chef Chris humbly insisted - it's all up to the preference of the chef.


Foie Gras Mousse - Garnished with Minced Black Truffles

Recipe by Chef Chris Gesualdi


  • 2 pounds foie gras terrine
  • 2 sheets gelatin
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Minced black truffles, as needed
  • Pre-baked pastry shells (or toasted, sliced baguette)


  1. Place gelatin sheets in water to "bloom".
  2. Puree foie gras in food processor.
  3. Remove gelatin from water, squeeze out extra water. Place in a small saucepan with 1/4 cream to gently heat and dissolve.
  4. When gelatin is dissolved, gradually add cream mixture to (running) food processor.
  5. Gradually add 1/2 cup heavy cream to food processor.
  6. When evenly mixed, remove foie mousse from processor, and refrigerate until chilled.
  7. Pipe mousse into pre-baked pastry shells or onto toasted baguette slices.
  8. Garnish with minced black truffles.

Notes To lighten recipe, you can use veal or duck stock instead of cream.

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