French Fridays with Dorie: (not) Arman’s Caviar in Aspic

Orange jelly cubes and pomegranate caviar on eatlivetravelwrite.comSo 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.)

Pomegranate caviar on orange jelly on eatlivetravelwrite.comSince 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.

Orange jelly cubes in spoons topped with pomegranate caviar on eatlivetravelwrite.comIn 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?

Orange jello and pomegranate caviar on eatlivetravelwrite.comGoogle 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).

Cubes of orange jelly withpomegranate caviar on

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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36 thoughts on “French Fridays with Dorie: (not) Arman’s Caviar in Aspic”

  1. Tip of the hat (again) to you Mardi! Thank you for walking us through the pomegranate caviar pearls and what worked and didn’t work for you. They would make a great garnish for cakes or other sweets.

  2. Your version looks lovely and much tastier than the original. You might need to work on the “lightly flavored” part when you do the real thing because mine was far too fishy tasting.

  3. Oh wow! I love your version! The gelatin caviar is such a great idea! I’m sure it was delicious, much better the a fishy gelatin! Nicely done Mardi!

  4. Now, I can get behind that version! Mardi, it’s so funny you brought up those recipe cards because I was thinking of the “Fluffy Mackerel” recipe at that link as I was making the aspic. I’m glad someone else made that same connection. 🙂

  5. Very clever! I actually thought you topped the orange jello with pomegranate seeds, but the pearls you made are much cooler. I love your interpretation.

    • Thanks Betsy – though had I just made regular orange jelly (not even champagne like some of our other intrepid rogue Doristas!) and topped it with arils I wouldn’t have felt that accomplished. I was thrilled with this technique!

  6. Mardi – so nice that you got to meet Dorie in Paris!
    And this is certainly a post with “a wow factor”, big time! Great pictures, elegant presentation and very inspiring! Respect, my dear, respect!
    Hope you feel better and healthy by now,

    • Thanks so much – that means a lot coming from you 🙂 And yes, lovely to see Dorie in Paris – we missed our yearly summer meet up as our dates didn’t coincide at all. Was lovely to toast the new year with her and Michael!

  7. Man, I am very, very impressed. I read how to make the caviar pearls of perfection three times and I still couldn’t do it. Who the heck has both pomegranate juice and sunflower oil on hand at the same time, especially after being gone to France over the holidays — AND, seeing Dorie (I just had to remind you, lest you forget.) Does everyone stock an eye dropper in his/her kitchen? Should I locate one? I do have red food coloring (liquid, not powder) because I use it when I make hummingbird nectar. Check – red food coloring. Otherwise, I’m completely clueless. No need to go into the aspic. Twice, I definitely would not do. Bienvenue à la maison

    • Well you know me Mary – I DO have an eyedropper and powdered food colouring and I had pom juice on hand from a recipe I was working on just before I left. Sunflower oil is a staple in my pantry. Though I did have to get Neil to run out and get more gelatin 😉

  8. I’m impressed, Mardi! Very clever idea, beautiful colors and photos — you’re inspiring me to overcome my fear of “molecular” cookery 🙂

  9. You are so creative. I also thought those were pomegranate seeds before I read the post. It is a beautiful dish and would be fun at a party. Sorry to hear that you are sick. Our house is in varying stages of illness as well. On to next week.

  10. Mardi, you are hilarious! I love reading this post. Never mind the caviar in aspic – orange jelly and pomegranate caviar sounds waaaaayyy better (Sorry, Dorie). And yeah, these days, you can find recipes and DIY stuff on just about everything on the internet! I love it! I’ve tried “molecular” caviar at home as well, and it’s actually not that intimidating as initially thought! Welcome back to (freezing) Toronto! Hope the throat / sinus is better.


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