Update 22, Part 2: New Year's Goal: Become an "official" Gourmess by August 2010

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

The last two Demonstrations for Session 13: Soups were Gelée Ordinaire (Plain Aspic) and Oeufs Moulés au Madère (Eggs in Aspic with Madeira).  As I mentioned in my last post, I found it odd that the book's first Demonstration for this session was a consommé, when the fifth Demonstration for Plain Aspic clearly calls for a consommé to be made as part of the recipe.  The consommé is basically the same as the first demo, but with the added 8-hour task of making a stock with veal, pork, and beef first. I would have been happy to do so, but since I already had 2 cups of lovely beef consommé ready to go, I picked up the recipe at the point where it has just been strained and then is left to cool.  Any objections? (If so, too bad.)  The book suggests adding gelatin to the consommé if it doesn't set as it cools, but mine was a lovely gelatinous consistency, so I didn't need to add anything.  Thus, a plain aspic was easily created and I could move on to the last Demonstration.

Making aspic has always seemed to me to be a daunting task, a culinary work of art that's not for the meek of heart, so I've been dreading this part of the book since my first read-through.

What is aspic?  I teasingly call it "meat jello," but that's not far from the truth. According to my trusty manual,  "An aspic or gelée results when a clarified stock that has a high content of gelatinous material solidify. They can be made from any type of clarified stock and flavored with  wines such as port, sherry, Madeira, Sauternes, or champagne. The finished color of the jelly will depend on the stock used." Aspics are used to glaze cold dishes, to make terrines and pates, etc. (page 220)

So, for Oeufs Moulés au Madère (Eggs in Aspic with Madeira), I gently reheated the aspic, stirred in 3 TBS of Medeira, added some salt and then set it aside to cool again.  While it was cooling, I put four ramekins in the fridge to chill.  Then, I prepared the garnish for the dish.  I peeled, cored, and seeded a tomato and got rid of any membranes. I cut what was left into decorative strips.  Then, I blanched some leek greens and sliced them very thinly and also sliced some ham into fun shapes as well. The image in the books shows what seem to be carrots cut decoratively, so I did that, too.  I also used some tarragon leaves and some parsley leaves and planned out my designs for the aspic. (I decided on an abstract flower/spring garden motif).

I also poached 4 eggs via the boiling water/vinegar method, and drained/cooled them and set aside (they were too big for my ramekins, so I had to trim them quite a bit).

Next, I took a shallow baking pan and filled it with ice. I spooned about 2mm of the aspic into each ramekin and placed them in the pan and then back in the fridge to set.  A little while later, I took the ramekins back out of the fridge, and using my fish tweezers, put in my decorative pieces of carrots, leek, tomato, ham, and herbs and topped with more of the gelatin and returned them back to the ice to set again.  

When that was set, the eggs went into each cup, and then more aspic went on top.  I added some herbs for my own special flair, and returned the ramekins to the pan and into the fridge where they set overnight.

This is what they looked like when I them out to unmold them tonight (run sharp knife around edges, dip ramekin in hot water up to the rim for about 10 seconds, cover top with plate, turn over and lift off the ramekin -- and pray it all comes out at once and in one piece):

And this is what it looked like unmolded:

Success! (Applause.)

The dish is to be served with a simple salad, cold vegetables (asparagus is suggested) or any sauce suitable for cold eggs. . .Chris boldly wanted to try it, but I decided not to make a meal of it, as that seemed to be pushing it a bit.  He said, "this tastes like the way a grocery store smells," (????) but, he also said it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

I thought it tasted like a fancy meat jello.

Whew!  Aspic, I conquered you!  Now, on to Session 14: Salads.