Aioli is the name of a garlic mayonnaise. Aioli is also a traditional Provencal dish that was typically served on Fridays. The classic dish le grand “Aïoli” Provençal is served with salted cod and potatoes. A meal suitable for the days of penance. Practised cooks would methodically re-hydrate the cod and transform it back into an edible protein. The preparation of the traditional ingredients requires time to soak and desalinate the cod. This process involves removing the excess salt, cutting the cod in pieces, and soaking in fresh water for up to 15 hours (changing the water 2-3 times). Once the salt is removed the fish is poached gently in a pot with milk and water. The cod should not boil as it becomes rubbery. Interested yet?
You should be!
Today, as with many classic dishes, there is considerable variation away from the roots of the tradition. Aioli is not only served on Fridays and often with other seafood than just cod. Like many traditional recipes there are as many variations as there are native families. The garlic mayonnaise dip is also a recipe that varies considerably depending on the chef. With some license to experiment, the classic dish is now a representation of the sunny climate and seasonal Provencal ingredients. The preparation of le grand Aïoli takes time and patience, this is not a recommended meal for harried cooks. The vegetables must be prepared and cooked separately, then arranged on a platter. The seafood poached, and the garlic sauce prepared. The meal itself is suitable for lunch or warm summer nights. Le grand Aïoli should be accompanied by a light chilled rosé or crisp white wine.
- 40 Large Shrimp, peeled (tails on) and cleaned
- 12 Medium Carrots, peeled and cut in half
- 1 Head Cauliflower, remove the leaves and cut in bite size pieces
- 6 Small Artichokes, outer leaves removed
- 25-30 Green Beans, remove the ends
- 3 Large Egg Yolks
- 3½ cups (1 L) Canola Oil
- 1 Whole Lemon, slices for the platter and an optional squeeze for the sauce
- 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3-4 cloves Garlic, crushed
- To Taste Salt and Pepper
- To prepare the Garlic Mayonnaise:
- Separate the eggs yolks and discard the whites
- Add the crushed garlic
- Beat the eggs with a hand mixer on medium heat while slowly adding the canola, it will take a few minutes for the blended ingredients to start to create some volume. Be patient.
- Add the olive oil, salt and pepper at the end, mix well
- Prepare the ingredients and the serving platter: Start several pots of boiling water on the stove top
- Poach the shrimp until they are pink (3-4 minutes), remove from heat, drain and put aside
- Boil the carrots until tender, remove from heat, drain and put aside
- Steam the green beans until tender (about 6-8 minutes), drain and put aside
- Steam the cauliflower until tender, drain and put aside
- Boil the artichokes for about 15 minutes, cut in half, remove the inner heart, put aside
- When all the ingredients are ready you can arrange on a serving platter
This timeless recipe is remarkably adaptable depending on your tastes. It is still served on Ash Wednesday just before lent but with a little more “fun” on the platter than in ancient times.