The very mention of aspic (think savory jello) turns most people completely off, not to mention it is a very old fashioned dish that was being served in the time of Downton Abbey. But when done correctly, tomato aspic is like having a flavorful, cool, velvety, semi-solidified version of tomato soup. The Colonnade restaurant on Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta is famous for its tomato aspic side dish. They claim to sell hundreds of servings every week and that customers would crucify them if they didn’t continue to offer it. Honestly, the Colonnade’s dish is the only tomato aspic I’ve ever tasted other than the one I made from this recipe, and both were delicious.
I found one (supposed) recipe online for the Colonnade’s tomato aspic, but I just wasn’t sure about the authenticity — or how it would turn out. Then, I stumbled upon a tomato aspic recipe in The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock were both legends in the culinary world, so I knew the recipe had been tried and tested.
Because of the gelatin, this aspic recipe is not vegetarian. There are several vegetarian gelatin substitutes available, such as Garden Desserts All Natural Unflavored Jel, but I have not tried them. If any readers decide to make a vegetarian version of this dish, I’d love to know how it turns out.
One more note about the Colonnade’s tomato aspic: they serve a dollop of mayonnaise on the side.
- 2 ¼ cups tomato juice
- 2 ¼ cups water
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 cup celery chopped (about 4 or 5 ribs)
- 1 clove garlic smashed or put through a press
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 whole peppercorns
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt initial
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt final seasoning
- 2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin 2 packets
- ¼ cup cold water for dissolving gelatin
- Lightly oil 8 small soufflé dishes (½ cup or 4 oz. size) or molds with olive oil or vegetable oil and set aside.
- Combine the tomato juice, water, onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium size saucepan.
- Heat to a simmer. Let simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
- Strain the mixture with a wire strainer or a colander with small holes to remove all the solids.
- Return the strained juice to the saucepan and add the sugar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice.
- Stir and taste.
- The mixture should be flavorful but not overly salty. Add ½ teaspoon of the final seasoning salt, stir and taste again. Because chilling will cause the flavor to dull, add the additional ½ teaspoon of final seasoning salt if the mixture is not too salty.
- Bring the juice mixture back to a gentle simmer.
- In a small bowl or cup, mix the gelatin with the ¼ cup of cold water and dissolve it completely by stirring it with a spoon.
- Add the dissolved gelatin to the simmering tomato juice mixture and stir well for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and immediately set the pan in a bowl of ice water, continuing to stir until the liquid chills and begins to thicken a little. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Pour the aspic into the oiled soufflé dishes or molds.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to allow the gelatin to set.
- To un-mold, put very hot water in a shallow dish — just enough water to go about half way up the sides of the soufflé dishes or molds.
- Loosen the aspic by running a thin, sharp knife around the edge of the aspic and set the mold in the hot water for 30 seconds.
- Place a small plate on top of the mold and invert. If the aspic doesn’t release, let it sit in the hot water bath for 10 more seconds until it does.
- Sprinkle a pinch or two of steak seasoning on top and serve cold with a dollop of mayonnaise on the side.