Foods That Wiggle (part one)

Recently I have found myself enthralled with the idea of foods that wiggle. Might be because they really make me giggle. Also, it really might be because sometimes when something disgusts me I can’t stop thinking about it. Wiggly foods kind of disgust me. Especially molded salads and anything in aspic. But it’s the kind of gross that makes me squeal and turn away but secretly want to look more more more… When it comes to gelatinous foods I’m like a little girl in a haunted house: I keep running out in fright but then running back inside just to get that nervous thrill again.

After spending the whole week thinking about jello molds, I decided to cook up a gelatinous foods themed dinner for Friday night. Wednesday night, a pile of cookbooks spread out on the table in front of me, I had a long phone consultation with my mother. She had a large pile of cookbooks in front of her too and we traded ideas on just what kind of a savory gelatinous food I could make without getting too grossed out. “Cold Fowl in Lemon Jelly?” or how about “Ham Mousse?” Sorry Julia, but I just couldn’t. Mums and I couldn’t stop laughing over all the jiggling savory possibilities out there. Finally we settled on an inoffensive seeming Avocado Mousse from Gourmet. It involved no clear gels with chunks of meat floating in it, so I was ready to take it on. I came very close to making a chicken liver mousse, but I’m leaving that on my to-do list for now. (Sticking with the gelatin theme, for dessert I created a two-layered boozy and gelatinous fruit dessert, which I’ll post here very soon…)

I am both shocked and pleased to report that the avocado mousse was delicious. The smooth and lemony avocado flavor translated well into a gelatinous texture. I served it with a mango-tomato fresh salsa. We scooped it onto crackers with goat cheese and some (store bought) chicken liver mouse. Next time I make it I think I will go for smaller ramekins so that each person has their own individual serving rather than trying to scoop from a serving dish. It’s hard to gracefully scoop and share wiggly foods. The recipe is from Gourmet (via Epicurious) and I followed it almost exactly. I made up my own topping though since I like mango better than papaya, but the papaya topping would probably work well too.

Avocado Mousse with Fresh Mango Salsa
Serves 6-8

for mousse:
3 firm-ripe avocados
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 (500-mg) vitamin C tablet, crushed to a powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
3 Tbs whole milk
1/3 cup chilled heavy cream
walnut or canola oil

for salsa:
2 ripe mangoes, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup baby tomatoes, finely chopped
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt, to taste

Make mousse:
Lightly oil 8 3oz ramekins with walnut or canola oil.
Quarter, pit, and peel 2 avocados.
Puree avocado quarters with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, vitamin C, and salt in a food processor until smooth.
Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a small heavy saucepan and let soften 1 minute. Heat over very low heat, stirring, until gelatin is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat and add to avocado purée and blend until smooth.
Halve, pit, and peel remaining avocado. Cut into 1/4-inch dice and toss with remaining lemon juice in a small bowl.
Beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until it just holds soft peaks.
Fold in avocado purée gently but thoroughly, then fold in diced avocado. Spoon mousse into oiled ramekins, smoothing tops.
Cover surface of each mousse with a piece of plastic wrap, then cover ramekins with plastic wrap. Chill mousse until set, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Make relish:
In a medium bowl, mix together mango, onion, tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro.
Season with salt to taste.
Let stand at room temperature 1 hour (for flavors to develop).

Unmold mousse by placing ramekin in warm water then running a knife around edge of each ramekin, then invert each onto a plate, discarding paper.
Serve with salsa.