All About Aioli
This wonderful garlic mayonnaise, a staple of Marseille's culinary heritage, dates back to 1774 and is a traditional accompaniment for bouillabaisse, fish soup, crudités, vegetables cooked in court-bouillon, etc. The word comes from the Provençal ai (garlic) and oli (oil).
Aioli was once called the butter of Provence. Delicate and refined, it's more than a sauce - it's an institution! Aioli concentrates all the strength and joy of the Provençal sun, said Mistral. It's a mustard-less mayonnaise made from olive oil and crushed raw garlic.
Some people will tell you that are aioli recipes that contain potatoes. This is a "modern" version that showed up much later because the potato was introduced into France only at the end of the 18th century and was not widely consumed until the 19th. Old Provençal books do not mention the addition of a starch or vinegar, though sometimes lemon or even orange juice were included.
Though some cooks say you should add a drizzle of lemon juice to white the aioli, purists respond "Never!"
The recipe is simple. You just need good tools: a stone, marble or wooden mortar and pestle, good ingredients... and patience.
If possible, choose white garlic which is more digestible than red.
Choose a good, not too strong, olive oil.
Be sure that all the ingredients - garlic, oil and eggs - are at room temperature to increase your chances of success.
If the aioli becomes too thick, you can add a few drops of lukewarm water to thin it.
If the aioli separates, transfer to a bowl and let it rest for a few minutes. Combine 1 egg yolk in the mortar with a spoonful of vinegar; repeat the process, slowly incorporating the failed aioli - the same process is used to restore "broken" mayonnaise.
- Remove the cloves from a nice head of garlic and peel them carefully. Eliminate any cloves that are blemished (partially dried out, brown, etc). Halve each clove lengthwise and remove the central germ which is indigestible.
- First coarsely crush the cloves in a mortar.
- Then finely crush the cloves using a pestle. During this process, begin adding salt (Camargue fleur de sel, preferably). This process takes time and should continue until the garlic is reduced a fine creamy paste.
- While continuing to grind with the pestle, incorporate the egg yolks and a little olive oil. This is a delicate operation, because it is at this point that you have to achieve an emulsion. Therefore continue mixing with the pestle, always in the same direction, to create a fairly thick emulsion. At this stage, some people add a squeeze of lemon juice and a small spoonful of warm water, though this isn't the original recipe.
- Still mixing, gradually and slowly blend the olive oil into the emulsion, which will steadily increase in volume. Don't add too much at once, pouring only in a slow stream so that the emulsion does not break. At this point, patience is your best guarantee of success.
- The emulsion will become stiffer and with the rotations of the pestle, the edges will tend to come away from the sides of the mortar and "roll" towards the center. It's almost ready. You can add more oil as desired.
- The finished aioli should be shiny, oozing oil and stiff enough that the pestle can stand up in the middle of it by itself.
Place in a tightly-closer container and refrigerate. The aioli will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
A dry white Côtes de Provence
- Traditional with bouillabaisse and cod brandade
- Can be served with hardboiled eggs, escargots, raw or cooked vegetables, etc.
- Accompanies bourride (fish soup)
- Spread on toast
- With anchovies in puff pasties
- With cold chicken breast
- To liven up foods lacking in flavor
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