Originally posted January 16, 2010
Note: Almost exactly five years later, I’m reposting this about a week after my birthday. I didn’t have any Jell-O for my birthday this year, which doesn’t exactly compensate for being five years older, but it’s something.
I guess I’m just not as smart as I sometimes think I am. You’d think I would have learned my lesson with the Jell-O brunch, but with this confluence of recipes on the schedule, I couldn’t resist doing another “theme” post. I must say, though, that unless I pick up the pace I’m going to have to Tom Sawyer a bunch of unwitting friends and acquaintances into attending a Jell-O buffet – and nobody wants that…
Spanish Tuna Salad
Don’t ask me what makes this salad “Spanish,” because I honestly don’t know. As I work through The New Joys of Jell-O, I often have the impression that recipes were named (and/or developed) using a process akin to Mad Libs.
Spanish Tuna Salad is your basic “things suspended in Jell-O,” savory style – tuna, diced tomato, chopped celery and scallion, and, in theory, small strips of cucumber. However, the cucumber Bryan selected from the bin at the supermarket turned out to be a zucchini, so I just went with that. I suspect it could only have improved the dish. The chopped vegetables (which I “eyeballed” rather than measured, taking care only to not skimp) and chunks of white albacore tuna were added to a thickened lemon Jell-O that had been seasoned with pepper and vinegar. This was put into individual gelatin molds and left in the fridge to chill overnight. Probably the best thing I can say about Spanish Tuna Salad is that it gave Bryan a night off from cooking. The next best thing I can say is that it wasn’t as bad as the Salmon Dill Mousse (although Bryan disagreed with me on this). It looked like some sort of kooky diet dish from a recipe out of a 1970s-vintage issue of Ladies Home Journal, and as has been the problem with the savory Jell-Os so far, the sweetness of the Jell-O was not sufficiently cut by the seasonings and other ingredients. I found the flavor too complicated, the sweet lemon gelatin bumping rudely against the tuna and the celery. The texture wasn’t as creepy as that of the Salmon Dill Mousse, but it still wasn’t remotely pleasant to eat. My overall impression was that this was the sort of thing a young housewife of forty years ago would have made if she didn’t know any better, having married young and gone directly from living with her parents to living with her husband. Once I’d formed this impression, I felt like a bit of a chump.
Key Lime Pie
First, a disclaimer: Yes, I know what key lime pie is, and I know that this isn’t really it. Again, it was those crazy GF R&D drones who named the recipes, not me. When I was making up my schedule, I tried to balance the weird, scary, and outright offensive-sounding recipes with the kinder, gentler ones, hence the pairing of Spanish Tuna Salad with Key Lime Pie. Also, I like lime, so I decided to schedule that one for my birthday. We ended up eating it the day after – close enough. Key Lime Pie sounded like it would be a bit of all right, especially since the recipe calls for two teaspoons of lime zest and a half-cup of lime juice. I juiced the limes I used for zesting, so this had a bracing quantity of fresh, genuine flavoring. The zest and juice, plus a teaspoon of aromatic bitters (don’t ask) were added to lime Jell-O, and the hot liquid was stirred gradually into a well-beaten egg yolk. (I managed not to cook the egg this time – hooray!) This was chilled over an ice water bath until it was slightly thick, and then a can of sweetened condensed milk was stirred into it. Finally, a beaten egg white was folded into the mixture and the lot was poured into a pre-baked pie shell (again, a store-bought crust from the freezer case) and popped into the fridge to chill and firm up.
When I first tasted it, it seemed to me that the real and fake lime flavors clashed a bit on the palate, but I quickly got used to that. Otherwise, it wasn’t bad at all. The real juice and zest gave the pie a nice dash of acidity, and the sweetened condensed milk gave it firmness without the peculiar artificial flavors of Cool Whip or Dream Whip. The recipe recommended garnishing the pie with Dream Whip, and while I did kind of regret presenting a plain pie in the photograph here, it was a relief to eat a Jell-O dessert without Dream Whip in it. While it wasn’t exactly the sort of Key Lime Pie you would expect to get in a good restaurant in Florida, it was a reasonable consolation after eating the Spanish Tuna Salad.
Bryan took seconds.