Aspic Jelly Definition and Uses in Culinary Arts

Seafood aspic with vegetables
Seafood aspic with vegetables. Eising / Getty Images

Aspic, a savory gelatin made from consommé, clarified stock or bone broth, gets its jiggly texture when the consume cools.

The process of making aspic, sometimes known as aspic jelly or aspic gelée, can be time-consuming, so some modern cooks and restaurants prepare aspic by fortifying water or ordinary stock with added gelatin.

Part of aspic's charm is its versatility. Aspic can be poured into a mold with various ingredients such as meat or seafood, vegetables or egg set into it before it hardens.

The aspic is chilled and then sliced and served. Add cream to your basic aspic, and you create a chaud-froid.

Part of the fun of serving aspic is that you get to choose some very cool molds. When not in use for your aspic, they can be a welcome addition to your home decor. 

Back in its earliest days—Aspic has been around since the late 1300s—aspic was prized because it was an effective way of preserving foods, sealing off the oxygen, preventing the growth of bacteria that cause food spoilage. It hasn't lost that property, but refrigerators and freezers have eliminated aspic's preservation role.Aspic is commonly used as a glaze for appetizers and for cold food platters.

Aspic is a dish that comes and goes in terms of popularity. While its most recent American heyday came to an end in the early 1960s,  it can still be found on European tables especially during winter in Russia and other countries in the former Eastern bloc where it's called kholodets.

Closer to home, tomato aspic is no stranger to those living well south of the Mason-Dixon line. .Ask any southerner and you'll likely get a rave about a relative's tomato aspic or a turned up nose. As for the aspic itself, it can be as simple as four ingredients at its most basic, or a more piquant and extensive version that includes hot sauce or Worchestire—think.a gelatinized bloody mary without the alcohol.

Even if you don't set out to create an aspic, you still might find it in surprising places. For instance, if you make a chicken soup and serve the chicken afterward, the gelatinized substance that clings to the bones is essentially aspic, and that's what gives the cold chicken its flavor.