Aspic is a jelly (the French term is gelee) made from strong chicken, veal, beef or fish stock. This stock is so strong in gelatinous matter that it is not necessary to add any gelatine. There are occasions, however, when to save time or money it is advisable to use gelatine. The quantity of gelatine used for the firmest aspic is usually -I ounce to 1 pint of liquid. For decorative aspics, the proportion is – ounce to 14 pints of liquid and for jellied soups, 4 ounce to 2 pints of liquid.
Aspic jelly is transparent and light coloured and is used as an ingredient or an accompaniment to many cold dishes.
Because it is used mainly for decorative purposes, the consistency and clarity of the aspic are important. The stock is made clear by simmering with egg whites and straining before it is allowed to set.
Before using, the jelly must be tested for consistency. Pour inch of jelly into a small, chilled bowl or saucer and place it in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. Then cut it into pieces and leave it at room temperature for 10 minutes. The jelly should then be fairly stiff if it is going to be used to line a mould, less stiff, but able to hold its shape, if it is to be used as an aspic to coat various dishes, and softly holding its shape if it is required for a jellied soup. Time is required when working with jelly, for if the decoration is complicated, several coats of jelly may be required and this may take several hours.
Chopped aspic makes an attractive border or bed for many cold dishes. To make chopped aspic, put a –inch of jelly in a tin. When it is set, cut it into small cubes with a knife. In the same way, decorative cutouts in the shape of dia-monds or triangles can be made.
Sprays of tarragon and fennel leaves are often used for decoration in aspic, as are pimentoes, carrots, the yolks and whites of hard-boiled eggs, olives and truffles. A layer of jelly is spooned over the chilled food, the decoration is then dipped into the almost set jelly, placed in position, chilled to setting point and then covered with a final layer or two of jelly.