Monday, March 3, 2008

On Aioli

I didn't really appreciate Aioli until I started working at the Lark Creek Inn. At my Garde Manger station, I was responsible for making a fresh Aioli at least every other day. The standard was our classic Lemon-Pepper Aioli, a dollop of which was served on our freshly-made crab cakes. The "Lemon" came from fresh lemon juice, and the "Pepper" from coarsely ground black pepper, that we ground in a big old machine that we kept in our dry-goods shed near the restaurant.

Later, as the menus changed, I learned to make Aiolis using Sun-dried Tomatoes, Chipotle Chiles, Lime Juice, and Saffron. The knowledge stood me in good stead when I started work for other caterers - I'd occasionally be told "The client wants Sage Aioli to go with the shrimp for her wedding reception. Go and make a Sage Aioli ... make it taste good!" I'm proud to say that I never had any complaints. Here's a recipe for a Green Onion Aioli that I served with a Tempura recently...

Green Onion Aioli

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • the greens from 1 spring onion - don't use the whites!
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • about 1/2 cup corn or canola oil (+1 tablespoon extra, for sauteeing)
  • about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Cut the greens from the spring onion into roughly 1/2" pieces. Saute them in the tablespoon of corn oil over high heat, briefly. When the greens are a brighter color and have begun to soften, set them on a plate to cool down. Allow them to cool to nearly room temperature before proceeding (if you use them when they're still too hot, they'll scramble the egg yolk).
  2. mince the garlic finely. As you mince it, sprinkle it with a little salt - the salt will pick up the oils from the garlic, making for a more flavorful product.
  3. Add the minced garlic (+ salt it was sprinkled with) to the body of a food processor. Add the lemon juice, mustard, egg yolk, and a pinch of black pepper. Have the oils ready in two separate vessels from which you can pour steadily - don't try to pour oils directly from a large container!
  4. Run the food processor until the yolk starts to become frothy and pale.
  5. Add the corn/canola oil in a thin, steady stream. Go slowly - if the oil won't emulsify into the yolk mixture, the Aioli is broken (start again). The oil should incorporate gradually into the yolk. As the emulsion becomes thicker, listen carefully to the pitch of the motor as the mixture thickens ... the sound should become slightly louder and deeper as the emulsion thickens.
  6. When all the corn/canola oil has been added, add green onions. Let them mix thoroughly into the emulsion.
  7. When the Aioli is smooth, add the extra-virgin olive oil (again, in a slow, steady stream). This will lend some extra flavor. Remove to a container with a spatula - keep under refrigeration ... it will keep for no more than 3 days, maximum.

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