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There is something a bit out of the ordinary going on in my kitchen. Tomato juice is simmering away on my stove top, being infused with scallions, lemon, peppercorns, tarragon, bay leaf, and celery. But these ingredients are not going into a sauce or a summery tomato soup—they are on their way to being the base for an aspic. I've never tasted an aspic before, and I've certainly never made one. It's the middle of July, and it's getting pretty warm; I don't think there is a better time to try my hand at what I can only imagine will taste like tomato and crab flavored Jell-O, in a good way, of course.

This tomato and crab aspic from Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton's Canal House Cooking, Vol. No. 1 is yet another dish that I was drawn to because of the photo that accompanied the recipe. If I had seen this recipe on paper sans visual I would certainly not be trying to figure out at which point does the gelatin become "softened and swollen." But the aspic just looked so appealing, I just had to try it out for myself.

Well, the aspic is all finished, successfully poured over lump crab meat, and into individual ramekins. All that's left to do is chill it overnight and unmold it for lunch tomorrow. I have a feeling that it is going to be pretty delicious. Who knows? Maybe aspic will become the dish of the summer.

Tomato and Crab Aspic

About This Recipe



  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 small branch fresh tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon sherry 1 cup jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for any stray shells
  • Parsley leaves, for garnish
  • 4 lemon wedges


  1. 1

    Put the tomato juice, scallions, celery, tarragon, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf into a saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

  2. 2

    Put 1/2 cup of cold water into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the gelatin. When the gelatin has softened and swollen, about 5 minutes, strain the hot tomato juice into the bowl with the gelatin, discarding the solids. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

  3. 3

    Add the sherry, the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt to taste. Stir well.

  4. 4

    Divide the crab meat between eight 8-ounce molds. Pour the aspic over the crabmeat. Cover each mold with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours, or until you are ready to serve.

  5. 5

    To unmold the the aspic, invert the molds onto plates. Wrap the mold in a hot moist dish cloth as necessary, until the aspic has softened enough around the edges to slip out of the mold onto the plate. Served garnished with parsley, lemon wedges, and a simple Bibb leaf salad, or with crackers.

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