So yeah, with just under 5 months’ of recipes left from Around my French Table for French Fridays with Dorie, we’re into the “bits and pieces” and “odds and ends”. Such as this week’s “Caviar in Aspic”. Actually it’s caviar ON aspic if we’re being nit-picky. Dorie’s recipe headnote recounts a fancy passed hors d’oeuvre she sampled at a cocktail party – “wiggly-jiggly cubes of lightly flavoured aspic, their bellies scooped out and the resulting indentation filled with caviar.” Ok then.
Though I am not the biggest fish fan, had I been hosting a party, I might have entertained making this recipe. I mean it’ s just fish-flavoured jelly. Not that scary. Certainly not as scary as some of the items we worked through during Charcutepalooza where we completed a chapter of Michael Ruhlman’s “Charcuterie” each month for a year. I actually don’t even mind (tiny amounts of) caviar and I am sure the aspic might have made for a
fishy fun party conversation. You know, like when we hosted a “Lunch à la Weight Watchers Recipe Cards circa 1974.”
(click on over to see that post folks, I just spent a good 20 minutes reminiscing and reading about dishes called things like “Rosy Perfection Salad”, “Crown Roast of Frankfurter” (!), “Molded Asparagus Salad”, “Jellied Tomato Refresher” and “Chilled Celery Log”. Really.)
Since we’ve just returned home from France, a party with eager (ish) taste testers was not on the cards for this one, so, as I told Dorie when I met her in Paris last Friday (you know I just had to throw that in somewhere, right?), this was going to be a dish more about technique (mastering gelatin) than staying true to the flavours. So, with one day to make this (with jetlag and a sinus infection), I set about finding some flavours that would work for me.
In my sad fridge (not yet re-stocked after our vacation), I found some pomegranate juice. And, being sick, I was craving orange juice – which I never drink but which I made a priority to purchase soon after we arrived home. And I got to thinking – wouldn’t a SWEET version of this be fabulous. The jelly, I could do (though I didn’t want it to be too Jell-o-like)… but the caviar?
Google being my friend and all, I discovered this fabulous post over on Sprinkle Bakes about how to make fancy molecular-style “caviar” without any molecular ingredients. It’s a great recipe/ step-by-step tutorial which uses common pantry staples like oil and gelatin to create pearls of perfection that will dress up any dish with not much fuss at all…
Ironically, the caviar ended up being the easiest of the two components…. Basically you make a gelatinous mix with your “caviar” base (pomegranate juice in my case) and use an eye dropper to drop it into chilled oil (my sunflower oil that I placed in the freezer overnight froze, so I just ended up using very very cold oil that I chilled for a short time in a metal bowl in the freezer) to create the caviar “pearls”. I added some red food colour powder for the vibrant red you see in the pictures here – it was kind of a dull and murky colour without it…
My orange jelly squares, well I had to make those twice. I KNOW! What I thought would be the easiset component was the most difficult. The first batch I did was too watery and didn’t hold together enough to cut cubes. No matter, was lovely for my sore scratchy throat… The second batch, I added slightly more gelatin to the mix but not too much (1 sachet = 7 grams for 1/2 cup orange juice, plus 1 cup water – cold and hot – to dissolve the gelatin) so it was firm enough to cut into squares but still a little on the soft side. The “caviar” are kind of hard jellies so you want some sort of contrast (this is where the differ from regular molecular gastronomy “pearls” – those would be liquid inside whereas these were jellies).
And the taste? Yummy, citrusy and weirdly comforting (like a throwback to a nursery dessert) in my state this week… I’d definitely do this again for a party for the “wow” factor. And the aspic? Sure, I’ll make that – at some point before the end of the book. But in the meantime, I don’t feel like I “skipped out” this week. I learned a neat technique (and made a fun and tasty dessert) – just like aspic only sweet 😉
Get the recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s Arman’s aspic and caviar on p 29 of Around my French Table or here.
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