I bet you’re thinking I’ve lost it now!
Well, I haven’t. I had to try it—yes, “it”—the one dish that has come to signify, more than any other, the culinary atrocities of the twentieth century—the ultimate in savory gelatin recipes: Tomato aspic.
Haven’t you been curious? I certainly was. I’d never had aspic before!
Of course there are a ton of recipes; this one looked pretty good.
The basic idea is something like “V-8 Jell-O.” Or you could say it’s like a Jell-O shot inspired by a bloody Mary, minus the vodka. In the case of this recipe, it’s not made with Jell-O, however—no fruit or sweet flavor. It’s made with plain powdered gelatin.
Some tomato aspic recipes don’t use any creamy ingredients in the gelatin construction itself, and these look something like solidified tomato juice. (If you can go by the pictures in old cookbooks, anyway.) Tomato aspic is considered a “salad,” just as potato salad is considered a “salad.”
The noncreamy recipes usually call for you to serve the tomato aspic with mayonnaise as an accompaniment, as the “dressing” to this “salad.” I tried this technique earlier, when I made that cucumber-lime-Jell-O salad, and I found it pretty hard to choke down. I’m not that big a fan of mayo!
But this recipe includes the “dressing” in the “salad.”
Have you ever stirred together your Pace picante sauce and some sour cream? Or if not sour cream, cottage cheese? I know, I know—it’s not exactly haute cuisine, but it is great with tortilla chips when you’re doing the couch potato/television thing. Or the graduate-school thing. Okay: the salsa/sour cream combo is a lot like this aspic—in a word, delicious.
So this is a vintage recipe from the thirties; I am quoting it from pp. 28–29 of Betty Crocker’s $25,000 Recipe Set: Featuring Recipes from World Famous Chefs for Foods That Enchant Men (Paris: Société des Cuisiniers Internationaux and the Gold Medal Home Service Department, 1933).
Without further ado . . .
Chilled Tomato Salad
3 cups canned tomatoes [I used a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes]
3 tbsp. sugar [I used a tad less—the idea is to cut the acidity of the tomatoes]
2 tbsp. onion juice [I used grated onion]
2 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
2 tbsp. gelatin [I used Knox]
1/3 cup cold water
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 tbsp. grated horseradish [I used Yoder’s prepared]
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup whipping cream
Method—1. Cook tomatoes with the seasonings 10 minutes. 2. Soak gelatin in cold water and dissolve in hot tomato mixture. 3. Cool and add vegetables chopped rather finely. 4. Whip cream until stiff; blend with mayonnaise and then blend with tomato and vegetable mixture. 5. Pour into lightly oiled ring mold, or individual molds, and chill. 6. Unmold the salad onto crisp lettuce and garnish with pimiento. Amount—Serves 12. Note—The dressing is in the salad. For a Valentine Salad, it can be chilled in heart shape mold and garnished with pimiento hearts.
Here’s how I chopped the veggies: I peeled the cukes and quartered them lengthwise. Then I chopped them pretty thinly, so each piece was one quarter of a thin round. The celery was cut lengthwise, then sliced thinly against the grain, so that no piece was wider than about a half inch. I also sliced the green bell pepper into fairly thin pieces.
Sue’s mom gave us some wonderfully dainty old individual Jell-O molds, and the aspic unmolded well (be sure to use all the unmolding techniques that fifties housewives learned in their home ec classes: apply a thin coat of vegetable oil in the mold before filling; then to release the Jell-O, dip the metal part in hot water for a few seconds, then gently wiggle the edges free with your fingertips, and finally release the suction with a knife). (There are lots of places to learn the secrets of unmolding Jell-O perfectly.)