Under-the-Sea Pear Salad is kind of a weird-looking and weird-sounding recipe that I considered including with the savory recipes, mainly because of the cream cheese, and because of the way it looks in the photo in the book. Also, “Under-the-Sea” seems to suggest that there might be shrimp in it (and we already know that NJoJ is not above such things). Something about it scared me.
Let’s face it, the “Under-the-Sea” part of the name is enigmatic. What does it mean? Is the lime Jell-O top layer supposed to represent the ocean? And why are there pear bits under it? I feel like this whole thing is more of a metaphor than a dessert – but a metaphor for what?
Despite all the deep thinking this recipe engendered, the preparation was fairly straightforward, although there were the usual 43-years-on hiccups. While the recipe calls for a 16-ounce can of pear halves, such cans are now 15 ounces. (I bought an additional 8.5-ounce can so that I could add a little more fruit. Most of the pear halves got chopped up into coarse chunks first and stowed in the fridge.) The recipe also calls for two three-ounce packages of cream cheese, which just sounds weird to me, because for as long as I can remember cream cheese has typically been available in eight-ounce blocks. (I bought one of those and measured out six ounces on the kitchen scale, no biggie.)
The base of Under-the-Sea Pear Salad is a single batch of lime Jell-O, to which a little salt and lemon juice are added. Instead of cold water, 3/4 cup of juice from the canned pears is used. I set aside about a half-cup of the liquid gelatin, thickened the rest over an ice water bath, put it in the mold to form the top layer, and put that in the fridge to firm up a bit more while I dealt with the cream cheese layer.
That was a little trickier. The cream cheese is supposed to be softened and “creamy”, but even though it was quite warm yesterday, the cream cheese didn’t get very soft after sitting out for a while. I tried beating it with a wooden spoon, but it remained defiant. There was only one thing for it. I put it in the stand mixer and gave it the cheesecake treatment. After beating it as well as I could with a power tool, I added the liquid gelatin and beat it some more, pausing a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl while hoping that all those little lumps of cream cheese would get thoroughly incorporated into the gelatin.
Mercifully, the mixture did eventually homogenize, and then I added the now-cold pear chunks, which helped thicken the cream cheese/gelatin mixture and made it easier to spoon it over the barely-firm jelly layer. A good long overnight chill yielded this:
I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out, appearance-wise. It came out of the mold easily, and the canned pear halves turned out to be just the right size for a garnish on top of the mold. I don’t imagine this looked particularly appetizing to Bryan, but I like the dark and light green layers, and it did look appetizing to me.
For eating, this turned out to be a lot better than it sounded just from reading the recipe. Lime is still my favorite flavor of Jell-O, so it had that going for it at the outset. Not a lot of the recipes in the book include pears, so those made a nice change.
I didn’t love the cream cheese layer. The main reason I can think of is that tangy, cheesy flavor didn’t go all that well with the Jell-O, which is odd because the usual bavarians with whipped toppings tend to be too sweet. I almost forgot to mention that the cream cheese layer was flavored with an eight of a teaspoon of powered ginger, or I should say “supposed to be flavored”, because although I used more like 3/16 teaspoon, the ginger was barely detectable as a faint aftertaste. Maybe. Some diced crystallized ginger would have been better.
Finally, the texture of the cream cheese was possibly a little too thick. After Bryan finished eating his portion, he was licking his lips and his palate like a dog that’s been given a spoonful of peanut butter. Not a good look.
Okay, this is pretty obvious but you know I had to include it…
Strawberry Supreme isn’t a particularly seasonal recipe. I probably scheduled it for this time of year because it’s just barely past fresh strawberry season here in New England – which doesn’t really matter, because Strawberry Supreme calls for frozen strawberries. Jell-O has no season.
This is one of those two-parters, with half of the gelatin in straight jelly form with fruit suspended in it, and the other half (the top half) a bavarian with vanilla ice cream. The recipe says to prepare two packages of strawberry Jell-O and then separate the liquid gelatin into two parts to make the two different components of the dish. I’ve been in this game long enough now to know that this can be tricky, timing-wise, and I decided to prepare each component separately, one Jell-O package at a time. It probably takes a little longer, but at least this way I didn’t suffer from premature gelling.
The first part, the jelly part, was prepared the usual way, dissolving a package of Jell-O in a cup of boiling water, adding a cup of cold water, adding ten ounces of frozen strawberries (the only kind that comes in ten-ounce packages at the Super Stop’n’Shop is some fancy-dancy organic brand, but the berries were actually decent) and then chilling until thickened over an ice-water bath. The gelatin was doled out into dessert glasses (the recipe specifies “sherbet glasses”, which I don’t have and am not sure what they are) and stowed in the fridge during the preparation of…
The bavarian part was a package of strawberry Jell-O dissolved in a cup of boiling water, with a half-cup of cold water added. The recipe says to then chill until slightly thickened and then add a cup of softened ice cream. I guess I didn’t read it carefully enough, because I just saw the part about adding ice cream, thought that it was stupid to add ice cream to already-chilled gelatin, and just added what I was estimating was a half-pint from a pint of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla bean with a small scoop to melt into the hot gelatin liquid. (After I finished making the dish, I ate the rest of the ice cream, straight out of the container like in my college days, and it seemed as though there was more than half the pint left in there…) The bavarian part also included one and a half tablespoons each of rum and brandy, and two tablespoons of Cointreau. Once the ice cream was pretty well melted down, I chilled this over the ice-water bath, beating it with a whisk in a desperate, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to achieve the “bubbly” consistency described in the recipe. Maybe I should have recruited the MixMaster Junior to help out, but I think if the bavarian part had achieved a greater volume, it wouldn’t have fit into the glasses with the jelly part.
Incidentally, while we already had brandy and Cointreau, there was no rum in our oddball assortment of liqueurs and liquor, so we had to make a special visit to our friendly neighborhood hipster liquor store. (Due to popular demand, they now stock “pong balls” and red Solo cups.) I now have nearly a quart of rum. And a lot of mint growing wild in the yard. Anyone got a good mojito recipe?
In the end, Strawberry Supreme was not very different from the other strawberry bavarians I’ve made so far in the Project. Bryan described it as “relatively inoffensive”, and after taking the time and expense to get the rum, the booze was barely detectable – a hint of citrus flavor, a slight burn on the tongue. The absolute best thing about Strawberry Supreme, honestly, was that during this long weekend of “beach weather” it felt good to hold and eat something cold.
Part of the reason I’m posting on Monday instead of Sunday is that I was thinking I’d say something about the 4th of July, since I’ve been having Thoughts. On the other hand, I’m pretty burnt out on politics, and reluctant to lecture anybody. If you’ve been following NJoJ for a while, you know how I feel about the current regime. I’ll just say, if you’re wondering how I feel about my country these days, “It’s complicated”.
I do have a couple of links to share. One concerns that fellow Frederick Douglass, who I hear is being recognized more and more, and I guess that’s why his July 5, 1852 speech in Rochester, New York has gone viral. Seriously, though, while we celebrate our independence tomorrow, I think we should give a thought to all the people who didn’t benefit from it 241 years ago, and the people who are still struggling for a place at the table for a fair share of freedom’s rewards.
The other link is for Stephen Colbert’s #AmericanGreatness hashtag on Twitter. (Even better, if you use Twitter just check out the @StephenAtHome feed, as he seems to be filtering out trolls.) People from all over the country have been posting an amazing and inspiring variety of photos of the things that make the U.S. truly great, from natural beauty to thriving cities to more intimate shots of family moments. Politics is transitory; these are the things that will endure. I’m so grateful to Colbert for doing this. It’s something we really need right now.
Back with another nasty one, I’m gratified to say that this is the worst one I’ve done in quite a while. Just when I thought I was getting used to the savory Jell-O recipes, this one surprised me with its extreme unpleasantness.
Barbecue Salad is a close relative to the first savory Jell-O I ever did, Molded Tomato Relish. The main difference between the two is that Molded Tomato Relish is made with stewed tomatoes, while Barbecue Salad is made with tomato sauce, and includes pepper along with salt and vinegar. Since it was the first, I remember Molded Tomato Relish pretty well, in particular the way Bryan and I tasted it simultaneously on a three-count, and after a few moments simultaneously burst out laughing over how weirdly bad it was.
Still, as regular readers know (and others can find out by perusing the links in the Table of Contents), there’s been a lot of water under that bridge. I really thought I was becoming inured to the weirder Jell-O, that the thrill was gone. But no. Glory hallelujah, Barbecue Salad is thoroughly, hilariously bad.
The key to the nastiness has got to be the tomato sauce. It’s not something we ever use at Freak Mountain, so I wasn’t familiar with the ingredient. We make our own pasta sauce (or, as my Italian-American in-laws call it, “gravy”) starting with crushed tomatoes, so there’s always some texture to it. Canned tomato sauce, it turns out, is a very smooth tomato purée. Mix it with gelatin and you end up with something that is creepily similar to the mayonnaise I used as garnish (as suggested in the book). The mouthfeel is distinctly slimy. I don’t mind mayonnaise, normally, but I would never eat it on its own by the forkful. Barbecue Salad has helped me to understand my friend F– who is repulsed by mayo.
For the vinegar, I chose apple cider vinegar, and I think that may have been a mistake, as it was probably too sweet. In hindsight, what this recipe needs is a serious hit of acidic flavor, and my old standby white vinegar would have served that purpose much better. As for the salt and pepper, they were both undetectable.
I’d like to know who was the sadist who came up with this recipe. He or she has a lot to answer for. As I was tasting this, I was reminded of the scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where Harry and Dumbledore are retrieving the locket horcrux, and Harry has to force Dumbledore to drink all of the (really nasty) potion in the basin to get to the locket at the bottom. Three bites of Barbecue Salad and I was through. If there was a horcrux in there, I’m afraid Voldemort still stands a chance.
So, I’ve been trying to take advantage of a long holiday weekend that has turned out to be far too short. On Saturday I finally got an electric guitar, a Squier (budget-range Fender) stratocaster, and a cool little practice amplifier that has a USB port (for digital recording, hopefully) and a bunch of built-in effects to keep me happily distorted until I’m ready to start shopping for pedals. I have a strap and some lesson books on order, so I’m on my way, though I tend to think that probably I’ll end up being to the guitar what Inspector Clouseau was to the violin. But we’ll see.
Meanwhile, our cat Ida has been slowly recovering from what appears to have been some sort of mental breakdown a few weeks ago, during which she decided that she hated our other cat, Sam (her offspring), and took up residence on top of the kitchen cabinets. Feeding her up there was fine, but she perceived coming down to use the litter box as a journey fraught with peril, and this was not a situation that we could allow to continue. On Friday evening we got her down and set up in the bedroom, where she seems to be gradually getting back to normal, but we still don’t know what happened. Even the vet seems mystified so far.
Just to add to the fun (and freak out the cats some more), a little while ago we had a plumber here trying to deal with our weird European tankless furnace/water-heater “combi” unit because the hot water suddenly cut out yesterday. The plumbing issues always seem to crop up on long holiday weekends, so that they’ll be as expensive as possible. $300 so far, and we still have no hot water.
So I’ve been a bit less focused on the Jell-O this week, but I did make a Strawberry Bavarian Pie for you.
To be honest, this wasn’t very interesting, just another Cool Whip bavarian, with frozen strawberries mixed in. The recipe calls for a nine-inch pie shell, but again I decided to go with a chocolate crumb crust because that makes this dessert a little more of a treat. As you can see, I attempted to use leftover Cool Whip to garnish the pie, and I’m way off my dollop game.
It occurs to me that despite everything else I had going on this weekend, I was still able to prepare this dessert, so in a way it was fulfilling the function for which it was intended. On some level, I was emulating the housewives for whom these recipes were created, women who were busy taking care of their families and felt that a nice dessert was part of a good family dinner (anyone else remember back in the day when it was usual and expected that families would eat dinner together?) but didn’t necessarily have time for something fancier. Actually, Strawberry Bavarian Pie would have been kind of a special dessert after supper when I was a kid.
Bryan and I tasted this after the plumber left, and for us it wasn’t so special. I told Bryan about how the recipe calls for an addition of a tablespoon of sugar to the gelatin, which I think might have been meant to balance out tartness in the strawberries. We both thought it was odd, given how sweet Cool Whip is, but then it occurred to us that Cool Whip might not have been quite as sweet back in the day. Looking at the history of high fructose corn syrup, it’s likely that these Jell-O and Cool Whip “no-bake pies” were developed before HFCS was widely adopted as a sweetener in mass-produced food products. (That might help explain why, much as kids my age were junk-food junkies back in the 1970s, few of us were obese.) We mulled over how it might be possible to find out what the ingredients in Cool Whip would have been in 1974, thinking that perhaps it would be possible to find vintage tubs on eBay or something like that. I didn’t find any vintage tubs, but I did fall down a rabbit hole of vintage Cool Whip commercials going back to 1966, when Cool Whip first hit the market, including the “Tucker Inn” series, which any child of the 1970s will remember. This one is especially relevant:
It feels like ages since I did a nasty Jell-O, but it’s only been a couple of months. I’ve been having a weird relationship with time lately. On the one hand, time in the Trump regime goes by slowly, what with all the drama and “bombshell” news. It’s hard to believe it’s only been four months since the inauguration. On the other hand, on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis, time slips through my hands like water as I try to get done everything I want to do (work, gym, spending time with spouse and cats, Jell-O, guitar, Fallout…) but somehow I get sucked into the interwebs or old movies on TCM instead. Time has been almost unmanageable, for me at least. Still, I’ve managed to do Molded Vegetable Relish for you.
This is one of those Jell-O molds that strike fear in the hearts of random people on the internet. Oh no! Lime Jell-O with vegetables in it! The horror! But I’ve grown numb to it, and anyway, Molded Vegetable Relish couldn’t be as bad as the last couple of weeks have been for the U.S.
Molded Vegetable Relish gives the cook the option of choosing from six different vegetable combinations: 1) cabbage, celery, carrots, and green pepper; 2) cabbage, celery, green pepper, and pimiento; 3) cabbage, celery, pickle, and pimiento; 4) cooked peas, diced celery, and cabbage; 5) cabbage and sliced stuffed olives; or 6) carrots and green pepper. (I’m sensing a theme here…) To make this as repellent as possible, I went for door number three, except that instead of pimientos I used martini olives for maximum nastiness. The recipe is non-specific about the type of pickles, so I used what we had in the fridge, Grillo’s Italian dill slices. So, yes, what we’re talking about here is lime Jell-O with cabbage, celery, chopped dill pickle, and sliced stuffed olives that have been marinating in vermouth.
I have learned that, for the viewers, the most interesting bits of my videos are the ones where I make “yuck faces” as I taste the Jell-O, and I aim to please.
As far as preparation goes, the lime Jell-O gets made more or less in the usual way, a single batch (3-oz. packet) with 3/4 cup cold water instead of a full cup, with the addition of vinegar, salt, pepper, and grated onion. I found myself in the weird position of feeling as though I hadn’t added enough onion to my Jell-O (and that just ain’t right…) After thickening (over an ice water bath), the chopped veggies are mixed in and the whole mess is put into a mold and stuck into the fridge to firm up.
The result was a bright-green mold, the color possibly enhanced by the almost-monochrome solid ingredients. It was certainly visually striking. It almost didn’t look like food. (Almost?)
This was not the worst Jell-O recipe I’ve done, but it definitely wasn’t good. To start with, there really wasn’t enough onion in it. I’m not sure if more would have helped, though. Between the salt and pepper and vinegar, and the salty, vinegary pickles and olives, there should have been enough savory flavoring in this, but all of that just could not cut the sweetness of the lime Jell-O. Instead, the flavors clashed in a rather aggressive way.
As Bryan noted, at least it didn’t have mayonnaise in it.
I took pleasure in shoving most of this down the garbage disposal, so Action Against Hunger is definitely getting a piece of this action.
How I love the recipes that pose questions! The obvious one for Richlieu Mold is what, if anything, is meant by the name. I thought that possibly this is a classic dessert modified for Jell-O, along the lines of Peach Melba. Alas, Mr. Google turned up little in the way of explanation. I found a few versions of something called Bombe Richlieu, which seems to be a rum-and-coffee-flavored frozen dessert that bears little resemblance to Richlieu Mold. An image search on “bombe Richlieu” turns up a bunch of photos of battleships. Now there’s something to ponder…
The base of Richlieu Mold is “any red flavor” Jell-O. I went with cherry, partly because I’m getting a little tired of strawberry, but also because one of the ingredients is cherries and I didn’t want to throw too many different flavors in there.
I’m calling this an Orange Boycott recipe because, even though orange Jell-O is in no way involved, the other fruit ingredient is, officially, orange sections cut into chunks, and there’s supposed to be a couple of tablespoons of orange juice in the Jell-O liquid. Anyway, it just feels fitting, now that we’ve passed the 100-day mark (and the “100 days since the Women’s March” point), to make a gesture like this.
As a substitute, I used canned pineapple chunks, and two tablespoons of the juice from the can. I like pineapple.
The recipe includes a topping, which can be either Dream Whip or Cool Whip (I chose Dream Whip because that’s what Bryan prefers, although to my mind each is creepy in its own special way) mixed with toasted slivered almonds. I toasted the almonds myself, and that was probably the most pleasant part of making this recipe, because toasting almonds smell nice, and it felt good to have the oven going earlier this afternoon on what turned out to be a chilly day – strange, because yesterday was quite warm and humid.
Not surprisingly, the gelatin part is just fruit suspended in Jell-O, so the prep was pretty routine – make the Jell-O as usual, using the canned cherry and pineapple juices instead of cold water, thicken over an ice water bath, fold in the fruit, put it in the mold and chill until firm.
For some reason, the Jell-O was quite stubborn about coming out of the mold this time. (Yes, I remembered to lube the mold!) It wouldn’t unmold until it had been warmed in a water bath to the point of being definitely melty, so it came out looking untidy. I hate when that happens.
For eating it’s a perfectly decent dessert, although I can’t quite get over my particular squeamishness about canned cherries. I mean, I ate them, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. The pineapple chunks are fine in this, possibly better than orange chunks would have been. I prepared the Dream Whip with almond extract instead of vanilla extract, and the extra almond flavor goes well with the gelatin. One small gripe is that the toasted slivered almonds are an odd textural addition to the dish. I found that I had to be conscious of chewing each mouthful thoroughly so that I wouldn’t end up choking a bit on inadequately masticated almond bits. Bryan didn’t have this problem, though, so it was probably just me being lame.
Bryan declared that the cherry flavor was overwhelming, and maybe it was – but better that than orange.
… featuring guest taster JB!
This recipe sounded like it might be a good one for company, and as it happened our friend JB was in need of some diversion, so we invited him to Freak Mountain for a lunch of Bryan’s baked mac’n’cheese, and Jell-O. JB is one of the people who helped to convince me to reboot the blog, so this was long overdue.
Given what we’ve been doing here, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise that Alaska Surprise is baked Alaska, but with Jell-O (any red flavor) instead of ice cream. (Surprise!) The preparation is a little time-consuming because it’s in three stages, done hours apart. First, there’s a batch of clear Jell-O made with a half-cup of ginger ale instead of cold water, which has to be chilled until firm and then cut into cubes. Second, there’s a batch of Jell-O made with a pint of vanilla ice cream instead of cold liquid, which is thickened, and the cubes of clear Jell-O are stirred into it.
This is put in either a load pan or a four-cup mold and chilled until firm. The Jell-O gets unmolded and chilled again. As I think you can see in the photo above, I experienced the same problem I had with Crown Jewel Cake, where the creamy gelatin didn’t adhere to the clear Jell-O cubes, which led to cracking and separation.
The third stage is the meringue, done shortly before serving. The directions in the book don’t call for cream of tartar, and I tried whipping up a meringue as directed without it, but it wouldn’t stiffen up properly and I ended up adding a little cream of tartar, which helped, although I think my meringue was still a bit soft for this.
(While I made the meringue, JB raided our cookbook collection for Bryan’s stash of vintage ice cream recipe books. For nearly 30 years, JB has been hosting an annual weekend-long event of camping and creative ice-cream-making that makes the Project seem tame.)
The mold is sitting on a round of foil because I wanted to be able to transfer it easily from a plate onto whatever I was going to use to put it under the broiler. I mulled over this a fair bit. The book says to put the mold on a board covered with foil. I don’t know who might happen to have a board laying around the kitchen that’s the right size for this, but I sure don’t, so I ended up sliding the mold onto a baking sheet.
The meringue ended up very well done on top, and hardly at all on the sides. In my defense, this is my first time using our broiler, and Bryan was not particularly forthcoming with advice on how to use it. The over tends to be slow, so I guess I was assuming the broiler would be, too, especially since it’s electric (in a gas oven, what?), but the coils heated up quickly.
Even though this was only in the oven for maybe a minute and a half, the creamy Jell-O got all melty, not quite liquid but very soft, and the Jell-O cubes were kind of swimming in it. I made regular baked Alaska once when I was a teenager, and the ice cream didn’t melt this much – but, of course, part of the trick to baked Alaska is that you make sure the ice cream is frozen hard before you coat it in meringue and broil it, The Jell-O isn’t as cold, so it starts out closer to melting temperature. That’s science, people.
Bryan and JB thought that maybe I wouldn’t have had so much of a melting issue if I had broiled it on something less heat conductive, but I’m not so sure, because the baking pan didn’t actually get that hot. One thing that might have helped that’s a usual part of baked Alaska is a layer of pound cake on the bottom. A round of pound cake underneath the mold might have insulated it from any heat transferred from the baking sheet, and also soaked up some of the melted Jell-O, which would have been rather nice in its own right. I considered trying that, but after last week’s major deviation from the plot, I wanted to follow this recipe more closely. If anyone really wants to try making their own Alaska Surprise, I would advise going with the pound cake bottom.
For eating, this was intensely sweet. I used strawberry flavored Jell-O because it’s my favorite red flavor, but in retrospect maybe raspberry, which is a little more tart, would have been better. I didn’t care much for the combination of textures, but JB seemed to find it interesting. Both he and Bryan ate all of the servings I gave them but didn’t go for seconds, and we all needed something to drink afterwards.
One thing I realized was that the ginger ale wasn’t noticeable in the clear Jell-O. When I mentioned it to JB, he mused that maybe using something with a more intense flavor would have worked better. I told him about how I’d tried substituting ginger beer for ginger ale once and found that the stronger ginger flavor didn’t really do anything for the recipe. He had an interesting insight, that maybe the ginger ale is meant to enhance the flavor of the Jell-O (as bay leaves do in savory dishes), rather than giving additional flavor to it. That sounds plausible. Let’s go with that.
Afterwards, the sugar coma we experienced lent itself to a viewing of a couple of episodes of series one of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. If you happen to be out of your favorite recreational substance, it turns out that Alaska Surprise is a reasonable substitute.
A big thanks and hugs to JB for Jell-O’ing with us today!