There was a time, when I was much, much younger, that mayonnaise was on my relatively short list of reviled foods. How things have changed! Like an arachnophobic who gets over a fear of spiders through repeated exposure, the more I dabbled in mayonnaise, the more I grew to like it. My conversion was complete upon trying my own hand at the homemade stuff, when I realized most of mayo you buy in jars is but a poor imitation. ( If you missed the story the first time around, you can read it here.)
Soon a sandwich was nothing without mayo. It replaced ketchup for my fries, and I discovered the limitless dips one can make with a bit of mayo and sour cream. All was well, and then I made another discovery that rocked my world.
And I’m not talking about the kind in the squeeze tube, found on supermarket shelves, another poor substitute for the real thing. I mean a veritable , traditional garlic aioli, made with a mortar and pestle and some elbow grease. It is a garlic mayonnaise that transforms the dullest fish, is heavenly next to a bucket of frites, and de rigeur in certain French dishes like Bouillabaisse or the fish stew called Bourride.
Le Grand Aioli is the name of a dish composed of salt cod, hard boiled eggs, and squid cooked with a variety of vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and green beans accompanied, of course, by aioli.
To develop the fullest, most pungent flavor, the garlic should be pounded in the mortar with the egg yolks before beating the oil a few drops at a time, as you would when making a regular mayonnaise.
This recipe if from Anne Willan’s wonderful book The Country Cooking of France.
Aioli – Garlic Mayonnaise
Makes 1 1/2 cups/ 375 ml – Serves 6-8
2 egg yolks
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (more to taste)
salt & white pepper
1 1/2 cups/375 ml olive oil
1) Put the egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a mortar. * Pound with a pestle until the mixture becomes lightly thick–about 1 minute.
2) Beat in the oil gradually, a few drops at a time, until the mixture begins to emulsify and thicken considerably.
3) Transfer to a small bowl and continue to add the remaining oil in a thin, steady stream while stirring constantly with a whisk. Do not add it too quickly or the mixture will separate.
4) Taste and adjust the seasonings if required.
The mayonnaise should be thick enough to hold a spoon upright. It can be covered and kept in the fridge for up to twelve hours, but should be brought to room temperature before serving or it may separate.
*If you do not have a mortar and pestle, whisk the mixture in the bowl to start and use freshly pressed garlic.