Wednesday, March 20, 2013

(Not my) Granny's Tomato Aspic Ring

Granny's Tomato Aspic Ring
submitted by Stefania Butler, The Internets
So, here's how it all went down; Husband informed me we were to host a birthday potluck for a work associate of his.  Besides supplying my regionally-favorite Sky-like Chili and Pigeon Pea Dip (both to be featured soon in this very spot!) I was determined to try my hand at supplying a molded salad and subjecting my party guests to a taste test.

So as not to completely overwhelm them (I mean, at the moment we're pretty dependent on Husband's salary to survive, so...) I decide to go with a simple, classic tomato aspic.  I have dim memories of eating such a thing on occasion in my childhood, and my mother still extols the virtues of the dish, but my memories weren't recent enough to recall the taste, and certainly not the making of.

There are so many variations of the recipe, that I let my Googling skills determine one of the simplest, which I found here.  The recipe, as printed:

1 quart tomato juice
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely cut celery leaves
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 small bay leaves
4 whole cloves
2 tbsps unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup thinly sliced celery
crisp salad greens
for garnish: mayonnaise, avocado, and/or small bay (salad) shrimp

Combine tomato juice, onion, celery leaves, sugar, salt, bay leaves, and cloves in an enamel or glass saucepan. Simmer five minutes over medium heat. Strain.

Soften gelatin in cold water and stir into hot tomato mixture. Add lemon juice. Chill until partially set. Add celery. Stir gently.

Pour into lightly oiled 1 1/2 quart ring mold. Chill until firm. Unmold onto salad greens. Fill center with cold mayonnaise and/or with sliced avocado and shrimp.

One problem - I didn't adequately anticipate my shopping needs. Thinking I had tomato juice at home, I didn't buy any.  What I thought was tomato juice turned out to actually be V-8...exactly 1 quart.  So I took a chance and used it (as one party guest remarked, "it's probably what saved it.")

Working with unflavored gelatin is still new to me and still gives me a thrill.  I feel like I'm doing a science project. Seems like some enterprising young buck could do a bit of creative brainstorming and see what sorts of crazy flavor combinations he could come up with.  Oh wait, that's me.  Stay tuned!

The rest of the recipe came together fairly easily.  Because I was working with V-8, I cut back a bit on the onion, celery and salt, but went full in with the brown sugar.

The mold chilled about five hours in a copper mold, and was just a bit runny when I unmolded it, but didn't fall apart.  In a nod to the directions in the recipe, I surrounded the ring with avocado and canned salad shrimp, but left the mayonnaise on the side to be used at the diner's discretion.

What we thought: Me - anything reminiscent of a Bloody Mary is aces in my book. I'm thinking of adding horseradish and vodka and trying for a Bloody Mary Jell-O shooter next time.

It really wasn't bad at all, but as with the Ring-Around-The-Tuna, a dab of mayonnaise makes it go down pretty easy.  The salad shrimp and avocado were a nice touch, but not completely necessary other than for presentation purposes.

Husband - "The Tomato Aspic had a nice refreshing flavor, a nice balance to the heavier dishes in the potluck. I don't know why people stopped making it."  I can confide that husband didn't care for the salad shrimp at all.

Party Guests - admittedly, I didn't interview them all individually, but there were ten guests, and only about a serving and a half left at the end of the night. So someone must have liked it.

I'm going to make it again on Easter Sunday for mother and see if it stands up to her standards. In all, I think it's probably something I wouldn't mind making, non-ironically,  and on occasion, perhaps alongside a chicken or fish dish.

Our Rating: Zero Screaming Husbands!
(all dishes are rated from one to five Screaming Husbands. One Screaming Husband equals a happy home where all problems are solved during cocktail hour. Five Screaming Husbands signals the beginning of divorce proceedings.)

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