After the uproar that followed serving corned beef and cabbage (without cabbage) on June 1, I decided to look for a summer dish. Hence, ham mousse. Mousses were very popular in the 60s. My mother, courtesy of Craig Clairborne and the New York Times Cookbook, was introduced to mousses in the early 60s, and we ate them in the summer, when we dined outside at the picnic table under the maple tree. We had chicken mousse and turkey mousse and salmon mousse. My mother bought a fish mold to serve the various mousses in. I regret having pitched out all the fish molds when I cleaned out my mother's house in 2009. Mousse in the shape of a fish seemed incredibly elegant, and if one got the head, one could announce loudly to the table at large that one was eating the eye. At least, if you were 11 or 12 years old, this kind of behavior might have appealed to you.
Basically, if you are not familiar with main dish mousses, having arrived on the culinary scene after 1975, they are made up of some finely ground protein, (fish, chicken, turkey or ham) gelatin, and beaten egg whites and whipped cream. The gelatin sets the whole affair, and you carve spoonfuls out of a firm mass of, well, mousse.
Even though I took Julia Child's words to heart and tried hard to do what the recipe dictated, it didn't turn out quite right. Julia says, "If the recipe says to do something, do it." So, at 6:15 am in my Mary Cheh t-shirt and athletic shorts, I carefully stirred the sauce until it coated the spoon, poured the sauce from container to container to cool it, conscientiously beat the egg whites and whipped cream and folded all together in approved folding style. If you work as most of us do, and you want to serve this for dinner, you had better get up at 5:45 to put it together. As it was, I missed both the first and second bus, and had to ask my long suffering husband to drive me to work.
However, when I took it out of the refrigerator this evening, what I ended up with was a dome of whitish material, capped by a wiggly toupee of gelatin. The thing had separated which I don't ever remember happening with the mousses I cranked out in the prechild era of the 70s and early 80s.
My son, who turned up just as dinner was being put on the table, did not approve. He wore what his fiancee calls his "I'm not eating that," look. He said it was too much like real mousse.
"What do you mean, real mousse? Hair mousse?" I inquired, mystified. It turned out he meant chocolate mousse.
My husband and I decided that this was food of a past era for sure. My son said that what put this kind of dish out of business was the rise of carryouts. Housewives made this so they didn't have to turn on the oven. Now, you could just order out. But, if you are looking for a cold, vaguely fancy dish, this could be what you want.
3 1/2 cups finely ground cooked ham (see step one)
1 1/3 cups chicken broth
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2 eggs separated
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry sherry
1. The ham must be ground as fine as possible. (The Cuisineart does an excellent job. No cranking or regrinding. Just push a button and the ham is ground.)
2. Bring the broth to a boil.
3. Soak the gelatin in the water and stir into the hot broth. Stir to dissolve gelatin.
4 Beat the eff yolks lightly;add a little of the hot mixture to the yolks; then add yolks to the broth, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until sauce coats the spoon. do not overcook or sauce may curdle. Cool sauce but do not chill.
5. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat the cream until stiff. Blend the two, then fold in the sauce, ham and sherry. Pour the mixture into a one and one half quart mold and chill. Unmold on a platter before serving.
Makse six servings. Don't leave out the sherry. It gives the mousse a nice flavor.