A few weeks ago, a few friends and I spent the day in LaGrange, Georgia where we had lunch at a local tea room. The food was quintessential Southern lunch fare: chicken salad, rice salad, and carrot and raisin salad. But the highlight of the lunch was a congealed salad, one that was, I believe, made of lime gelatin, either cream cheese or whipped topping, minced celery, and horseradish. It was absolutely delicious. I don't know how such a combination could taste so good, but it did.
The much maligned congealed salad is not something you see too often. It's rare to find it in Atlanta, although if you travel to small towns throughout the South, you will find restaurants and houses where it's still served. My grandmother used to make a fabulous congealed salad about which everyone raved. I'm still trying to locate the recipe, but as I recall, it was made of a choice of lime or cherry gelatin, cottage cheese, crushed pineapple, and whipped topping. Don't snicker. It was beyond tasty, not too sweet, and refreshing on a hot summer day.
Adam Lewis is also a fan of the congealed salad, something which we recently discussed with much enthusiasm. Adam is quite the gourmand, so the fact that he not only likes these salads but has been serving them to his guests is, in a way, a seal of approval. Lately, Adam has been making an Apricot Salad that has been a hit with his guests; you can see the recipe for it below.
I think a congealed salad is a wonderful thing to serve for a ladies lunch or a light supper. However, if you can't quite stomach the thought of congealed salads, perhaps you should try serving Tomato Aspic, the still socially acceptable congealed salad. (Bunny Williams recently wrote of Tomato Aspic in her Bunny's Buzz email blast, so you see, congealed salads are on the minds of quite a few of us.) Or, how about fruit gelatin salad like those they serve in England? They don't refer to them as congealed nor Jell-O salads, but rather jellies. Perhaps you might prefer that term to the word "congealed".
And while we're on the subject of congealed and gelatin salads, I think that ring molds and mousses can be elegant additions to a buffet table. I love making salmon mousse, mostly because I get to use my copper fish mold. Ring molds are great because you can put a complementary food in the middle of the ring like peas, melon balls, shrimp, or creamed chicken, for example. And if you've inherited antique or vintage molds from your mother or grandmother, you can use them to create all kinds of fancy looking salads. The sky's the limit.
Adam wrote, "I can take no credit for this recipe. It comes from The Picnic, a restaurant in Nashville. I serve it with my favorite curry chicken salad. The spicy salad and this sweet salad make a great flavor combination. Also, it's a nice color combination. The chicken salad is curry-yellow and the Jello salad is a great pink. A friend said 'I think that Sofia Coppola should have known about this pink salad for the food scene in her Marie Antoinette movie... definitely if Laduree did Jello salad, that 's what it would look like!' I garnish the plates with red oak leaf lettuce."
2 packages (3 ounces each) of apricot Jello
1 can (20 ounces) of crushed pineapple
1/4 cup buttermilk
12 ounces Cool Whip
Drain pineapple, reserve juice
Mix gelatin and pineapple juice in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until gelatin dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
When completely cool, add buttermilk. Let stand until thickened, then fold in Cool Whip. Gently fold in crushed pineapple. Do not over beat.
Spoon into a 9 X 11 dish. Chill overnight.
Blueberry Jelly with Summer Fruit
Charlotte Ford set her table for a Tiffany & Co. book with a black cherry gelatin ring mold.
According to one vintage cookbook "The ring mold is the delight of family and friends whether of noodles, vegetables, or chicken mousse."
To the left is Lemon Mousse, while on the right is a good old-fashioned Spinach Ring Mold.
A Crab Meat Mousse Ring Mold.
A Blue Cheese Mold.
Image at top: A Port Wine Jelly