from Hoppin' John's Charleston, Beaufort & Savannah

Tomato aspic is a harbinger of spring, a favored starter course throughout the South. Shrimp are often added to the aspic, but here it is served with a dollop of homemade mayonnaise flavored with a few cooked shrimp.

For the aspic:
¼ cup boiling water
1 tablespoon (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
2 cups tomato juice, or 1 16-ounce can crushed tomatoes, pureed
1 celery rib, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons grated onion
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
Lettuce leaves for garnish

For the mayonnaise:
½ teaspoon dry mustard, or 1 teaspoon prepared
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup peanut oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Several cooked shrimp, peeled

To make the aspic, pour the boiling water over the gelatin in a mixing bowl and stir well so that all of the gelatin dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients except the lettuce and mix well. Rinse six ½-cup ramekins in cold water and fill them with the aspic. Refrigerate to set and chill. To unmold, dip in hot water for a for a few seconds and invert onto a bed of lettuce.

To make the mayonnaise, put the mustard, salt, and egg in a blender and blend for about 20 seconds. Add the oil very slowly, at first by droplets, continually blending until all of the oil has been bound with the egg mixture and the mayonnaise is thick and creamy. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, add the lemon juice, and blend briefly. With the motor running, start adding cooked shrimp, one at a time, blending well after each shrimp is added. Continue adding shrimp until the desired flavor is reached. Store well capped and refrigerated for no more than 3 days.

Serve the aspic with a dollop of mayonnaise.

Serves 6.