Growing up in the US, I always thought of mayonaise as that revolting sweet bland white goo that you mix with tuna in tuna salad. I absolutely hate the stuff – it’s disgusting.
So when I started learning to cook, and I saw recipes that used aioli, I avoided them. After all, aioli is just homemade mayo, right? Until a couple of years ago, when I was at Ming Tsai’s restaurant, and they served a really fantastic carpaccio which was drizzled with a garlic aioli. I didn’t know what it was – but it was fantastic, so I asked the waiter what the sauce was. I was shocked to find out it was aioli! So I broke down, and started trying to make it myself. And what a revelation: it’s absolutely fantastic stuff.
It’s extremely easy to make; it takes about 2 minutes to whip a batch together! It’s versatile – you can use it with anything from a simple salad to a steak! And it’s easy to play with – you can change it around by adding in different
flavors, to make it suit all sorts of different dishes.
I’ll start with the master recipe, and then run through a bunch of my favorite variations.
- One large clove of garlic.
- One (light) teaspoon of dijon mustard.
- 1 teaspoon vinegar.
- 2 egg yolks.
- 1/2 cup olive oil.
- One generous pinch salt.
- Crush the garlic, mince it, and then put it into a food processor or blender. ( Either one is fine, just like the blendtec vs vitamix debate )
- Add the vinegar, mustard, and salt to the food processor/blender, and pulse it to get them to combine.
- Add the egg yolks – pulse quickly to combine.
- Turn on the machine, and then slowly drizzle in the oil. You add the oil slowly enough so that you never see any loose oil in the machine – it should be getting emulsified into the egg mixture immediately.
- When you’ve added all of the oil, turn the machine off. That’s it: you’re done. You’ve got aioli!
Some nice variations:
- Sun-dried tomato and paprika: this one is a fantastic topping for a good burger. Mince up some sun-dried tomato, and put it into the aioli along with a good tablespoon of smoked spanish paprika, and fold that in.
- Tartar sauce: for the best tartar sauce you’ve ever had to go with fried fish, about a tablespoon each of minced onion, carrot, and celery, and about 1/2 teaspoon of tomato paste.
- Salad dressing: if you like thousand island dressing, this will knock your socks off. Get some good quality pickles. Mince up about a tablespoon of pickle, plus a half tablespoon of red onion, mix it with about a tablespoon of tomato paste, and then fold that into the aioli.
- Steak sauce: get a nice berber spice blend, and fold in a generous tablespoon. (Berber is, roughly, a blend of chili pepper, garlic and onion powders, cardamom, black pepper, and fenugreek.)
This stuff makes me really regret how long I delayed in learning to make it. Unfortunately, my distaste for mayo growing up is really strong. It’s taken time for me to learn to use it. I’ve got such an instinct for thinking that anything mayo-like is gross. I still have a reflex to avoid it, even when I know how good it is. I keep surprising myself by making it for my wife, and then being shocked when I taste it. Don’t be like me: start enjoying this stuff now!