Aioli 101

It seems whenever I go over to a friend’s house for dinner, the subject of my job comes up. Chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, and Mario Batali, along with shows like Top Chef, Hells’ Kitchen and No Reservations have glamorized the life and work of the chef. These blue collar service industry employees have been taken out of the dishpit and elevated way up the food chain alongside Hollywood celebrities, political bigwigs and the true elite of society. Now mind you, as a chef, this isn’t a bad thing. Most chefs, whether they will admit it or not, like to be the center of attention, it’s an ego-thing, and yes, every chef has one, EVERY chef, you couldn’t be successful without it.

As the conversation goes on with me telling some of my kitchen war stories, I invariably end up offering a staige in my kitchen for a night or two. Most times, they will decline, but every once in a while someone will take me up on it.

Tomato Aioli with Roast Fingerlings

Once they have arrived and they’ve been given their chefs jacket and a tour of the kitchen, we make mayonnaise, more specifically, aioli. To the uninitiated, making your own mayonnaise is the equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, once the ‘secret’ is explained with relatively few ingredients, I’ll usually get the look that says ‘That’s all?’ Yes, the mayo you see in your local grocery store was produced by a large manufacturing company making thousands of gallons an hour in a far away land, but it doesn’t have to be.

Aioli (pronounced eye-OH-lee) is a type of mayonnaise based sauce originating from the Provence region of France, although many other cultures and countries produce a version of it. In essence, it is a garlic mayonnaise, a sauce made by emulsifying egg and oil with a variety of seasonings. It is wildly versatile as there are no limit to the combination of flavors you can add to your aioli to create something original and suited for whatever you might be cooking.

The following recipe is one that I have used in my kitchens for the last 10 years. Traditionally it is made with a mortar and pestle which produces a fabulous tasting aioli, but is much more difficult for the average cook to master. I suggest you get used to preparing the aioli in a mixer or food processor, until you’ve become comfortable with the technique of emulsifying your ingredients.

On a side note, I use fresh eggs when making my aioli at home. At work, I started using pasteurized egg yolks several years ago as an additional safety measure with my guests. If you’re concerned with salmonella, you can generally find pasteurized egg yolks at your local grocery store. The procedure for making the aioli is the same, but you may need to adjust the amount in the recipe, there is a conversion chart listed on the side of the pasteurized egg yolks.

Basic Aioli Recipe
3 egg yolks
¼ cup minced garlic
2 ½ cups canola oil
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, halved
1 tspn. Tabasco Sauce
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 tspn. Kosher salt
3-4 Tbs. water

1. Combine egg yolks, garlic and the juice of half a lemon in mixer.
2. Whisk on high speed for 2 minutes.
3. Slowly add the canola oil in a slow stream.
4. Once you get about half the canola oil incorporated, your mixture is starting to become thick. You’ll want to add about 2 Tbs. of water in to loosen up the mixture.
5. Continue adding the remaining canola oil.
6. Add the olive oil, again in a slow stream.
7. Once the oil is all in, add the Tabasco, Worcestershire salt and the juice from the remaining half lemon.
8. If you feel the aioli is too thick, you may want to add another Tbs. or more of water; your aioli should be the consistency of mayonnaise.
9. Remove from mixer and store immediately in cold storage.

For Tomato Aioli (Great for dipping and using in place of Russian dressing on your Reuben)
Add 3 Tbs. tomato paste with the Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and lemon juice.

For Caper Aioli (Use for seafood and poultry)
Add ½ cup chopped capers and 1 Tbs. of the caper brine.

For Lemon Aioli (Use for everything else)
Add an extra 2 fl oz of lemon juice.

3 Responses

  1. Pingback: Cured Salmon Club with Avocado Aioli, Watercress |

  2. I started making my own mayonnaise several years ago for a specific chicken salad. It is hard to go back to something in a jar. I’ve used regular eggs from the grocery for aioli, French silk pie and Caesar salad without a problem; always checking for cracks and yes, rinsing with a bit of soapy water. I have no idea if that matters but it’s my bit of insurance policy!

    I would love to be a visitor…do an interview, write a post about your new space and gig. You have to give me lunch. :)

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