Aioli is a traditional Provencal sauce; essentially a garlicky mayonnaise. Make it once and you’ll never revert to bland store-bought mayo again. All you need are a few ingredients, typically extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon, egg (I like to add a bit of hot smoked paprika), and some muscle power — no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, or any other ingredients that are commonly added by the food industry to make food shelf stable.
Making aioli is not difficult, though there is one critical step. The egg yolk acts as an emulsifier to bind water and oil together. Emulsifying is done by slowly adding one ingredient to another while simultaneously mixing rapidly. This disperses and suspends tiny droplets of one liquid through another. Thus, the olive oil must be added very slowly, initially drop by drop, in order to create an emulsion.
Whisk, whisk, whisk, and whisk some more…
After a few minutes the aioli will become thick and creamy. At this point, you can begin to add the oil in a slow, steady stream, constantly whisking until all the oil is incorporated. Caution: adding the oil too quickly will break the emulsion (which I’ve learned from experience) and at that point it’s really hard to fix.
Aioli is versatile. Its uses are endless — great as an accompaniment to fish, a shellfish stew, grilled vegetables, for dipping fries into, slathered on a piece of crusty bread, on a sandwich…You can omit the hot smoked paprika, and add other spices or herbs for a different taste (such as saffron, tarragon, rosemary, curry powder, old bay seasoning).
As simple as that, with an upper body workout to boot!
The addition of a healthy pinch of smoked hot paprika to the aioli adds a welcome smoky touch…
I love the color of the egg yolks that I get from my local farmers’ market. They are bright orange, as seen below (no digital manipulation was used), and produce a vibrant yellow aioli.
1 or 2 garlic cloves (two, if you like your aioli more garlicky)
1 extra-large egg yolk, room temperature
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon
Smoked paprika (optional)
Freshly chopped herbs, such as tarragon (optional)
In a mortar, add 1/4 tsp salt and the garlic clove and pound to a pulp. If you don’t have a mortar, you can use the side of a chef’s knife and smash the garlic and salt on a cutting board.
Add the egg yolk, and with a whisk in hand (or immersion blender with whisk attachment), add the oil drop by drop, whisking all the time. Once it thickens, you can begin to add the oil more quickly, continuously whisking until all the oil has been added.
Add a squeeze of lemon, a large pinch of smoked paprika (optional) and/or fresh herbs (optional), and whisk to incorporate. Taste and season with salt as needed.