Memory Lane: Jell-O Brunch – Salmon Dill Mousse and Crown Jewel Cake
Originally posted December 2009
Somewhere along the way, I hit upon the idea of creating Jell-O “meals” as a way of killing at least two birds with one stone – hence, the Jell-O brunch. I have no way of determining the exact date when this was originally posted, but judging by the sad-looking tinsel garlands framing Freak Mountain’s kitchen windows, I probably did this between Christmas and New Year’s. That week always feels like a bit of a let-down to me, so in a sad way this Jell-O brunch was perfect.
Salmon Dill Mousse
For a certain type of person, the film reference here is obvious – Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. For the non-nerds out there, Meaning of Life comprises a string of sketches that address chronologically the various stages of human life, from birth to the afterlife. In one of the sketches about death, the Grim Reaper turns up at a dinner party at the country cottage of an upper middle class couple. The hosts and dinner guests slowly catch on to the fact that the Grim Reaper isn’t a simple local farmer but rather Death Himself, and everyone at the table is dead. When asked how they could all have died at the same time, the Reaper points out the salmon mousse as the fatal dish. “Golly, you didn’t use canned salmon, did you?” the host snaps at his wife. “I’m most dreadfully sorry!” she replies, clearly mortified.
So I was off to an inauspicious start, because I also used canned salmon, thinking it would be less trouble than, say, poaching fresh salmon. I may have been wrong there. Who knew canned salmon would have so many bones in it, so many tiny but potentially hazardous bones? I had to pick them out by hand, which took a long time and was a major pain in the ass and left me already disposed to disliking Salmon Dill Mousse.
Because of the angst involved in preparing the salmon, it’s easy to forget that there are other ingredients, but Salmon Dill Mousse also includes lemon juice, sour cream, mayonnaise, minced onion, dill weed, and lemon Jell-O, which seems to be the go-to on-the-shelf Jell-O flavor to substitute for (no longer made by General Foods) savory gelatin. I made no notes about combining the other ingredients with the salmon, but the recipe indicates that the salmon is combined with the non-Jell-O ingredients, and the resulting salmon salad (which probably wasn’t so bad at that point) was blended into a double batch of thickened lemon Jell-O and chilled in a loaf pan. I noted afterwards that “this had better at least be palatable, because there’s a lot of it”.
My noted response upon tasting Salmon Dill Mousse was “ew”. It had an exceedingly unpleasant mouthfeel, and as is usually the case with these savory Jell-O recipes, it was too sweet. On the other hand, Bryan ate a whole slice. He wanted to give it two “nasties”, but I wanted to give it four, so we compromised and gave it three. I wished I’d added more lemon juice… onion… dill… something to cover the Jell-O flavor. Of course, in hindsight I know that nothing would have helped.
I made an impulsive decision to start believing in God just so that I could curse him for afflicting me with Salmon Dill Mousse, but later thought better of it.
Crown Jewel Cake
Mercifully, Crown Jewel Cake was fun to make, as are many of the recipes that are more involved. The “jewels” are batches of Cubed Gelatin in orange, cherry and lime flavors. The base of the “cake” is a lemon Jell-O bavarian made with Dream Whip.
Photos of this one are featured both on the back cover and in a two-page spread in the middle of the book (which I’ve echoed in the Project’s social media profiles) and it’s easy to see why – Crown Jewel Cake is a great example of Jell-O’s visual appeal. Those bright primary colors are reminiscent of sunny days and childhood, and Jell-O desserts often look fun, as shown in this television ad from 1980:
The end result was not so satisfying. The bavarian part lacked structural integrity, as you can see in my photo. I find myself hoping that this was a mistake on my part, because this recipe looks so neat that I want it to work. Flavor-wise, it wasn’t bad. Bryan disliked it less than the Cool Whip bavarians. (Still a puzzle to me, he seems to prefer Dream Whip.) Once again, I was reminded of my grandmother’s ambrosia salad. The main problem with the eating of this was that, with the bavarian part so soft, and the Jell-O “jewels” quite firm, the overall texture was kind of weird.
Maybe some time I’ll try to “reboot” this one. The Salmon Dill Mousse, however, shall never again make an appearance at Freak Mountain.