Welcome to Jiggle All The Way, The Takeout’s holiday celebration of Jell-O, gelatin, and all things wiggly. We’ll be releasing new feature stories and original holiday recipes every day this week, and each of them will have a little bit of wobble.
I have never once desired to eat aspic, because every picture I have ever seen of aspic has been legitimately gross. These photographs revolt me to the point where I cannot fathom how any human being has ever thought them fit for consumption... and yet, I cannot resist them. I hoard midcentury cookbook images of aspics and molds like gelatinized pornography. I have photos of them displayed around my house.
These photos are meant to make the viewer say, “This looks good! I should make this!” And it worked, for decades. I had always assumed that the only reasonable explanation for aspic’s onetime popularity is that people were enchanted by the idea that a true dinnertime showstopper was within reach, regardless of how it tasted. There’s no way any of the aspics of yore were as delicious as they claimed to be, or as flawlessly firm and jiggly as they seemed in pictures... right?
While I can’t speak for the aspic recipes that adorn the walls of my home (which I have yet to summon the courage to make), I can assure you that in this recipe, great texture and taste are achieved all at once. The gelatin is firm enough to hold this terrine on the platter, but when cut and served on good bread, it unravels into a soft white wine jelly that gently clings to firm bites of spicy preserved lemons and briny, buttery olives, and dissolves into silky nothingness the moment it hits your tongue. This recipe is antithetical to my long-held aspic hesitations, and I’m a little sad I let the shortcomings of retro photography poison me against the genre for so long. As I learned firsthand after I finished perfecting it, even the most delicious aspic is really hard to photograph.
- 3 medium lemons
- 1 Tbsp. Harissa or Calabrian chili paste
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. hot smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. coarse salt
- 2 large cloves garlic, microplaned into a paste
- 2 cups roughly chopped olives (I like a mixture of Castelvetrano and and Nicoise)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- Coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste
- 1 packet powdered gelatin
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- Crostini, for serving
Cut two of the lemons into six wedges (12 total), then cut into 1/8" slices and put into a resealable jar or quart container. Juice the third lemon into the container, then dd the harissa, cumin, paprika, sugar, coarse salt, and garlic and stir vigorously with a fork until the lemons begin to break down. Pour the olives on top, seal, and refrigerate overnight. Stir the olive and the preserved lemons together and let them marinate for another 24 hours.
Stir the parsley into the olive mixture, then taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water, stir, and set aside to soften. Using the microwave or a small saucepan, bring the wine to a boil, then add the olive oil and gelatin and stir until dissolved.
Line a 4-cup bowl, casserole dish, or baking pan with a smooth layer of plastic wrap. Add the olives, spread out, then pour the wine aspic over and shake the pan to help it settle. Give the pan a few light taps on the counter to help remove any air bubbles, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, invert the terrine onto a serving dish, remove the pan, and peel off the plastic wrap. Sprinkle with additional fresh parsley, then serve with crackers and crostini. Store extra aspic in a glass jar and refrigerate.