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.
Originally posted on October 17, 2009
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m wimping out, that the Jell-O recipes I’ve posted so far have been entirely too palatable. I’m under no illusions about this blog. I know that on some level it’s like the Jackass of through-cooking blogs, and what readers want to see are weird things suspended in Jell-O and detailed descriptions of my attempts to eat them.
Those posts are coming, don’t worry. But first, Bryan and I are getting ourselves psyched to take them on. Some of the recipes in The New Joys of Jell-O really are that bad – memorably bad, PTSD bad.
And that brings me to Molded Tomato Relish. Actually, Molded Tomato Relish wasn’t all that bad (Bryan disagrees with me on this), but it happened to be the first savory Jell-O I did, so it haunts us.
In a recent comment thread in my Facebook feed, in response to this (Buzzfeed, sorry) link, a friend of a friend remarked that jellied tomato actually sounds interesting. I had similar thoughts when setting out to make Molded Tomato Relish. Well, not so much “interesting”; more like “mostly harmless”. This is a simple one, combining a package of lemon (or strawberry – ick) Jell-O with a 16-ounce can of stewed tomatoes, a half teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of vinegar. Until I looked at the book just now, I had a vague recollection that there was some other seasoning involved, but that must have been wishful thinking. The book says to use the tomato can as a mold, but screw that. I had recently bought some new molds, and I was eager to use this one, which happened to be just the right size for this recipe.
Instead of making Jell-O the usual way with water and then suspending the tomato in it, the recipe says to heat the stewed tomatoes to boiling, simmer, and then add the Jell-O powder and other ingredients. You can see in the photo that the Jell-O is much less obvious in this dish than it is in other such dishes. The main advantage to this is that it’s denser and unmolds more easily than your typical Jell-O mold, so at least it turned out looking good for the photo.
Note that I set up the photo with the toys attacking the molded dish before we actually tasted it. I just thought it was funny, and did not realize how prescient this food styling decision would turn out to be.
I cut small pieces for Bryan and me. We each spooned off a bit. We may have counted to three before tasting in unison. As we chewed, our faces took on perplexed expressions, and then suddenly, again in unison, we burst out laughing. It was laughter of dismay and astonishment, with perhaps a slight hysterical edge. Man, that was some bad Jell-O.
I think the vinegar was supposed to cut the sweetness of the Jell-O, but it didn’t. Instead, there were three different flavors not only failing to blend together but outright refusing to get along at all. It was like the gustatory equivalent of a kung fu fight scene in a cheap Asian B-movie as featured on Uncle Morty’s Dub Shack, funny and chaotic and cringeworthy all at once.
We made some pithy, disparaging comments that unfortunately neither Bryan nor I can remember now. Bryan does recall that he was going to try to salvage it somehow (this was early in the original Project, before we gave up on our rule not to waste food), but it ended up sitting in the fridge for a few weeks before we finally tossed it.