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Spruce up a Yule buffet with an economical seafood mousse

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Seafood mousses made from canned fish cost only pennies but look like a million. And they always add a special touch to any holiday buffet. Attractive to the eye and delicious to eat, a mousse provides a lighter dish for festive spreads that often tend to be heavy with cakes, cookies, and goodies at this time of year.

A mousse has three essential ingredients. The primary one in this case is fish. The second ingredient is the binding agent -- cream, eggs, gelatin, or mayonnaise. The third is a lightening agent such as beaten egg whites or whipped cream.

Food processors and blenders have made the preparation much less intimidating than in the past when it took hours to grind or blend the fish. Here are some to try. Clam Mousse 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin 1/2 cup cold water 1/2 cup boiling chicken or beef stock 561/2-ounce cans minced clams, drained 2 cups finely chopped celery 2 cups mayonnaise 1 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk 1/4 cup lemon juice 2 tablespoons prepared creamy horseradish 2 tablespoons grated onion Salt to taste Lettuce Sliced tomatoes, green grapes, pimento strips, parsley for garnish

Lightly oil 2 1-quart molds or 1 2-quart mold. Soften gelatin in cold water, then add to boiling stock and stir until dissolved.

Thoroughly combine remaining ingredients except lettuce and garnishes. Add dissolved gelatin and blend well. Pour into prepared mold and refrigerate overnight, or until firm.

Unmold on lettuce-lined serving platter and garnish with sliced tomatoes, grapes, pimentos, and parsley. Makes 10 to 12 servings. Salmon Mousse 1 envelope unflavored gelatin 1/4 cup cold water 1/2 cup boiling water 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 tablespoon grated onion 1/2 teaspoon liquid hot pepper seasoning 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) 115 1/2-ounce can red salmon 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water to soften in a large bowl, about 5 minutes. Add boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Let cool 5 minutes.

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