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Savory popsicles... can it work?

Dennis Lee Aug 14, 2019. 20 comments
FeaturesStories from The Takeout about food, drink, and how we live.  

In my last piece, which was about how I can use up a gallon of ranch dressing (I am never going to live that one down), one of the suggestions offered after the fact was... a ranch popsicle. Because I am a culinary degenerate and all-purpose clown-around-town, it did get me thinking. I prefer savory foods over sweet ones—so why aren’t savory popsicles an actual thing? (If gazpacho is best served cold, why can’t it be served colder?) I know there are dill pickle juice popsicles for vinegar nerds, and the clam chowder popsicle meme sizzled and fizzled not too long ago. But beyond that, there’s not much out there in the frozen-and-savory department.

But what do you imagine would be delicious in popsicle form? To start, it’d have to be something great in its original liquid form. So here’s what I ended up with:

  • Lobster bisque (I know, I like to live life to the max)
  • Premade Michelada
  • Borscht, an idea mentioned briefly by the McElroy brothers in a podcast episode of My Brother My Brother, and Me (referred to as a “Slopsicle”), enthusiastically suggested to me by my fiancee, Davida
  • Tonkotsu broth from none other than the Ramen Lord himself, Mike Satinover, who was so excited to give me the broth that he biked to the restaurant where I work at to drop it off

If you’ve been following me from ye-olden-days , you may recognize these lightsaber popsicle molds. Throwback to 2015! I haven’t touched them since that project and I’m glad I still have them. Also, they light up if you put a battery in them. This is the main reason to have Star Wars lightsaber popsicle molds.

Save the tonkatsu broth from Mike, I purchased all the liquids from various local grocery stores. From upper-left clockwise: Lobster bisque, Michelada, tonkotsu broth, borscht.

For the most part, everything froze nicely, except for the Michelada drink. I hadn’t accounted for the carbonation from the beer (also beer has a slightly lower freezing point, around 28 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the alcohol level).

The first popsicle I pried out of the mold was the lobster bisque one. I garnished it with a touch of Old Bay seasoning blend.

I think my first mistake was making a popsicle that I knew was going to be chunky. I was hoping that the creaminess of the lobster bisque would help, but, I was misguided. The pop ended up being a generically creamy-tasting concoction with small bits of shellfish and a distinct sherry aftertaste. I was surprised at its lack of flavor overall.

The bisque wasn’t ideal, and like Icarus I flew too close to the sun. But you know what? A chunk-less cream of mushroom soup might hold promise.

I had a few guests give the bisque popsicle a try. My first taste tester, Nugget, was not interested in the bisque very much.

And neither was my second guest taste tester, Cricket.

Next up: the Michelada.

Almost immediately after I pulled the Michelada pop out of the mold, it snapped, as you can see. I garnished the broken tip with Taijin seasoning and went to town. And it was absolutely delicious. The popsicle retained some fizziness from the beer, and was so refreshing that I had to stop myself from scarfing down the entire thing. Its texture was flaky and brittle, making it melt quickly.

If anything, it really needed some extra tomato flavor, so if you’re at all interested in trying this at home, make your own mix, and go heavy on the Clamato juice, hot sauce, and spices.

Trying this popsicle makes me wonder why, honestly, these aren’t an item you can just buy. Come on, craft brewers, you can do a beer popsicle or a slushie. I believe in you.

On to borscht:

You don’t have to love beets to appreciate the beautiful color of frozen borscht.

Unfortunately, the structural integrity of the borscht popsicle wasn’t sturdy enough to stand up against its own weight.

I garnished it with some sour cream and tried it with Davida, who was eager to taste-test this one.

Like the Michelada pop, It was also a home run. I’m generally not a huge fan of beets, but this came off salty, earthy, and savory, while the sour cream added on top made the whole thing even better by smoothing it out with a dairy richness.

And now the icy treat I’d been waiting for: The tonkatsu broth popsicle, served with a side of sweet soy chili sauce.

Mike is an amazing chef. I’ve had the pleasure of having multiple bowls of ramen from him. When I received the broth, it was literally one solid chunk, there was that much gelatin in it. When I heated it up in the saucepan to liquefy it before the popsicle mold, I had to stop myself from just enjoying the soup as it was.

Turns out I should have just done that, because this was by far one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten—and not due to its flavor. This was all about texture. It was chewy. A chewy popsicle. My brain still doesn’t know how to process this. Davida actually gagged.

And in her words, “It tastes like one of those fucked-up jellybeans. Like Beanboozled.” The porky flavor was strong and intense, but imagine plowing down frozen pork-flavored chewing gum. Not good. I think frozen instant ramen broth might be a winner, but it’s going to be a while until I recover from this one.

So now, if I do end up throwing a backyard barbecue this summer, I might break out some Michelada popsicles, or maybe make a shaved ice with it and douse that sucker with hot sauce.

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