Many of you have never had real “aioli.” Oh, you’ve probably had garlic flavored mayonnaise-based sauces and dips many times. But today we’re talking about “real” aioli. Modern aioli comes to us from the south of France and is commonly used as a dip for vegetables, potatoes, as well as fish and meats. It’s more ancient origin is probably the Italian “Aglio Olio” which simple means “garlic oil.”
The reason I say that you may not have ever had “real” aioli is because 95% of what is served as aioli in American restaurant is nothing more than garlic mayonnaise. What’s the difference? Let me explain. Most cooks simply chop, or mince, or blend garlic with mayo, add other flavors, and call it aioli (some freaks of nature even use roasted garlic!!). Now, I don’t want to sound like some kind of food fascist. I have no problem with roasting garlic and stirring it into mayo, but call it a “roasted garlic mayo.” The only real way aioli is made is by using a mortal and pestle. When you crush the garlic in this ancient culinary tool, you are completely pulverizing the cells of the garlic clove which sets off crucial chemical reactions that you don’t get by simply chopping or blending. There are compounds formed during this crushing that produces something called “allicin,” which gives real aioli its amazingly sharp and intense flavor. The follow excerpt is from www.herbalchem.net:
“Odorless and stable, alliin is the most abundant sulfur compound in whole, unbruised Garlic. It is stored inside one kind of Garlic cell; in a separate type of cell, an enzyme called alliinase awaits. When the cells are broken open, alliin mixes with alliinase, and in about ten seconds all of the exposed alliin has been converted into a new group of compounds: allicin and its close relatives, which give off the aroma of fresh Garlic.
The beauty of aioli made in the traditional method, with a mortar and pestle, is that a small amount of garlic can flavor a large amount of mayo. Also, this real aioli is so strong and powerful that you don’t need half a cup of mayo on your grilled fish. Just a teaspoon of my version is so intense; it will fully flavor a whole piece of meat or pile of veggies. Also, the legendary health benefits of eating raw garlic are largely derived from this allicin production. Fair warning: if you don’t like garlic, don’t even attempt this recipe. It could kill you. But, if you do love garlic this demo may change your life. And by all means, get a mortar and pestle! I use it for other things besides aioli, like crushing whole spices for dry rubs, etc. Once you have your plain aioli recipe down you can start to experience with various fresh herbs, like the tarragon I used here. I served this under my Salmon Cakes recipe, and it was really good.
2 garlic cloves
pinch of salt
tbl of fresh tarragon
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mayo
dash of cayenne