The Big Kahuna of Aioli

We all know about the Big Kahuna, but the Big Aioli? What gives? Well, the Big (Grand) Aioli refers to the Big Enchilada of garlic sauces.  It's about the most garlic-laden mayonnaise that you've ever had, and all of the accompanying items that transform it from a mere dip or sandwich spread to a thoroughly satisfying meal.

Le Grand Aioli. In the Provence region of France, there is a tradition of simply prepared meals with grand (big) flavors. We are told, courtesy of Jacques Pepin and Alan Davidson in his reference book, The Oxford Companion to Food, that boiled salt cod is the typical protein supplemented by boiled vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. Boiled eggs are also used, and the cod is often replaced by or supplemented with snails or shrimp. Other seasonal vegetables such as green beans and artichokes are used also. Here's the recipe.

While you don't have to, I keep the aioli on ice, especially if it will be out for two or three hours.

What I do. Typically, I can find the following: green beans, potatoes, carrots, zucchini and cauliflower. Sometimes I will add quartered fennel and sweet onions. Really, you can use any vegetable combination if you aren't focused on keeping it authentic and traditional. I boil the vegetables, the eggs, the fish or shrimp and move them to a platter. I taste and sprinkle with a little extra salt, if needed. I make the aioli, pour the wine and call my friends. Oh, I also like to play something like this in the background.

Keep it simple. At its best, this is a dish of boiled fish and vegetables, so don't get carried away. Enjoy the flavor of fresh vegetables at their peak. The aioli is there to add a beautiful and aromatic flourish. The potatoes are cooked with well-scrubbed skin on. The zucchini is served with the stem (if you have time to prep it). I cut off a thin slice and discard it. Then I cut the zucchini into fingers with the remaining stem intact. The stem will be tender and is edible too.

Traditionally prepared in a mortar and pestle, a food processor makes this part much easier.

Grand Aioli for Lunch? Cookbook author Patricia Wells says in "The Provence Cookbook," that you will see restaurants in Provence offering a Grand Aioli for lunch throughout the summer months. She recommends a chilled Rose wine, which is the preferred beverage, and suggests that your aioli should be prepared at the last minute to serve at room temperature.  In the U.S. we like our food piping hot or well chilled. Throughout Europe, we see many meals served at room temperature. Everything is cooked, allowed to rest while the table is set and friends are gathered, then we all sit to enjoy a leisurely meal, wine and easy conversation. Typically, the best location is outdoors on a patio, umbrella-shaded cafe or in a courtyard.

A very nice option to the traditional Rose.

Cocktails, anyone? While the Grand Aioli is a complete meal, sometimes we enjoy it as a complement to a big charcuterie board for a cocktail party. Guests can pick on the vegetables and shrimp, dipping them into the aioli with one hand as they manage a drink with the other. No plates or forks are required. Filling finger food, cocktails and napkins are all you need.

Traditionally prepared in a mortar and pestle with the addition of bread or a boiled potato, aioli can be just what we call it today, a garlic-infused mayonnaise prepared in a food processor. Many recipes call for even more garlic, but I've found it overwhelming. As much as I adore garlic in my food, I find that three large cloves is ample in my recipe. Now that you know about the Big Kahuna of Aioli, perhaps you'll give it a go and feel like the Big Enchilada of hosts when you're friends are applauding your efforts.

For the recipe in printable format, click here.


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