It was sometime during my undergrad years that I vowed to try everything once, food-wise. Some of my immediate family members, those who often dictated what we ate, have fairly developed dislikes, so there were a number of foods I’d barely eaten and, at worst, had considered them a no-go simply because someone in my family did. Writing that makes me feel a bit ridiculous, but it’s all true.
The point is that after trying a few things I’d never really eaten and had heard weren’t very good–innocuous ones like, say, butternut squash or artichokes–and finding them to be items I actually enjoyed, I figured I have nothing to lose. My first real test was not when I went to Paris on my own, fresh out of undergrad, and had escargot, which felt like a pretty big stretch at the time (they were yum!). It was in the same trip, a few weeks later, when I visited my mentor professor at the archive in Venice where she was doing some summer research. We met up with a dean of my alma mater and his wife and had lunch together where I ate spaghetti al nero di seppia (squid ink pasta). I knew it would turn my teeth and mouth black and I have ever been a bit squeamish about certain seafood/shellfish items (though I’ll always try them!). I forged on and enjoyed it. It was a memory I’ll never forget, for many reasons, even beyond the pasta (like viewing a 450-year-old music manuscript).
I’ll not soon forget trying Arman’s Caviar in Aspic, either, though I am sad to say that the dish was not one I enjoyed.
Yes, I made it and I made it per the recipe, thinking the whole time that I might not like it. I also was thinking that if anyone were to craft a recipe I liked, it’d be Dorie Greenspan.
It’s the gelatin, you see. I’m not a fan of that texture on the best of days. I can handle it in small doses, particularly sweet doses, but the savory gelatin is not my thing. I include below 2 photos of the process, with the bowl over the pan and then once it had set in the fridge.
I soaked the bottom of the pan a bit too long (the kiddo distracted me) and it got a bit more watery than it should have, so keep that in mind if you ever work with this technique.
Other than that, it was fairly easy to construct and it looks far more intensive prep-wise than it is.
My other issue was that I chose salmon roe due to me making the smoked salmon waffles for the other part of my New Year’s Eve hors d’oeuvres plate. I trundled to Whole Foods after some research about which kind to buy, as I’ve only had caviar at large gatherings with lush spreads. I eyed the more expensive stuff at $50/1.75 oz; I spent along the lines of $20/1.75 oz because I was unsure about the aspic aspect. Anyway, I felt the dish called for a less fishy caviar than the salmon roe. Whatever black briny caviar I’ve been eating would’ve been much better for the dish. Since I’m a texture person, the larger salmon roe added to that gelatinous mouthfeel whereas the smaller black briny-tasting caviar wouldn’t have done quite so much.
Even my husband, who will eat most anything and is much more tolerant of gelatinous textures, wasn’t overly into the dish. He said it needed a cracker, so we did that and it was better. I still did dump the rest of it.
I’m glad I tried it. I’d always have wondered and at least I was able to repurpose the caviar for the smoked salmon waffles.
If I had more time, I’d totally make a sweet version of this dish, with pomegranate seeds or (if I was feeling very fancy) raspberries taken apart with a needle so that they would emulate the caviar look. I think I’d be more likely to enjoy something like that. Ah, well, the cycles of academia roll ever onward and the new term has begun so my time must be differently allocated now.
Happy New Year, all!