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Aspic | Textures and Facts

There are three consistencies of aspic that are used today:

1. Delicate: 2 ounces of gelatine to 1 gallon of clarified stock. This texture is used to glaze the surface of or encase the product cooked or molded in a terrine. Usually the product featured in the terrine is a puree of some kind. Take as an example liver puree; unless covered, its surface will begin to discolor, harden and assume other flavors that may be present in a refrigerator. The aspic will literally act as a shield (aspis) to protect the puree from these outside forces. The aspic in this situation is poured onto the puree surface until it evenly coats and is allowed to set. The aspic needs to be delicate enough so that when a customer attempts to scoop the puree out of the terrine, there is little to no resistance. Because the aspic has support all around, there is no need for it to be excessively firm. In another situation, this texture is used to glaze the surface of pate slices. Aspic serves the same purpose of a shield in this situation. Its very important that the pate slices are cold and evenly cut so that when they are laid on a glazing rack their sliced surfaces are level. These two factors will result in a delicate aspic coagulating on the surface of the slice without dripping off the sides. In both cases the aspic has to be flavorful and be a flavor that complements the item that is being coated.

2. Sliceable: 6-8 ounces of gelatine to 1 gallon of clarified stock. This texture is used in situations where the aspic will not have the same support as the delicate. Specifically, it is used to fill a pate en croute or to create aspic croutons. In both instances, the aspic will eventually be cut with a knife and the aspic will have to stand on its own, therefore the aspic will require a firmer consistency than the delicate. The aspic has to have a texture where it will slice without clumping or crumbling and still be tender enough so that it will quickly breakdown and melt in a customer's mouth. As usual, complementary flavors are key and should be the first consideration when selecting the stock to clarify.

3. Inedible: 1 pound of gelatine to 1 gallon of clarified stock. This aspic should never enter a customer's mouth. This texture is used exclusively for decorating, specifically for lining the surface of a metal platter. More specifically, lining the surface of soft metal trays like silver or gold. When food items are placed on a soft metal surface there is an interaction between the two. Many times there is a transfer of flavors; the food is impacted by the metal and the metal is tarnished by the food. This is tremendously clear when you place a cured item, like smoked salmon or prosciutto, on a soft-metal tray. The tarnish marks left on the tray are the clear signal that a physical reaction is taking place; a process that you will not find in a recipe. When sitting between the food and the tray, aspic plays the role of a shield to protect the food from the metal and protect the metal from the food. Although the aspic will never be eaten, it must have the natural characteristics of an edible aspic which includes a natural color. A beautiful natural background will create a warm and appealing environment for the customer to view and partake of. This use of aspic on a soft metal tray is critical from a practical stand point. Some culinarians utilize very firm aspic on ceramic platters or plates. This service ware does not require the use of an aspic liner simply because there is no interaction between the ceramic and food. For many, this is considered an excessive use of aspic and should be avoided, others see it as an opportunity to add some decoration to the platter and invite it.

Many restaurants, country clubs and hotels do not have any bones delivered to their loading docks. In many cases, bones have never been used to create the foundation of their cuisine. Their stocks, soups and sauces have been delivered in envelopes and cans. But even with these kinds of resources an excellent aspic can be created provided you begin with an excellent product. Consomme bases come in a couple of forms: liquid and powder. The best is a consomme concentrate prepared and sold by R. L. Schreiber. This product or another of similar quality can be used to prepare the basis for your aspic. Once combined correctly with water and seasoned to your taste, it can be enhanced with just enough gelatine to create the consistency your tasks require.

In the end, there is no reason for a bland or rubbery aspic. Regardless of your resources, focus on the details surrounding flavor and texture. Your guests will you reward you for your effort.

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