Monday, August 30, 2010

Reviving A Classic...Tomato Aspic Before And After!

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Tomato aspic is one of those dishes that was all the rage in the 30's 40's and 50's.  I caught the tail end of the furor, maybe had it once or twice when I was young; but all of a sudden, like everything else, poof! it disappeared.  Nowadays when I think of it, I think of lace tablecloths, transferware china and those little crochet doilies they used to place on top of old silver.  Kind of a comforting, fuzzy wussy feeling.

This afternoon, while having a light Sunday lunch of cold shrimp, sliced tomatoes and my Mother's potato salad (here we call that light), I started thinking about this old classic. It was always a sure candidate for a cold buffet in the summer, and definitely a favorite of the ladies who lunch. Their taste hasn't varied that much so why did it disappear? Well, like every popular recipe, sometimes people don't know when to stop. These days it's Cowboy Caviar, in my day it was the Mexican Layer Dip. They last a summer or two and then they too disappear from the radar. Tomato aspic, on the other hand, held its ground for a long time so I think it's time to bring it back.  Now that I am a grandmother again and I am usually in charge of the Christening brunch, I think it will make its debut at my table in a month or two.

Now I have seen tomato aspic being served at Thanksgiving, but this I don't understand.  Somehow, in my mind,  it is hard to envision it served with the likes of sweet potatoes and cranberries.  In my day, it was usually served as a first course for lunch or as part of a buffet.

Since as a cook I am very traditional and this is definitely a very Southern dish, I have gone to Lee Bailey's Southern Food And Plantation Houses Cookbook for his recipe.  It is the one that was used by his family's cook who always made extra to serve later with sandwiches.  I think the best accompaniment for this aspic is shrimp or crab, and that is how I usually serve it.  Although it can be served in winter as well as summer, it is most refreshing at this time of the year.

Aspic server - Revere byWilcox And Evertson

I have posted a few pictures showing the different molds you can use.  If you use the top one, the center can be filled with mayonnaise or with cold shrimp or crab meat salad.  If you use the one at the bottom, serve the mayonnaise in a silver gravy boat or glass bowl.  Below, you will find a photo of tomato aspic served as a first course.

Lee Bailey's Tomato Aspic

Printable Recipe

Serves 12


2 envelopes unflavored jello

1/2 cup boiling water

3 cups tomato juice, warmed (I use Campbell's)

1 small onion, very finely  minced

2 ribs celery, very finely minced

2 tsps worcestershire sauce

1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 tsp.Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce

8 ounces cream cheese



Pour the hot water into a shallow bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it.  When gelatin is dissolved, stir in the warmed tomato juice, making sure all the lumps are gone.  If they persist, reheat the mixture briefly.  Stir in all other ingredients except the cream cheese and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, divide the cream cheese by spoonfuls among 12 1/2 cup molds.  Pour tomato mixture in each and refrigerate until set, several hours.

To serve, run a knife around the mold and unmold.  If you have a hard time, place the mold briefly in warm water before trying again.

Serve with homemade mayonnaise or a very good commercial one.  I use Hellman's made with olive oil.  Here in the South they love Duke's.


Now, let me show you a very sexy variation I came across in a website on Thai cuisine.  I have no idea why they use both gin and vodka, but I'm game!

Kung Phet Aspic ( Spicy Prawns in Aspic)

Photo Flickr Scott Partee


•2 Tbsp gelatin

•60ml (1/4 cup)cold water

•850ml tomato juice

•120ml (4 oz or 1/2 cup) vodka

•60ml (2 oz or 1/4 cup) gin

•2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

•3 tsp sugar

•1/4 tsp salt

•1/4 tsp celery salt

•1 tsp vinegar

•1 Tbsp catsup

•1/4 tsp mustard powder

•450g (~1 lb) cooked prawns, shelled and de-veined

•120g (4 oz) Chinese celery, diced

•140g ( 4 1/2 oz) cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, diced and drained

•60g (2 oz) spring onions, chopped

•celery leaves, fresh parsley and cucumber slices, to garnish


1.Place the cold water in a heat-proof cup then sprinkle the gelatin over the top.

2.Place the cup in a small saucepan containing some water.

3.Place over gently heat and cook, stirring constantly, until all the gelatin dissolves.

4.Take off the heat and set aside.

5.In the meantime, combine the tomato juice, vodka, gin, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt, celery salt, vinegar, catsup and mustard powder.

6.Stir to combine then add the gelatin and mix thoroughly.

7.Set aside until slightly thickened.

8.Take a 2 litre (4 cup) mold and grease this lightly.

9.Set in a bowl containing ice cubes then spoon a little of the aspic mix into the base (about 3mm deep) of the mold.

10.When this has set arrange a ring of the prawns decoratively on the aspic.

11.Now mix the remaining prawns the celery, cucumber and spring onions with the remaining aspic.

12.Pour into the mold and chill thoroughly until set.

13.When ready, warm gently then turn onto a serving plate.

14.Garnish with the celery leaves, fresh parsley cucumber slices then serve with Remoulade Sauce.

Remoulade Sauce


•1 1/2 cups thick mayonnaise

•2 Tbsp grated horseradish

•1/2 cup Creole mustard (or prepared yellow mustard)

•1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

•1 tsp hot pepper sauce Tabasco or Linghams

•1/2 cup finely diced green onions

•1/4 cup finely diced Chinese celery

•2 tbsp minced garlic

•1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

•1/2 tbsp lemon juice

•salt and cracked black pepper to taste


1.In a mixing bowl, combine all of the above ingredients, whisking well to incorporate the seasonings.

2.Once blended, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

3. When ready, remove from refrigerator and adjust seasonings to taste.

no copyright


  1. Always great to see that others have dropped by your website. Thanks for noticing the Kung Phet Aspic and really hope that you get a chance to try it.

    Why the Vodka and Gin? Besides the value of the alcohol, Gin juniper goes well with things chilled and spicy. Vodka doesn't tickle my flavour buds.

    btw: The recipe isn't under a copyright as the rest of your site is, so if you could note this please I would be grateful.

  2. Oh: I love tomato aspic! It is the ultimate in summer lunch,I think. With some nice cold shrimp, ice tea with lots of mint, those crisp round cheesy crackers: YES !

  3. I applaud your effort to bring back a classic. I think my grandmother used to serve this when she would host luncheons. I am allergic to shellfish. What else would you suggest to accompany it? Some type of white fish maybe?

  4. City Share

    yes any type of shite fish but also if it is served as part of a large buffet or as a first course, anything will do. I just don't like it served with turkey at thanksgiving!

  5. Kroocrew

    duly noted, and thanks for the comments!

  6. My Granny Darling, long dead, was a great fan of tomato aspic (which she pronounced tomahto as those of her generation and class did), which she often served with tongue (cow) (made by her cook), which Reggie did not care for over 40 years ago when last he had the pleasure of dining at her table...

    I adore tomato aspic, so refreshing and old fashioned. Thank you for posting this.

  7. my family has always had tomato aspic for every "special occasion" dinner. easter, thanksgiving, christmas and birthdays. for us, it is served just like pickles: alongside the main meal. it just wouldn't be dinner without it!

  8. Hello lindaraxa,

    I have a great recipe for a shrimp canape made in a crispy hard pastry cup dressed with cilantro oil and sesame seed oil vinaigrette,soy and mirin. The additional ingredients include cucumber, carrot, avocado.

    I think it would be liked by your readership.

    If you would like me to send it to you let me know. It's too large to be accepted in one posting on your blog.

    kind regards,


  9. Such a classic! My grandmother would serve a tomato aspic at every large family gathering. I think it is the perfect side to any turkey dinner or Easter ham. It is always my first request when we discuss what to have for holiday meals.


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