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David Ross

Cook-Off 61: Gels, Jell-O and Aspic

66 posts in this topic

David, I had a thought about your foie gras/huckleberry creation - since you're seeing primarily problems with the foie gras sticking to the molds, why not give the molds a light coat of clear gelatine before beginning, sort of like you would a chocolate mould you wished to fill? That would preserve the layered look of the dessert, encapsulate the foie gras so it doesn't stick, and should make the whole thing just slide out of the moulds when it's done.

EDIT - this is what I do when I'm presenting moulds of palmito mousse with tuna belly pate and mango chutney gelee, and it does work very well.


Edited by Panaderia Canadiense (log)

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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David:

Just stumbled on this thread and immediately thought of the Knox book, glad to see you mention it later in the thread.

I've been using this book for about 30 years (yes, I started very young, lol) and have tried many things from the aspics, salads and to some of the pies to include:

Lemon Chiffon Pie

Tomato Aspic

Cranberry Souffle Salad

Golden Salad

Tuna Mold

Nesselrode Chiffon Pie

Have been happy with all of them. One interesting thing, the taste and flavors of the final outcome always remind me that these flavor combinations are unique to these dishes and a refreshing change from today's everyday cooking.

Thanks for the inspiration and maybe time to bring this old book out again.


And I want a table for two and a chicken for eight o'clock.

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David, I had a thought about your foie gras/huckleberry creation - since you're seeing primarily problems with the foie gras sticking to the molds, why not give the molds a light coat of clear gelatine before beginning, sort of like you would a chocolate mould you wished to fill? That would preserve the layered look of the dessert, encapsulate the foie gras so it doesn't stick, and should make the whole thing just slide out of the moulds when it's done.

EDIT - this is what I do when I'm presenting moulds of palmito mousse with tuna belly pate and mango chutney gelee, and it does work very well.

Thank you for the suggestion. It worked! And....with Grandmother Pink's 100-year old metal Jell-O molds. Trust me, this wasn't a set-up from the start of the Cook-Off. I bought more silicone molds than I'll ever use in a lifetime. None of them worked as well as those little metal molds.

I think everyone will be surprised at the photo results.

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I've named my next gel dish "Foie Gras Mousse in Ice Wine Jelly with Huckleberry Compote." I'll start with a description of each of the elements that went into the dish-

-The foie gras mousse is from D'Artagnan. I could never, ever, create a mousse of foie gras with black truffle as unctuous, silky and memorable as what I can buy from D'Artagnan. I typically treat myself to only one shipment a year each Fall. But owing to my dedication to this Cook-Off, I ordered two shipments of Foie Gras. (All in the interest of culinary experimentation of course). After tasting this little tidbit, I welcome any Anti-Foie faction to come to my house and have a taste. You will lift the ban within minutes.

-The Ice Wine Jelly was composed of 1 1/2 cups of wine and 1 1/2 tsp. of powdered, unflavored gelatine. To keep with a Northwest theme, (the other Northwest element being the huckleberries), I chose a 2009, Tefft Cellars, Black Ice, Black Muscat, from the Yakima Valley of Central Washington. I heated the wine to a gentle simmer then stirred in the gelatine. The "first layer" was poured into the mold about 1/2" deep, then chilled to set. The "second layer" was a medallion of the foie gras, then a "third layer" of more of the gel. For the "third layer" I used cooled gelatine that wasn't set. I didn't want to use hot gelatine that could have melted the foie gras.

-I am one of the most fortunate cooks in the world. I live literally a few miles from the high mountain meadows where wild huckleberries flourish. Every year in late summer I gather about two gallons of the tart, fragrant berries. I immediately make two things-a huckleberry pie and huckleberry compote. Ligonberries are nice and an ode to Scandanavia, cranberries fully appropriate and blueberries pedestrian in a compote. But no other berry is like a huckleberry. When made into a compote and served with the season's first wild Scottish grouse or spooned onto a piece of toast with bleu cheese, you enter into a state of utter huckleberry pleasure.

Should you be able to get them, fresh huckleberries are best. You can find online sources for frozen huckleberries. Combine all of these ingredients in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. The compote will thicken as it cools. It's best kept for a day, covered, in the refrigerator, before serving. Gently warm the compote just before service.

1/4 cup red wine

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cups huckleberries

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

-The bread came from Walmart. Yes, the bakery at Walmart supplied the bread for a dish featuring foie gras. I am, I am sure, the only man in America, the world perhaps, to pair bread from Walmart with a culinary icon.

I bought a thick loaf of Italian herb bread. Dried it on the counter for a day, then used an old trick I found for cutting bread in very, very, thin slices--a meat slicer. Yes, the deli-style meat slicer works incredibly well for slicing bread into thin slices--the perfect accompaniment to foie gras, cheese or any soft terrine. After slicing the bread I brushed it with butter and toasted it in the oven until golden.

-The herbs. I wanted to use thyme to play off my earlier photo of a past dish of a foie gras "sandwich" with layers of brioche croutons, foie gras and huckleberry compote. So thyme was a given. Then I found some fresh bay leaves that I bought a few days ago for the brine I'm using to marinate my Sauerbrauten, (that's for next week). A fresh sprig of bay, that seems like a nice garnish.

Next up, some photos of the crafting of the gel in the mold, adding the foie gras, and unmolding the gel. Then plating, garnishing, and a cut-away view of what's in the heart of this little ice wine jelly.

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The evolution of a dish is a beautiful thing to watch. It can take hours, days, even weeks of experimenting with ingredients, technique and the look of the plate to finally discover the end of the yellow brick road. If you follow our Cook-Offs, you sense that this has been one of the more challenging efforts for me this year. I never set out to become a Master of Modernist gels during this Cook-Off, but I thought it would be easier than it has been. My intent was to take some retro gelatine dishes and craft them into something contemporary.

The Ginger Ale Salad looked woeful, but tasted great. The Bloody Mary Aspic topping the fresh oyster was clean, refreshing and both cool and spicy at the same time. But it really wasn't unique, was it? I was still searching for a gel dish with soul. Real soul. Soul that speaks to your heart as a cook. Something unique in terms of the flavor combinations, the textures and the presentation. But what would be the touch that would give the dish "my" soul?

Through weeks of experimentation, (and a good dose of luck), I composed a chronicle of test shots portraying my thought process leading up to the final version of the Foie Gras and Ice Wine Jelly dish-

The Tests-

Ever more molds to try-silicone cups used for making lollipops, a nonstick metal mini-muffin pan, and some metal cutters and ring molds-

Gel Cook-Off 094.JPG

A small porcelain ramekin, sprayed with non-stick coating and filled with foie gras mousse, levelled-off with a small pastry spatula-

003.JPG

The porcelain and glass molds didn't work, nor did the new-age, nonstick teflon or space-age silicone molds. Stuck in the mold became the mantra of my Cook-Off. But what about those little metal molds from Grandmother PInk? I've never used them. They've sat in a dark corner in the back of the cupboard for over 50 years. Could it happen? I'll experiment with some lime Jell-O. But how do I unmold the little dome of jelly? Could the little mold crafted a century ago really work?-

Gel Cook-Off 012.JPG

I'm starting to get giddy at this point. The mold worked with Jell-O, but will it work with ice wine jelly? How do I get the foie gras into the mold? And what about plating? I need to serve some bread or cracker with the jelly-mousse, but how do I present the bread? In a little ramkin? Doesn't the ramekin with towering shards of bread overshadow what should be the focus of the plate?-

Gel Cook-Off 009.JPG

I'm starting to believe....

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The Bread-

"The bread came from Walmart. Yes, the bakery at Walmart supplied the bread for a dish featuring foie gras. I am, I am sure, the only man in America, the world perhaps, to pair bread from Walmart with a culinary icon."

Contrary to the thinking of probably a majority of our Members, you don't always have to buy a loaf of bread crafted with fresh spring water delicately bottled at the source, special bread flour flown in from Paris, and yeast fermented in a rural barn in Mt. Pleasant, Washington. Certainly such ethereal loaves give one an incredible taste, but it wasn't necessary in this dish. What I was seeking in this dish was a very, very thin slice of bread that would serve as the vehicle to deliver the foie gras mousse and ice wine jelly. It had to be fresh so it would toast with a delicate crumb, yet crispy but not so brittle that it would break under the weight of the mousse, jelly and garnish of huckleberry compote.

I bought the standard Walmart bakery Italian loaf with herbs. Aside from what is a very tasteful bread, it was shaped into a rectangular loaf that was perfect for how I was going to slice it--into thin, long shards.

One of the great kitchen tools for slicing bread is a meat slicer. You can control the thickness of the slice, and the blade cuts so incredibly fast that the bread doesn't suffer from that "marshmallow squeeze" effect you get sometimes when you slice bread with a knife.

Gel Cook-Off 003.JPG

The slices were brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with black pepper then toasted in a 350 oven for about 5 minutes until browned.

Gel Cook-Off 004.JPG

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The Foie Gras Mousse in Ice Wine Jelly-

The main element of the dish started with "Black Ice" 2009 Black Muscat from Tefft Cellars in the Yakima Valley of Central, Washington. The winemakes notes that the wine is "pressed from grapes frozen post-harvest, this wine has the great floral aromas of the Muscat grape, balanced with a crisp, refreshing finish." While not as sweet, syrupy and silken as the delicious ice wines from Ontario or British Columbia, I soon found out that this mildly sweet, fragrant wine was the perfect accompaniment to the rich foie gras.

Gel Cook-Off 015.JPG

The first step was to make the ice wine jelly. I used a ratio of 1 1/2 cups of wine to 1 1/2 tsp. of powdered gelatine. I wasn't exactly sure of the ratio I needed, but after some research, I went heavy on the gelatine and light on the wine. My assumption was that I wanted a "hard" gel so it would support the weight of the thick slab of foie gras that I would suspend in the jelly. The wine was heated until just to a simmer, then the gelatine was stirred in. This first mix of gel would form the base of the mold. At this point, I wasn't going off experience and pretty much in a freestyle form of preparing the mold.

The "first layer"-

Gel Cook-Off 029.JPG

After the first layer chilled, I let it chill and set in the refrigerator for about 1 1/2 hours until very firm.

The "second layer" was composed of thick slabs of foie gras mousse studded with black truffle-

Gel Cook-Off 023.JPG

Gel Cook-Off 034.JPG

The "second layer" of gel was then poured in the mold and around the foie gras. The idea at this point was to create a little ice wine jelly "dome" enclosing a "jewel" of foie gras mousse-

Gel Cook-Off 037.JPG

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Plating-

This was the moment of truth. I really had no experience with unmolding such a precious dish of gel. Limited experience in cutting Jell-O shots does not serve as the proving ground for unmolding foie gras in ice wine jelly.

I let the cold mold sit in a shallow bath of hot water for about 30 seconds. I knew from the test with the lime Jell-O that hot water did the trick in unmolding gelatine. But this gelatine was different--it was made of wine encapsulating a heavy interior mousse. I feared that the soft walls of gel would collapse without the support of the metal sides of the mold.

A plate was placed on top of the mold, the whole contraption inverted so the plate was on the counter and the mold on top. And then this gentle beauty slid out from its cover-

Gel Cook-Off 040.JPG

You can see a hint of something curious encased in the cocoon of ice wine jelly. And now the garnishes. First, a sprig of bay gently tucked underneath-

Gel Cook-Off 047.JPG

A few spoonfuls of warm, not hot, wild huckleberry compote-

Gel Cook-Off 054.JPG

And the bread-

Gel Cook-Off 056.JPG

Gel Cook-Off 058.JPG

A touch of fresh thyme-

Gel Cook-Off 061.JPG

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These are lovely, Dave, exactly the sort of thing that makes me love gelled things so much. Also, the pretty moulds inspired me to try to get my hands on some myself; mysteriously, nothing even remotely like this is to be found, hereabouts.

Any shots of the inside? Did the flavour/texture combination meet your expectations?


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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These are lovely, Dave, exactly the sort of thing that makes me love gelled things so much. Also, the pretty moulds inspired me to try to get my hands on some myself; mysteriously, nothing even remotely like this is to be found, hereabouts.

Any shots of the inside? Did the flavour/texture combination meet your expectations?

You know me too well. Yes, the next set of photos will portray the mold cut in half revealing the foie gras mousse and an individual serving. I would have to say I don't remember ever experiencing this type of texture combination. The pea/gel dish at Savoy had some interesting textures, but this was totally different. You have the soft jelly texture of the ice wine gel with the firm, buttery texture of the foie gras. In the same bite, you add the crisp texture of the bread and the texture of soft, warm huckleberries. It was incredible.

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My mouth is watering, David. It's a work of art!

Thanks. After all that planning and testing I finally got to the end. It was one of those moments in the kitchen that we all have when we realize we've created someting very special and delicious.

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Tasting-

Gel Cook-Off 075.JPG

Sometimes words don't fully describe the senses you feel when you taste something memorable. One can use all the obligatory adjectives so often associated with foie gras, (often with terrible, overly-dramatic affect). But I don't really need to tell you anything more do I? As cooks and students of cuisine, we know that the true test is the taste test, and one hopes that these final photos portray my experience.

Until this Cook-Off, I never realized the legacy my Grandmother Pink had left me. I didn't even realize I had her gelatine molds until I looked in that back cupboard in search of my collection of molds. A call to my dear Mother, Janet Pink Ross, some 88 years old, turned my mission into something deeper than a Cook-Off. It became a journey of discovery and a remembrance of family.

Edna May Yount Pink was born in Lewiston, Idaho, in the 1890's. She graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, with a teaching degree in home economics--an incredible achievement for a woman in the early decades of the 1900's.

Those years at Whitman were the foundation of my Grandmother's passion for food, cooking and entertaining. Her first teaching job took her to Twin Falls, Idaho, where she met my Grandfather, Ralph Pierce Pink, who worked for his Father Max Pink at the family's wool pelt trading company. My Grandparents married in Kansas in 1917, where Grandfather was in basic training with the Army. (As the tuba player in the regimental band, Grandfather Pink was spared being sent to fight in Europe).

I never met my Grandmother Pink. She died in 1951, the same year my parents were married. A few years ago, my Mother passed-down her Mother's recipes to me. The collection includes a worn, black leather booklet holding forth a vast number of recipes for gelatine dishes. I have no doubt that my Grandmother served fancy gelatine salads to the ladies in her bridge club. Now, some 61 years after she passed away, I'm proud that I discovered the legacy that my Grandmother Pink left me--those little gelatine molds.

Gel Cook-Off 088.JPG

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That is a beautiful thing, David. I have similar molds that I bought at a church fair in Rhode Island. Some have "swastikas" on them but I think (hope?) at the time they were made they were just an ancient cross design; they are quite old. Some say "Jell-o."

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Tasting-

Gel Cook-Off 075.JPG

Sometimes words don't fully describe the senses you feel when you taste something memorable. One can use all the obligatory adjectives so often associated with foie gras, (often with terrible, overly-dramatic affect). But I don't really need to tell you anything more do I? As cooks and students of cuisine, we know that the true test is the taste test, and one hopes that these final photos portray my experience.

Until this Cook-Off, I never realized the legacy my Grandmother Pink had left me. I didn't even realize I had her gelatine molds until I looked in that back cupboard in search of my collection of molds. A call to my dear Mother, Janet Pink Ross, some 88 years old, turned my mission into something deeper than a Cook-Off. It became a journey of discovery and a remembrance of family.

Edna May Yount Pink was born in Lewiston, Idaho, in the 1890's. She graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, with a teaching degree in home economics--an incredible achievement for a woman in the early decades of the 1900's.

Those years at Whitman were the foundation of my Grandmother's passion for food, cooking and entertaining. Her first teaching job took her to Twin Falls, Idaho, where she met my Grandfather, Ralph Pierce Pink, who worked for his Father Max Pink at the family's wool pelt trading company. My Grandparents married in Kansas in 1917, where Grandfather was in basic training with the Army. (As the tuba player in the regimental band, Grandfather Pink was spared being sent to fight in Europe).

I never met my Grandmother Pink. She died in 1951, the same year my parents were married. A few years ago, my Mother passed-down her Mother's recipes to me. The collection includes a worn, black leather booklet holding forth a vast number of recipes for gelatine dishes. I have no doubt that my Grandmother served fancy gelatine salads to the ladies in her bridge club. Now, some 61 years after she passed away, I'm proud that I discovered the legacy that my Grandmother Pink left me--those little gelatine molds.

Gel Cook-Off 088.JPG

I'm going to have to go with 'wow', which I realize is spectacularly inarticulate. This is the the first time I can recall seeing a savoury gel and thinking, 'I need to do that'.


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Tasting-

Gel Cook-Off 075.JPG

Sometimes words don't fully describe the senses you feel when you taste something memorable. One can use all the obligatory adjectives so often associated with foie gras, (often with terrible, overly-dramatic affect). But I don't really need to tell you anything more do I? As cooks and students of cuisine, we know that the true test is the taste test, and one hopes that these final photos portray my experience.

Until this Cook-Off, I never realized the legacy my Grandmother Pink had left me. I didn't even realize I had her gelatine molds until I looked in that back cupboard in search of my collection of molds. A call to my dear Mother, Janet Pink Ross, some 88 years old, turned my mission into something deeper than a Cook-Off. It became a journey of discovery and a remembrance of family.

Edna May Yount Pink was born in Lewiston, Idaho, in the 1890's. She graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, with a teaching degree in home economics--an incredible achievement for a woman in the early decades of the 1900's.

Those years at Whitman were the foundation of my Grandmother's passion for food, cooking and entertaining. Her first teaching job took her to Twin Falls, Idaho, where she met my Grandfather, Ralph Pierce Pink, who worked for his Father Max Pink at the family's wool pelt trading company. My Grandparents married in Kansas in 1917, where Grandfather was in basic training with the Army. (As the tuba player in the regimental band, Grandfather Pink was spared being sent to fight in Europe).

I never met my Grandmother Pink. She died in 1951, the same year my parents were married. A few years ago, my Mother passed-down her Mother's recipes to me. The collection includes a worn, black leather booklet holding forth a vast number of recipes for gelatine dishes. I have no doubt that my Grandmother served fancy gelatine salads to the ladies in her bridge club. Now, some 61 years after she passed away, I'm proud that I discovered the legacy that my Grandmother Pink left me--those little gelatine molds.

Gel Cook-Off 088.JPG

I'm going to have to go with 'wow', which I realize is spectacularly inarticulate. This is the the first time I can recall seeing a savoury gel and thinking, 'I need to do that'.

Thank you, and I agree with you about savoury gels. From this dish forward I'm not going to think first about lime Jell-O and shredded carrots dressed with Miracle Whip. Nor will I consider the vision of trays of "Ambrosia" raspberry Jell-O with whipped cream. No, my thoughts of gel have forever been changed by the taste of Ice Wine Jelly and Foie Gras. The Holidays are fast approaching, so I think that's going to be the perfect time to craft more of these little beauties.

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    • By David Ross
      Hello friends and welcome back to a time-honored tradition--the popular eG Cook-Off Series. We're in the heat of summer right now and our gardens are literally blooming with all manner of peak of the season ripe fruits and succulent vegetables. And there's no better time of year to honor a vegetable that is often maligned as not being as colorful or trendy as the chi-chi breakfast radish or the multi-hued rainbow chard.

      In addition to not always being recognized for it's looks, every August and September it becomes the butt of jokes at State Fair competitions across the country. If you can get past the embarassment of seeing the poor devils dressed up and carved into silly, cartoon-like farm figures or pumped-up with organic steroids, you'll find a delicious, low-calorie vegetable packed with potassium and vitamin A. Yes friends, your dreams have come true for today we kick-off eG Cook-Off #62, "Summer Squash."
      (Click here http://forums.egulle...cook-off-index/ for the complete eG Cook-Off Index).

      According to the University of Illinois Extension Office, summer squash, (also known in some circles as Italian marrow), are tender, warm-season vegetables that can be grown anytime during the warm, frost-free season. Summer squash differs from fall and winter squash, (like pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash), because it is harvested before the outer rind hardens. Some of the most popular summer squash are the Green and Yellow Zucchini, Scallop, Patty Pan, Globe, Butter Blossom and Yellow Crookneck.

      My personal favorite summer squash is the versatile zucchini. Slow-cooked with sliced onion and ham hock, zucchini is perfectly comfortable nestled on a plate next to juicy, fried pork chops and creamy macaroni and cheese. But the chi-chi haute crowd isn't forgotten when it comes to zucchini, or, as the sniffy French call it, the "courgette." Tiny, spring courgette blossoms stuffed with herbs and ricotta cheese then dipped in tempura batter and gently fried are a delicacy found on Michelin-Star menus across the globe.

      Won't you please join me in crafting some delicious masterpieces that showcase the culinary possibilities of delicious summer squash.
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