The Friday Night Smackdown That Couldn't: Aspic

We all know whose fault it really is: Julia Child.

Kidding! It’s obviously gelatin, in league with Julia Child.

Normally, I like to put a photo of the finished dish at the top of each post. This time, I’m just putting them in order of actual occurrence. Because I am not going to pull any punches here: aspic is fucking disgusting. If at any time you feel like you need to bail, feel free, and know that you’ve seen all the pertinent photos up to that point. Know also that I could have shown you a lot more but have chosen to hold back for your safety and that of those around you.

Two other important things about this post – the only text in this post will be:

  1. A brief description of what you are viewing
  2. A variation on the phrase “Aspic is fucking disgusting.”

Note that I have not categorized this as “failure,” because the recipe WAS successfully executed but happens to result in a horrific final product. The sauce that eventually gelatinizes can also be used as a a hot sauce sans-gelatin and is delicious (if not a bit rich).

Again, you’ve been warned. We begin:

1.  Above is the butter melting for the butter-poached chicken that is to be be-aspicked. (Yes, butter-poached. This is Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking, after all. Also, “vile chicken aspic” is charmingly named “suprêmes de volaille en Chaud-froid a lÉcossaise)”.

2.  Aspic makes me want to claw my own intestines out with a spoon. A wooden spoon.

1.  Yes, I know what this looks like: boneless chicken breasts, which is what they are, prior to their butter bath.

2.  Eating aspic is like watching someone beat a new puppy with the chewy bone you just bought it as a gift.

1.  Here, we’ve coated the chicken breasts in the melted butter and put a round of parchment over them before putting the lid on the pot and sticking it in the oven for six minutes. Which, would that not be braising in butter? And what kind of crazy ovens do the French have that can cook a chicken breast in six minutes? I’m just saying.

2.  I would rather saw my own arm off with a credit card, dig out the radial bone and fashion it into a small dagger with which to slit my own throat than eat aspic.

1.  While the cooked chicken (eventual total cooking time: 17 minutes) chilled, I chopped mushrooms, celery, onion and carrots for the sauce/chicken Jell-o. Yes, some of the carrots look pink. That’s because they are. They’re sweet and yummy. At least something tonight was.*

2.  Aspic is the culinary world’s poor man’s Carrot Top.

*I take that back: the takeout we got in the end was pretty damn good as well.

1.  They all got sauteed in yes, more butter, before going into a mix of heavy cream and chicken stock along with a sprig of tarragon.

2.  I would rather have a 24-course tasting menu at Paula Deen’s house during National Mayonnaise Month (May) than eat one bite of aspic.

1.  Once the cream and vegetable mixture had reduced a bit, we whisked in some gelatin that had been softened in dry vermouth, stirred to combine, and put the future creamy chicken Jell-O* in an ice bath to cool.

2.  Hitler loved aspic.


1.  When both the chicken and cream were chilled, we arranged the chicken in a shallow dish and started spooning the cream on top  Spoon, chill, repeat.

2.  Stalin loved aspic, too. And Mao. He forced his soldiers to eat it during the Long March. It’s why so many of them died.

1.  Once you spoon-chill-repeat enough times, you use up all the cream and you end up with this. Please understand that this is not chicken covered in sauce, it is a SOLID MASS OF FOOD. You can stand the plate on end and IT WILL NOT MOVE.

2. Habitat for Humanity was going to use the plentiful world supply of aspic as a building material and eco-friendly insulator for homes for the homeless, but the homeless said “no, thank you.”

1.  This is what happens at the end. Cold, poached chicken buried under a layer of cream, chicken and tarragon-flavored Jell-o. Writing that sentence made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. The look and sound of the entire mass slooooowly sliding off the plate into the trash will haunt me in my dreams, which is why I’m not going to sleep tonight. I hope I have enough amphetamines.

2.  Aspic has a hook for a hand and is waiting in the backseat of your car to kill you, so thank god for that person behind you who kept flashing his or her highbeams.

To sum up: Aspic is fucking disgusting.

38 thoughts on “The Friday Night Smackdown That Couldn't: Aspic

  1. Fabulous. Just fabulous. Reminded me of that one time I made aspic. With beef. Who knew beef could induce nausea? Like I said earlier, I have yet to live this down with the people I tried to serve it to. We ended up drinking VAST quantities of beer to recover from the meal I’d just tried to serve. VAST.

    End result?
    Beer DOES equal dinner sometimes.

  2. Ha! I only recently went through all “The Supersizers Go…” on youtube, and they’re forever eating all kinds of aspic. Glad to know it’s as fucking disgusting today as it looked “back then.”

  3. Thank you for doing this! I was almost tempted to try aspic after reading the novel and watching the movie Julie & Julia. Now I no longer feel that it’s necessary. I have lived vicariously through you!!! You are providing a much needed community service!!!

  4. Aspic is one of the few things I will not try, because I just KNOW it ruins otherwise good food. And you have now confirmed this for me. I am especially horrified by cold poached eggs in aspic. I don’t think it could get any slimier. Well, maybe with the addition of okra.

    Also, yesterday was so humid and gross that my husband actually said he felt like he was trying to breathe aspic. He only knows the word because I spent about half an hour explaining why aspic is disgusting and will never be prepared by me. I had just watched “Julie and Julia,” needless to say.

  5. I will admit I was thinking you might have exaggerated… and then I got to the last picture. Oh God. There was some gagging. Ewww.

    It’s official, I will try some recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking but aspic will not be among them.

  6. wow. that is…wow.
    does anyone enjoy this…thing? i would very much like to see one person comment in defense of aspic. any takers?

  7. The dish looks like it would have been perfectly edible with with a sauce made of all the stuff you used for the aspic but without the gelatine.

    So, the possibly stupid question is: If aspic’s so damn disgusting (which: hell, yes, it is, we all know that), why were you making it in the first place?

  8. I’m impressed you even attempted to make aspic. I won’t try it, nor will I make it for anyone. It’s quite possibly one of the most disgusting dishes I’ve ever heard of. It did give you the opportunity to make us laugh though with this post!

  9. kaitlyn, who, you tried to SERVE it to people? i can’t imagine inflicting this on others. were they people you didn’t like?

    green, i can’t imagine it being anything other than nightmarish.

    cyndi, you are welcome! i accept donations!

    kristin, heh, brian had wanted to do the poached egg, but it seemed too straightforward.

    although i just got a beautiful mold – at the salvation army no less. i might do an aspic at the end of every august in commemoration. never forget.

    susan, what kind of aspic does she make? does she eat it or use it to scare away bears?

    kate, other things i’ve made from MTAoFC have been great.

    just not aspic.

    randy, don’t hold your breath.

    whattheham, thanks. and yes, barf,

    cayenne, why? why do people climb mt. everest even though because there is a more than 10% chance of death? BECAUSE IT IS THERE.

    of course, there’s way less than a 10% chance that aspic will be good. but we must explore the unexplored.

    tanya, thank you. why anyone ever thought of the gelatin + meat stock equation is beyond me.

  10. omg- this post had me cracking up… especially the Paula Deen Mayonnaise Month reference.. LOL! I have to say that I’ve never had it, nor do I wish to ever try it after reading your lovely thoughts on it!

  11. That’s the kind of dish French folks used to make in the 70s!! Thank goodness my mom only had to suffers her mom’s aspic and never ever forced it on us! Good thing it is banned in all French kitchens, ahahaha!

  12. I’m curious why you didn’t just warm it up again….

    I mean, it’s gelatin that makes homemade slow simmered chicken stock so fucking delicious, right?

    Okay, there are a few other reasons, but it does give it that lovely texture, even if the semi-solidification in the fridge is creepy, it heats back up into a really lovely texture after you scrape off the fat globules.

    Seems like the sauce would have returned nicely to edibility with some plain old heat to de-Jell-o it.

  13. Hilarious. I’m also deeply curious to know what kind of take-out could help you overcome the aspic.

    (Maybe it should really be called “The Aspic” as it is sort of a phenomenon. A barf-inducing phenomenon, but a phenomenon, nonetheless.)

    I will grant The Aspic wide berth.


  14. Fascinating. It does indeed look like complete ass…but the parts are all tasty. And I have definitely been known to eat the jellied stock at the bottom of a pan of duck confit with a spoon, so I have no objection to meat Jell-O. I might have to try this myself, just to see. Just as soon as I get over how nauseating the photos are. I just cannot imagine anyone looking at a plate like that and thinking, Mmmmm!

  15. Thank you for confirming my thoughts. But I bow to your efforts and the hilarious accounting of your too close encounter. Wait. You seriously stood the plate up on end. Naaaa…..

  16. The Paula Deen comment has to be one of my all time favorites…

    SInce aspic is no longer needed as a preservative…..WHY???????????????????

    It should not only be banned from tables, but from dictionaries as well. So we can wipe it from human memory. Sort of what Germany tried to do with Hitler after WWII.

  17. My former mother-in-law used to do tomato aspic with cocktail shrimp in it. That wasn’t bad; not one I’d trouble to make today, but at least edible. This one looked…yeah, what everybody else said. Bless your heart.

  18. i agree, aspic is disgusting; i had to make tomato aspic in cooking school (think ketchup-flavored jell-o)… but i can’t help but be upset by how much food you threw away for this post.

  19. I have never liked normal dessert Jell-O, let alone savory Jell-O. They are both wrong on all levels.

    My grandmother used to make a pistachio-green “salad” that was made in Jell-O/aspic. I could not understand why people ate it, or why it was called “salad” other than its being green.

    I have just finished reading Julia Child’s “My Life in France” and it was wonderful and uplifting (her zest for life and food and seeing the positive in everything [a skill I lack] were amazing.) However, every time she mentioned a meal with aspic I gagged and wondered how someone who so loved butter and cream and lovely things like that, could POSSIBLY ruin rood with aspic? What neuron misfires to make someone think aspic could improve any meal?

    You were brave to attempt that meal. A bit stupeed, but brave.

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  21. love your blog – but just a simple question, why the fuck did you make this if you hate it so much – and knew that you would? just askin’….?

  22. Gelatin… And meat? Excuse me while I squirm and gag.

    I have honestly never heard of aspic, and quite glad my verbal introduction to it was entertaining, if nothing else.

  23. My mom used to make tomato aspic for fancy luncheons, which I remember as basically a not-sweet tomato jello and frequently had something to do with olives. It wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t quite the horror show the recipe here seems to be.

    Now, something that truly has scarred me for life was this mind-blowingly horrifying FISH ASPIC I had once in a country that will remain nameless lest I offend someone by mocking some treasured cultural phenomenon. But honestly, it was AWFUL. It was clear(ish), with peas and carrots suspended in it, and it tasted like fishy seaweed and the fairly bland white-fleshed fish it encased didn’t help matters. And we had to eat it, because under the circumstances it would have been deeply rude not to. But you can say “fish jello” to anyone that was on that trip and get a full-body gag in response. I maintain that our hosts were f*cking with us.

  24. my god, people have strong reactions to aspic.

    lori, glad i could make you laugh – and i’m glad to have warned you away.

    tartelette, then i have to ask again, why, julia child? because i was led to believe that aspic-making was required to Master the Art of French Cooking. and here you are, french, telling me it was all for naught.

    lily, (1) we were so grossed out by the final product that it would have been hard and (2) there’s so much gelatin in it that it starts to gel up 3 nanoseconds after you take it off the stove, so it’s hard for it NOT to be aspic.

    casey, i like the capitalization. and you can overcome The Aspic with baby-back ribs, mac and cheese and a really good french dip and fries. (btw, welcome!)

    zora, the parts are tasty. the house smelled good afterward. but that doesn’t save it.

    lauren, so did we, lauren. and then we cut into it.

    kellypea, yes, we did; and non, it did not move.

    anna, i fully support Operation: Disappear Aspic. i name you lead organizer.

    we tried to figure out the preservative thing but couldn’t. i understand it as a (gross) way to serve poached eggs at a 1974 wedding buffet, but that’s it.

    kay, i appreciate your blessings.

    sara, in our defense, we didn’t actually waste all of it. much gelatin was scraped off much chicken, and there were some VERY happy dogs in the house.

    chessa, it wasn’t bravery. it was ADVENTURE. and an excuse to order in the french dip from white star. that shit is GOOD.

    claudia, thanks!

    camille, correct! in fact, because of the phrase “aspic is fucking gross,” stumbleupon completely refuses to accept the site, automatically classifying it as “adult content.”

    kath, well, there was an off chance we would like it. very off. and i made it because part of the challenge when this blog was started was to explore new foods, methods, etc. aspic needed to be explored. and now it’s done, and i never have to do it again.

    terri, doesn’t it?

    karen, best word ever. i’ve decided aspic is going to be my scapegoat for everything, so it will come in handy.

    emily, yes, gelatin and chicken! or meat! or fish! i’m sorry i had to introduce you to this. your life was probably better before.

    jenny, RALPH.

  25. The answer to “why did you make it if you knew you wouldn’t like it?” is exactly what the lady said: you don’t know you won’t like it. You suspect you won’t like it. “Never try anything you suspect you won’t like” is a great way to learn nothing. I’m surprised that would be worthy of complaint.

    As for wasting food, as someone who cooks at home from real ingredients and publicly encourages other people to do the same, it seems to me that Michelle is rather a superstar of responsible use of and respect for food. If you cook, you will now and then cook things you do not want to eat. Forcing them down your gullet does not do anything for the environment. It is your underlying habits, rather than an isolated incident in which you make something you can’t bring yourself to eat, that determines what kind of citizen of the planet you are, as far as I’m concerned.

  26. Michelle, you just reminded me of one of the most bizarre things my mother ever made when I was a kid. Envision, if you will, a pound of perfectly cooked, sweet, delicious lobster. A beautiful mire poix gently sauteed in sweet butter. A perfectly prepared, delicate lobster stock. Heavy cream. All combined into a perfectly mind blowing food orgasm. Innocently enough, egg whites are being whipped. OK, perhaps there was going to be lemon meringue pie for desert. Then, out comes the gelatin. Chilled lobster mousse. I asked the put up for adoption shortly thereafter.

  27. GAG. I hate cream sauces to start with, but Jell-O cream sauces sound FUCKING DISGUSTING. I made it to the end of your post, but this will haunt my nightmares tonight. I will be dreaming I am in high school again, sitting buck-ass-naked in the cafeteria and being forced to eat aspic. I just know it. What kind of takeout did you get? You should indulge us.

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  29. That’s the weirdest aspic I’ve ever seen ;-). Aren’t the ingerdients supposed to be chopped up smaller and floating around in the jelly? Mostly we get the clear jelly-stuff here in the Netherlands. My dad loves the stuff. Not a huge fan myself.

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  31. I have sent this to everyone I know and posted on my FB as a warning to those who think they might want to try something bold in the kitchen one night.

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