Origins & Information - (A-Z) Aioli

Ever sit down at a restaurant, read the menu, and wonder what "aioli" was exactly? Perhaps you didn't even care; you just knew that it tasted good. You want dishes that have aioli in them, especially if the aioli is special in some sense or form (black pepper aioli, red pepper aioli, etc). I don't blame you because it sure is good stuff but what is it? Long story short, aioli is garlic mayonnaise.

Short story long, aioli was made for Occitan cuisine. The bare bones ingredients are garlic, olive oil, and egg. Of course there are many variations of this but though restaurants will designate their flavored mayonnaise sauces "aioli," they can't be called so without garlic. A common variation includes the addition of Dijon mustard. To make it, you would mash/puree garlic and then blend with olive oil (you can use a mortar and pestle for the garlic). In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and mustard. Once that is mixed, slowly and evenly drizzle the oil into the bowl while still whisking the egg yolks until a thick mayonnaise forms (if adding other ingredients to flavor such as lemon juice, salt, and pepper, add them when about half the oil has been added). What you are doing is using the egg yolks' property as emulsifiers to make the aioli.

Aioli can be used in a variety of dishes but will typically be used with seafood, shellfish, and vegetables. The kind that we normally see is provençal aioli, and the word comes from the Provençal words for garlic, alh, and word for oil, òli. Any complaints or worries that people have is concerning the use of raw egg yolks; because of this, some restaurants have been using pasteurized mayonnaise as a starter. It is possible to make aioli without egg yolks though the technique is hard as the emulsion process becomes more difficult. A fairly versatile sauce, it can be found in a lot of places you may go, and now you know what it really is!

This post is part of an A-Z series I am running for my blog category "Origins and Information" while I am in Vietnam with my family for July. Many of the posts in the series answer questions that were posed by friends/readers. If y'all enjoy the series, I will gladly run another in the future!