Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fish molds and flamenco crustaceans

I'm excited to have real, hand-washed lettuce again. During the winter, my hands turn blue and white and go numb if they get too cold, so I have to resort to the faintly bleachy-smelling bagged or boxed greens rather than risking having my hands fall off in the cold water I'd need to rinse fresh ones. Now it's warm enough I can have fresh, crispy hand-washed greens again. Yay! So in honor of warm-enough spring, today we'll focus on salads.

Not just any salads. As the lobsters (or crayfish? Whatever they are, they kind of remind me of flamenco dancers for some reason. Becoming a flamenco dancer would be a great strategy for the lobster to stay alive! Why eat a dancing lobster when you could keep it as a pet? Make a tiny dress, maybe get a little fan it can clutch in one claw, charge admission for shows...) from Good Housekeeping's Cook Books "Book of Salads" (1958) suggest, seafood salads.

And since I haven't featured a mold in a while (and I want to make your weekend just a little more scary), I'm featuring seafood salads with gelatin, meant to be served on a bed of nice, crispy greens-- just not the ones I've worked so hard to wash. Get your own!

This first salad might not seem to fit the bill:

It's just a fairly ordinary canned tuna or shrimp salad. But it is supposed to go with "Jellied Cucumber Mold" (which I have to type out by hand because I can't get a good scan or photograph):

Jellied Cucumber Mold

1 env. plus 1/2 teasp. unflavored gelatine [sic]
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup  hot water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablesp. lemon juice
2 to 4 tablesp. granulated sugar
1/2 teasp. salt
2 or 3 drops green food color
1 large cucumber
Mary's Tuna or Shrimp Salad, page 7
Tomato wedges

Add gelatine to cold water; let stand few min.; then add hot water; stir until dissolved. Add vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and enough food color to make liquid a delicate green. Cool (set in pan of ice water to hasten chilling) until mixture begins to jell.

While mixture is cooling, lightly oil 1-qt. bowl or casserole. Wash and pare cucumber; flute surface by drawing tines of sharp fork down length of it. Cut 12 or 16 thin (1/8" thick), even slices; then dice remainder fairly fine (there should be about 1 cup). Arrange fluted cucumber slices around the sides and outer edge of bottom of casserole. Fold diced cucumber into thickened gelatine; pour carefully into mold; refrigerate until firm.

At serving time: Loosen edges of mold with tip of knife; invert onto cold plate. Arrange tuna or shrimp salad around mold. Garnish with tomato wedges and, if desired, few shrimp arranged on watercress or frilly lettuce.

I will admit to being a bit panicked when the recipe got to the oiling a casserole stage. Were cooks supposed to bake the cucumber first? Luckily, the casserole dish was just supposed to serve as a mold... if diners can consider being expected to eat a pale green, weak-lemonade-with-apple-cider-vinegar-and-cucumber mold alongside some tuna salad lucky.

If a "delicate green" blob doesn't hit your sweet spot for molds, there is always this:

Molded sea-food salad should of course come in the classical fish mold with a creepy olive eye and a sea of lemon twist and lettuce "waves." 

The best thing I could say about this cold, jiggly, fishy concoction is that it might bring a special guest to one's dinner table (and maybe it says something about me that I would consider this particular guest to be the "best" thing...)

Happy weekend, everyone! May all your uninvited guests save you from having to clean up afterwards.


  1. I love when the molded seafood salads are shaped into fish :D

    1. I'd love to see someone make a lamb aspic and mold it into a lamb cake pan. That would be a new twist on it.