That fool is me. I’ve been having an 8-year affair with an asshole.
Allioli made in the Catalan tradition, that is to say in the best tradition, is little more than olive oil, garlic, and salt. I’m not sold on the addition of lemon juice, especially if your using a delicate oil as they do in Catalonia. Conspicuously absent too is egg yolk – and allioli is better for it.
The lines have blurred between aioli, that culinary trick-pony that magically appears everywhere these days, and mayonnaise, and in the sense that these two things were once different things and maybe no longer are, there is at least some distinction between aioli, and allioli. Maybe because its name doesn’t roll off the tongue with quite the same ease, allioli and what it means has been left largely alone and unscathed by relentless reinvention.
As you can well imagine, making a thick and creamy sauce of garlic paste, salt, and oil is a feat. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It usually doesn’t when you’re using your best olive oil, or when you’re having guests. José Andrés, who kindly offered up a recipe of sorts to Food & Wine, makes no mention of just how much oil to add alluding to the sorcery involved. Allioli is a fickle jerk. Of course it begs the question is it really worth the trouble?
I think it is.
In and around Barcelona, allioli is often served with seafood, and the seafood is often of the most delicate variety. An eggy mayonnaise has no place here and would likely overpower exceptionally sweet seafood like razor clams, langoustines, or percebes. Unlike its Provençal counterpart, allioli begs to be simple, direct, garlicky and uncomplicated tasting of the oil it was made from which, if luck is on your side, will be a gorgeously sweet and grassy Arbequina olive oil.
Making a fool proof one, one that minimizes the risk of ruining your best oil and avoids obvious egginess is as simple as dividing an egg yolk. Lecithin, the emulsifier found in yolks, needs to be present in very small quantities in order to bring your oil and water (found in your garlic paste) together to form allioli. You can make it with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, but should avoid whisking it manually unless you’re a rock star accustomed to standing over a bowl and working for 15 minutes or so.
- 6 cloves freshest garlic, peeled
- ¾ tsp (3 mL) salt
- 1½ tsp (7 ml) egg yolk
- 1 - 2 tbsp (15 - 30 mL) water
- ¾ cup (175 mL) grapeseed oil
- ½ cup (125 mL) grassy extra virgin olive oil
- Finely chop or grate garlic onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with the salt and using the side of a large knife, cream together until a smooth paste forms. Scrape into a small bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer); add egg yolk and beat using an electric mixer (or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment) on medium speed for 30 seconds or until combined.
- Continue beating and add grapeseed oil, drop by drop at first, then in a slow drizzle once you've added about a third. Continue until you've added all of the grapeseed oil and mixture is thick and pasty. Reduce speed to low and beat in 1 tbsp (15 mL) water. Increase to medium once again and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Thin with 1 tbsp (15 mL) water if desired. Serve immediately at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Return to room temperature before using.
- fresh, simply cooked shellfish
- poached or grilled fish
- sandwiches, especially with roasted peppers
- grilled steak