The flavor of the South of France
Aioli, is a thick, garlicky mayonaise popular in the south of France. This glossy topping is most famously paired with bouillabaisse, a fish stew from the region. But, this lusciousness spooned upon any dish adds a creamy accent of garlic and green olive. It is also terrific to dip vegetables or prawns into.
In many of the small villages of Provence and the south of France there is an annual summer celebration centered around this condiment called the “Grand Aioli”.
It is an evening when the villagers come together to feast, visit and enjoy games of boules. All are welcome to this gathering. Signs are posted throughout the village. If you’re lucky enough to be in a French village on such an evening, don’t be shy, join in and you’ll have one of the splendid experiences of your life.
If a visit to the south of France isn’t in the plans, a “petite aioli” can be enjoyed anywhere. We like serving a petite aioli as a Sunday supper on a warm afternoon. All of the food is prepared in advanced, refrigerated (if necessary) and then displayed at room temperature for people to serve themselves. Most anything tastes delicious with aioli, so the spread can be a matter of personal preference.
A colorful crudité platter is usually the central focus. A hollowed out artichoke or cabbage makes a natural looking bowl for the aioli and looks great in the center of a colorful display of vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables and cut them into finger-food sized pieces, carrots, peppers, cauliflower, boiled potatoes, tomatoes, celery, mushrooms, artichoke hearts. fennel root and peppers are all delicious choices. A few boiled and halved eggs can be a welcomed addition to the platter.
Grilled and chilled slices of steak, chicken and/or pork are delicious topped with dollops of aioli. White fish and/or salmon, poached in parchment or grilled is a nice addition. In France, snails are usually served as well.
Serve with a basket of crusty french bread and be sure to scatter bowls of more aioli and olives about. Cold, crisp rose wine is the perfect beverage for this meal. Your guests will joyfully help themselves to this glorious feast.
Aioli takes minutes to make, and can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. In addition to being the featured accompaniment for the vegetables, meats and fishes in the grand (or petite) aioli, it is splendid spread on bread for sandwiches and a earthy flavorful addition in soups and on salads.
4 cloves garlic
3 egg yolks
1-1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Into a food processor bowl, outfitted with a metal blade, drop the garlic cloves and salt, pulse blade until the garlic is pulverized, then stop. Next, add the egg yolks. Start the blade again and VERY, VERY slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a thick paste is formed. In a matter of minutes you’ll have a bowl full of delight!
“The night I spoke with Julia” –Well, I don’t want to go all Amy Adams on you, but I need to share this conversation with you!! One night I was making aioli in my food processor and I must have gotten a little hasty, pouring in too much olive oil in at once, instead of slowly dribbling it in as one should.
Because of this hastiness, the chemistry didn’t work — instead of a thick, glossy creamy mixture — it was pure liquid. “Julia — what can I do?” I cried. I rushed to my copy of The Way to Cook, and there, just like that, Julia presented me with the answer!
Julia advised me that at this stage — the food processor could no longer help me. The mixure could only be rescued with the help of a wire whisk and dijon mustard. As she instructed, I spooned 1/2 tablespoon of mustard into a mixing bowl and added to that 1 tablespoon of the liquid mix (stirred up, so there is both oil and eggs in the tablespoon), and whisked like mad. Soon, soon, it began to thicken up into a cream. Then I continued to add dribbles of the failed aioli to the stirred up mixture, whipping constantly. Once you have at least a good cup of “restored” aioli, you can add more to the bowl a little more quickly. Julia emphasizes the importance of going slow at first…thank you Julia for your never ending wisdom and advice!!