Well, it’s been another one of those weeks. It seems like most weeks are “one of those weeks” lately, so it was nice to get back to another “Especially for Junior Cooks” recipe.
But before I get into that, I’d like to direct the reader to Jellied Salade Niçoise, where just a couple of days ago I received a very nice comment from songwriter George Potor, who had written a song about Jellied Salade Niçoise and then happened upon my blog post. He included a link to his song, which seems to capture the essence of the dish. It made my weekend, really. He also mentioned a song about SpaghettiOs Cupcakes, which I found in this Bon Appetit post. Who knew weird processed food recipes could be such a deep mine for creativity? It occurred to me briefly that The New Joys of Jell-O could be made into an album, but that would be a multi-disk set that no one would listen to. Probably best not to go there.
Jiffy Cooler would surely be a very short song. It’s just a softer Jell-O (“red flavor”, prepared with a full cup of cold water) made into a bavarian with a pint of vanilla ice cream. When we went to the supermarket, the Friendly’s ice cream was on sale, so we bought a carton of vanilla, and also a carton of peppermint stick, which is my favorite and, unfortunately, only available for “the holiday season”. I gather that’s started already. (I don’t want to get too far off topic, but it’s only mid-October and I’m already seeing Christmas-themed ads on television – way too soon, people! It feels like Mallomar season has barely started.)
I chose strawberry for the red flavor, but raspberry would have been fine. One might even consider branching out from the red flavors and try this with peach, or Berry Blue, both of which go well with cream. (It’s just hitting me now that Jiffy Cooler made with Berry Blue would make a nice visual match for my Blue Heaven dish ware.) The “Jiffy” part is not random, or a misnomer. This is actually a pretty quick recipe to make, since you just make the Jell-O, melt the ice cream into it, and chill it for an hour or so. Mine was in the fridge for more like two-and-a-half hours while I was at the gym, and it still turned out to be a fairly soft jelly dish.
I was even looking forward to tasting it when I got back from my workout, not least because I decided to serve it with whipped cream and Oreo cookies on the side. (Shh! Don’t tell my trainer!) I definitely recommend that. Bryan and I both wound up dipping our cookies in the Jell-O and cream, and it all went very well together.
Maybe it’s the endorphins talking, but for once I feel like I’m ending the week on a high note. The Jell-O was good, we have Oreos to eat, I got to hear one of the recipes made into a song, and now that this one is done, I have thirteen recipes left in the Project. Thirteen! The end is in sight…
…And here we are, back to the nasty Jell-O. The good news is that we’re heading into the final countdown phase, and Cool Coleslaw Salad is the third-to-last of the savory Jell-O recipes!
I did have to drag myself back from the Mojave Wasteland to do this. I decided to start a new playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas last weekend, perhaps not the wisest decision, but my other distractions are starting to fail me. On the surface it seems kind of strange that a video game set in a dystopian alternate-timeline, post-nuclear-apocalypse future should be so soothing, but I’m starting to form theories about fight-or-flight and stress hormones. Maybe engaging in those imaginary fights allows for a release of stress that’s not possible in the real world, where all we can do is scan our Twitter feeds every morning hoping that World War III hasn’t begun. Also, I like the southwest desert a lot, the bleak beauty and the vast quietness of the landscape, which is captured really well in Fallout: New Vegas.
So I ventured out of my motel room in Novac and into my kitchen to make Cool Coleslaw Salad. There isn’t actually a whole lot to say about this one. The base is lemon Jell-O, but otherwise it’s not so different from a standard, non-gelatinous coleslaw. In that sense, it’s a close cousin to Molded Potato Salad.
A single batch of lemon Jell-O is prepared with a little less cold water than usual, but with salt and vinegar added. A half-cup of mayonnaise and a half-cup of sour cream get blended into the Jell-O, along with a few tablespoons of prepared mustard and some finely-chopped onion. I chilled the resulting savory bavarian over an ice-water bath until it was thickened, and then added shredded cabbage (the recipe calls for three cups, but I probably added more), a few tablespoons of diced pimiento, and a quantity of chopped parsley that was probably more than the tablespoon specified in the recipe. It all chilled in a glass bowl in the fridge overnight, et voila! Cool Coleslaw Salad!
All in all, I’m pretty happy about how it turned out. I’m glad I added extra cabbage, because I think if all the cabbage had been submerged in the gelatin that would have been kind of depressing. At least this looked like “a salad”, and to be honest, I think that visually, at least, it was not unappealing.
While I’m overall relieved to be done with these “sour cream and mayonnaise” recipes, I have to say that Cool Coleslaw Salad did not taste bad. It tasted like coleslaw. The onion and the mustard really cut into the sweetness of the lemon Jell-O, and the sour cream and mayonnaise mixture made sense, for once. The real problem with this dish was the mouthfeel. The combination of a crunchy vegetable and a creamy gelatin is just unpleasant.
For once, Bryan and I were entirely on the same page on a recipe. I gave him some to try, and he actually ate more than a forkful, agreeing that it tasted fine but just wasn’t very nice to eat. The garbage disposal got the bulk of it, so Action Against Hunger will be getting another donation.
I’m almost regretting doing a Memory Lane post today, because I am so hungry! I went to the gym a while ago and did some deadlifts, and came home to a house not only bereft of snacks but also down to the last four ounces of milk, so I couldn’t even have the big glass of chocolate milk with which I sometimes reward myself after dragging my substantial ass to the gym. Right now I feel like I’m so hungry I could even eat Chicken Mousse.
But maybe that’s because I don’t remember it. I know I made it, because I have my notes, and a photo. Judging by my notes, I wonder if I don’t have some sort of psychological block about Chicken Mousse. Apparently, it was pretty bad. To start with, lemon Jell-O and cayenne pepper do not play well together. Somehow, this isn’t surprising, and yet there they are, both in the same recipe.
As you might have guessed from the name, or from the photo, Chicken Mousse is a bavarian type Jell-O dish. The creamy ingredients? Mayonnaise and Dream Whip. I used the Mixmaster Junior to blend them together, to avoid the danger of mayonnaise blobs. That was probably wise, but the combination of mayo and Dream Whip was, unsurprisingly, very nasty.
Finally, instead of real chicken I used some sort of mock chicken, as I was trying, during the first iteration of the Project, to adhere to my mostly vegetarian diet. The reason that I am no longer doing this is because the mock meat was always bad in these recipes, and Chicken Mousse was certainly no exception.
Nevertheless, in the end I decided that the recipe wouldn’t have been helped by using real chicken. I used too much cayenne, and that was the best part. While it was “so bad it cracks me up”, I was also a little annoyed that I was dirtying dishes to make it. We gave it four “nasties”, and it left me asking, “Oh, god, why…?”
It’s a question a lot of us have been asking ourselves lately.
As a recipe, Green Goddess Salad Bowl is literally dreadful, in that I was dreading making it. This one includes avocados, crab meat, and anchovies. I’m including a photo of the recipe in this post so that you know I’m not making this up – not, in any way, shape or form, an endorsement of it. I do not recommend attempting this.
The dread, as it turned out, was well founded. The Jell-O component smelled foul while it was hot, and only slightly less so once it was firm. The color was a rather nasty mint green that clashed with the other green ingredients.
I had a fair amount of trouble on account of the ingredients, in particular the avocados. Since I’m not a hipster, I almost never eat or cook with avocados, and I was not up to the challenge of picking out ripe ones. I bought two, and one of them was so underripe and tough that I risked serious injury in separating the flesh from the pit. It was tough to cut, and tough to eat. The other one wasn’t as bad, but I had hoped to have at least a couple of decent avocados that I could salvage from the salad and turn into guacamole. I even bought a bag of lime tortilla chips, to which I turned for consolation at the conclusion of this recipe, sans guacamole.
The crab meat was another puzzle. That’s another thing I seldom eat and never buy. When I was growing up, crustacean shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp) were somewhat luxurious, and I just never acquired a taste for them. I was warned by a couple of people that crab meat is really expensive – and, indeed, real crab meat from the seafood counter is expensive. Luckily, the recipe calls for canned crab meat, which is much more reasonably priced, but there I was flummoxed by the three or four varieties. The most expensive is “lump” crab meat, and I probably should have gone for that, but “lump” just sounds unpleasant, so I got a couple of cans of the “fancy white”, which sounds much nicer. It turned out to be perhaps more suitable for making crab cakes. Live and learn…
Since a lot of the work of making this dish is in the assembly just before serving, I decided that I would save some time by making a “making of…” video rather than doing my face and hair, preparing the salad, and recording a whole separate video of me tasting it. (Also, frankly, I get tired of looking at my dopey face.) The results are mixed. I got Bryan to do the tasting for the video, and although he makes much better ugly faces than I do, he tasted that Jell-O with remarkable equanimity. It kind of psyched me into thinking that it wasn’t that bad. The first bite I tasted, which didn’t have a significant amount of anchovy in it, was on par with some of the nastier dishes I’ve made, so I tried another bite, with more anchovies. That one was so disgusting it made me gag, and I turned right around and spat it out into the sink. This was the first time in the Project that I’ve ever had to spit out a bite.
A few minutes later, I was ready to dump the whole thing down the garbage disposal, but when I switched it on, the garbage disposal made a feeble sounding whir and stopped dead. We’ve been living in this house for eight years and the garbage disposal has never failed before – but at the prospect of taking in Green Goddess Salad Bowl, it refused.
I think it’s safe to say this is the worst one yet.
This time around, to help out with the Harvey recovery in southeast Texas, a donation will be made to the Houston Food Bank.
Fresh Fruit Salad comes around in an interesting confluence of events. It happens to be an Orange Boycott recipe (I substituted lime Jell-O for orange) on a weekend when I wound up going to a counter-protest at the Boston Common to oppose a so-called “free speech rally” organized by some right-wingers who evidently felt that this was a good thing to do even so soon after Charlottesville. Planning for this rally had been underway since before violence erupted in Charlottesville, VA last weekend in the wake of a “Unite the Right” demonstration that included out-and-proud white supremacists and neo-Nazis. While smarter people might have at least postponed a rally that was planned to include many speakers who had appeared in Charlottesville, Boston Free Speech decided to go ahead with it.
The thing is, counter-protests mobilized pretty quickly, and the permit that was granted to Boston Free Speech mid-week required that they not carry weapons, or anything that could be used as a weapon (such as poles for flags). The organizers had to ask possible attendees not to bring neo-Nazi and Confederate paraphernalia (for appearances’ sake). Meanwhile, scheduled speakers were being uninvited (the most controversial ones) or dropping out. I guess not being allowed guns or swastikas made the whole thing not much fun for potential participants, and a few dozen rally-goers hung in there for less than an hour before being escorted away from the Common by police (for their own safety).
Bryan and I were running late, and ended up getting to the Common a short while after the rally-goers had left. The counter-protesters were carrying on with a sort of impromptu peace rally, which was upbeat and jubilant. There was a bunch of bicycle cops in the buffer zone looking bored, and beyond the buffer zone an empty space around the empty bandstand. We wandered around for a while, and the worst thing I witnessed personally was a guy letting his dog paddle around in the Frog Pond right in front of a sign saying that this was not allowed. I know there were some altercations that happened after we left, but no one was seriously hurt and the number of arrests was somewhere between “the Red Sox won a home game” and St. Patrick’s Day. I left the house expecting to fight Nazis and wound up just taking a long walk on a brilliant summer afternoon.
And then I returned home to another Jell-O recipe. Fresh Fruit Salad is, I would say, a variant on Waldorf salad. Chopped apples, halved grapes (dammit, fussing around with grapes again!) and chopped pecans get mixed into a bavarian made with lemon Jell-O, two-thirds cup sour cream, and one-third cup mayonnaise. (I know that one reader has a photo of someone vomiting copiously that he keeps for occasions like this.) This gets molded with plain gelatin (orange in the recipe, lime in my case) on the bottom and top, so that it looks more appetizing.
Preparing this was fairly routine, though I was annoyed by the timing of it. I had to leave the bavarian part in the fridge for a while, longer than it would take me to do the washing up and make the plain Jell-O, so I had to just wait around. It ended up thickening more quickly than I’d expected, so I ended up having to leave it out on the counter while I prepared the lime Jell-O. With the lime, I had to put some of it in the bottom of the mold and chill until thickened but not set (a half-hour, per the recipe), and then thicken the remaining Jell-O, spoon the bavarian into the mold, and put the rest of the Jell-O on top. I admit it, I got impatient with the first lime layer, as you can see in the photo. Time management has been a challenge for me lately, anyway, and this recipe made me feel especially inadequate.
I left the unmolding and tasting until after I’d gotten back from the gym today, so that I would be hungry and this recipe would stand the best possible chance to be appetizing. I have to say it didn’t look too bad once I’d unmolded it, and frankly, I think lime was a better choice than orange anyway.
Unfortunately, for eating it wasn’t so nice. I didn’t think it was all that bad, even though the mayonnaise flavor really predominated in the bavarian layer, but that may have been the post-gym hunger talking. I still think nuts don’t belong in Jell-O. Bryan, on the other hand, described it as “really unpleasant”, and actually picked all of the bits of fruit out of the bavarian layer and ate what he could of the lime Jell-O, leaving a nasty heap of bavarian-style jelly in his bowl.
Fresh Fruit Salad appears in a photo in the book – on a wedding buffet table where all the dishes are made with Jell-O, also featuring Salmon Dill Mousse and Creamy Bleu Cheese Salad. I feel bad for the happy couple. If it was the mother of the bride who planned this wedding, that groom is in for a bad time with his mother-in-law.
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.