Curious Cook: The secret’s out

salt and pepper (if you use white pepper, the finished mousse won’t show and dark flecks)

BY DEBBIE MATTHEWS, The Curious Cook
Posted 3/2/21

Retail is a tough job. It’s not just that it’s hard, physical work, and long hours. The folks that staff your favorite store don’t really have Christmas. It’s the busiest time of the year, …

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Curious Cook: The secret’s out

salt and pepper (if you use white pepper, the finished mousse won’t show and dark flecks)

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Posted

Retail is a tough job. It’s not just that it’s hard, physical work, and long hours. The folks that staff your favorite store don’t really have Christmas. It’s the busiest time of the year, and it doesn’t stop until well after the big day. It’s difficult to even run and grab some take-out for lunch. (And supper, and breakfast. I told you the hours were brutal.)

Thanksgiving weekend is the ultimate insanity. With only 30 minutes for a meal, there is no way to go to the food court, stand in line, order, wait for it, and eat.

When I managed a store, I would have everyone bring food that weekend, and we would have a potluck kind of thing in the back. One year, I had a young woman named Sherry working for me. On Black Friday, she brought a dish I had never seen before. She called it tuna mousse. I know, it sounds a little fishy (sorry for the bad pun).

It was pinkish and molded into a fish shape. Truthfully, it kinda scared me. But I bravely tried a bite. The moment it passed my lips, the heavens opened and I swear, I heard angels singing. It was amazing. I was in love.

At the time, I was most definitely not a cook. For dinner, I could make reservations, and make Petey take me out. That was pretty much it. But this stuff was so good, I was ready to try.

There was one small problem. Sherry wouldn’t share with me. I asked her for the recipe. Nope. I begged for it. Nope. I even half-seriously threatened her (I’m not exactly intimidating). Nope. It was a family secret, and not to be shared. She did offer to make it when I wanted it, but I wanted that darn recipe. No dice.

I figured that was that. And when Sherry changed jobs, we lost touch. But I still remembered that mousse with longing.

Before I was banned by Petey, I was a cookbook junkie. I was constantly picking up cookbooks at bookstores, grocery stores, and yard sales. But eventually, I had so many that we would soon need an addition on the house to store them all. Thus, the ban.

In my collection, I had a Sunset appetizer book (the book is now lost; this recipe is my rendition). Leafing through it one day, I came upon a recipe for salmon mousse. I had flipped past it many times, but because I would rather eat dry dog food than salmon, I had never really read the recipe. One day, for some reason, though, I did.

The ingredients niggled at me. They seemed familiar. Then I had a realization. The ingredients and procedure looked something like what I imagined was the long yearned-for tuna mousse. I decided to give it a whirl, substituting tuna for the despised salmon.

I guess the tuna gods were smiling on me that day because I decrypted the recipe. It tasted exactly like Sherry’s secret family dish. It’s easy to put together. And I finally had my recipe.

Crostini or crackers are the classy route, but I just love it on “Fritos Scoops.” Something in the combination of the salty, corny, crunchy, Fritos, and the mousse is ambrosia to me.

I’ve recently discovered that I don’t need to spend $3-5 dollars on Fritos at the mega-mart. The dollar store has a version of “scoop-like corn chips” that are indistinguishable from the name-brand version.

What do we do with all the money we save by buying dollar store chips?

Say it with me now…

“We buy shoes!”

Finally, I’ve got a confession to make. As much as I love this stuff, the fact that I’ve figured out the forbidden recipe gives me an extra, evil thrill each time I make it. And it’s an even bigger thrill to share it with you all.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at dm@bullcity.mom.

Secret Tuna Mousse

1 large and 1 small can albacore tuna

1 large and 1 small block cream cheese

1 can tomato soup

1 cup mayo

1/2 small white onion

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

Put drained tuna and onion in food processor. Run until the tuna and onion are finely chopped and thoroughly mixed. Add mayo and pulse until it’s all combined.

Meanwhile, mix water with gelatin and allow to bloom, or gel a bit (it will get a little stiff, but that’s OK).

In a saucepan, warm soup, and melt cream cheese into it. Just warm it, don’t let it boil, or even simmer. When the cheese has all melted, fold in gelatin and allow to melt.

Mix tuna mixture and soup mixture together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into lightly greased mold, and place into fridge for at least four hours to set.

Unmold, and serve with crostini or crackers.

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