When you’re married to a chef, and one who is working at home instead of in a restaurant (for the moment), you have dishes like this in the refrigerator.
This is carrots and asparagus in aspic.
Aspic is something that will definitely make you slow down. In the end, you will appreciate the result even more, because it will taste like the process.
Aspic is “…a savory jelly, usually clear, made of clarified meat, fish, or vegetable stock and gelatin. Clear aspics may be used as a base for molded dishes, or as glazes for cold dishes of fish, poultry, meat, and eggs. They may also be cubed and served as an accompiment relish with cold meat, fish, or fowl.” (So says The New Food Lover’s Companion, one of our most-thumbed-through books around here.)
While you can make aspic out of tomato and flavored gelatin or fish stock and gelatin, this aspic is made from the head of a pig.
And, if you would like to make aspic in your home, here you go:
1 pig head (or 6 to 7 pig’s feet)
1 large stockpot (about 20 quart)
3 carrots, peeled and rough chopped
3 large stalks celery
3 large yellow onions, peeled and chopped
1 large head garlic, split in half
4 large sprigs rosemary
4 large sprigs sage
handful fresh thyme
15 black peppercorns
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
If you have a whole pig’s head, you could ask the butcher to break it down into smaller pieces for you.
Cover the head (or feet) with cold water, enough to cover it by an inch.
Bring it to a rapid boil. Turn the heat down to medium.
Simmer the stock for 30 minutes while skimming the scum that will rise to the surface.
While the bones are blanching, put the carrots, celery, onions, and garlic onto a baking sheet and into a 450° oven. Cook until they are browned, nice and caramelized. DO NOT BURN!
Discard all the scum. Strain the liquid and throw that down the drain.
Put the head back in the stockpot.
Put the roasted vegetables in the stockpot, along with the rest of the ingredients.
Cover everything with cold water again. The colder you can get the water, the better.
Turn the heat onto low. Do not let the water boil. You are trying to achieve a very slow simmer, so that one errant bubble appears on the surface every few moments.
Cook the stock for 12 hours at this temperature, skimming the scum occasionally.
You can allow the stock to simmer overnight, as well, on the lowest possible setting on the burner.
Strain the stock. Discard all the vegetables and herbs. Keep the liquid.
Rinse out the stockpot. Return the stock to the lowest setting on the burner again. Allow this to simmer for 8 to 12 hours, with that one bubble appearing every once in awhile. If you almost forget about the stock for awhile, you’ll return to the stove and see that it has been reducing.
The best way to test if the stock is done is to put 1/4 cup of the stock in a bowl you have refrigerated. Put the stock in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. Pull out the bowl. If the stock is solid and gelatinous, you are done. If not, keep simmering.
Find your finest strainer (a chinoise is preferable) and line it with cheesecloth. Slowly, slowly, strain the stock — a couple of large ladles at a time — through the strainer. Continue this process until you have strained the entire stock. The last couple of cups probably will be cloudy or murky. Save that for another purpose. Do not use this for your aspic.
Chill the aspic in a large container that has been set in a sink full of ice water.
Store it an appropriate container.
Makes about 4 quarts.
If you want to go old school, you can make a chaud-froid (that’s what you see above). The vegetables are blanched and then covered in aspic. Salmon is a classic food you can make chaud-froid with aspic as well.
You can use aspic as a garnish for dishes, to impress your friends.
Or, if you are making head cheese, you will need aspic. We’ll be telling you about that one later.