Sunday, April 26, 2009

Aspic a la Argentine: The Recipe

As we lifted our forks to enjoy our aspic, Veronica stated, "this is a great summery thing." True that, Veronica. Paired with a salad, this vegetarian take on a meaty French tradition will be a great compliment to the hot weather ahead of us. Don't let the ingredients list intimidate you; though there are many components, this aspic is actually relatively simple to prepare.

(For part one of this story click here, and for part two, here.)

Leandro Carbonell's Vegetarian Aspic
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in half, and sliced into 1/3" pieces
2 tablespoons dried chives rehydrated in 2 tablespoons water, then drained
1/2 lb cottage cheese
4 oz whipped cream cheese
1 oz Roquefort cheese
2 tablespoons pecorino romano, grated
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1/2 tablespoons celery seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 can heart of palm, stalks cut in half
1/2 teaspoon hung lui (optional)
2 large celery stalks, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon lemongrass powder
4 ounces plus one teaspoon agar agar powder
7 cups water
3 slices dark German rye

Boil 2 1/2 cups water. Once rolling, add two ounces agar agar powder. Stir well until dissolved. Add hot liquid into 9X5 metal mold or loaf pan until it reaches a depth of 1/8" or 1/4" (thickness of the jello is entirely to taste). Place in refrigerator.

While agar agar hardness, steam peeled and sliced carrots until fork tender (about 5-6 minutes). Once steamed, shock in an ice bath. Set aside.

In a bowl mix together cottage cheese, whipped cream cheese, Roquefort, and pecorino romano until smooth. Add chopped parsley, rehydrated chives, celery seeds, olive oil, hung lui (if using), and 1/2 teaspoon agar agar powder to the cheese mix. Stir well and then season with salt and pepper.

Boil 1 1/4 cups water. Add one ounce agar agar powder and stir until powder is dissolved. Add 1 cup of the liquid to the cheese mixture, mixing well. Place in refrigerator.

Once the agar agar in the mold is solidified, layer sliced carrots over it until completely covered, slicing carrots as necessary to fill the pan in one even layer (see picture).

Layer heart of palm over the carrots in one even layer.

Remove cheese mixture from refrigerator and spread over vegetables.

Cover cheese mix with two thinly-sliced celery stalks, 1/2 teaspoon lemon grass powder, and pinch of salt.

Cover the entire cheese mixture with German rye.

Ensure that the entire aspic is covered with one even layer of bread. To do this, place one slice of bread at one end of the pan and another at the other end. Cut a third piece of bread to fit in the gap between the two slices, making a snug bottom crust.

In a pot prepare 1 1/4 cups water and one ounce agar agar powder until powder is dissolved. Spoon agar agar over the bread until entirely covered by the liquid, about one cup.

Refrigerate over night. Before serving boil remaining two cups water and pour into a large baking dish. Place pan bread-side up into the boiling water and run a knife around the edge to loosen the aspic.

Cover the aspic with a platter. Hold the edges of the platter and the pan tightly and flip over. The aspic should come out whole.

Cut aspic into 1" slices and serve.

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