April 14, 2010

An Afternoon Sigh


Artichoke and Handmade Aioli
Aioli, as the Italians call, or mayonnaise, as it is known in France, is infinitely better when made at home than that found in jars. It is so easy, quick, fresh and flavorful that it is really a shame to resort to the mass produced variety. I call this "handmade", because much of the fun is in the vigorous wrist and hand action required to emulisfy the fresh egg yolks, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and garlic into your delectable sauce. Occasionally I get so enthusiastic about the magic that happens while whisking that my whole body gets into the act, like a whisk dance.

During yesterday's brief sunny spot, My Baby and I sat outside and soaked up our Oregon country view while savoring an enormous steamed artichoke with aioli and a LaVelle Winery 2007 Viognier. The light, sprightly, floral-nosed wine is becoming favorite of mine as it delivers a high value at this price point. I'm especially fond of its almond and peachy flavors and tangy acidity. I have mentioned before that this is a very nice life, haven't I?
The View Beyond Our Garden
As for the aioli, I make it in this small quantity when it's just My Baby and me so that we can consume it at the height of its freshness, but can easily be doubled. Use it on fresh fish of all kinds, a dab on sliced hard-cooked eggs topped with an anchovy fillet, roasted potatoes, crudite, or classically, pomme frite. Aioli is traditionally flavored with garlic only, but mayonnaise can have added flavor bonuses of capers, Dijon mustard, citrus zest, saffron, anchovy fillets, any combination of fresh minced herbs or any number of other enhancers to suit your mood.

Classic Aioli
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, smashed with about 1/2 teaspoonful salt in deep bowl
1 large egg yolk, room temperature (use the freshest you have as this is a big part of the flavor)
2 or so teaspoons fresh lemon juice
about 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (the variety you use will really shine here, so choose one you enjoy and that will enhance the other flavor components of the meal)

Add egg yolk and lemon juice to the smashed garlic in the bowl. A conical shaped bowl makes the whisking more effective. Whisk briefly to combine.

Using a simple wire whisk or fork, add the oil to the egg mixture drop by drop at first, then very slowly, whisking intensely as you go. Try to maintain a completely emulsified texture the whole time. If the aioli looks oily or "broken", stop adding oil and whisk whisk whisk away until it regains itself before continuing with more oil.

If the sauce gets too thick, add additional lemon juice (for tang) or warm water teaspoonful at a time. A warning: Adding more oil will only make it thicker. Taste for salt and pepper (white pepper is good, but I always love freshly cracked black) and add more garlic if you'd like.

Aioli is the very essence of freshness, so use within a couple of hours. It begins to loose it's personality with refrigeration, so make only what you can use right away. You can always make more tomorrow.



8 comments:

  1. I have eaten many an artichoke for dinner over the years~one of my favorite springtime meals. We just returned from CA, where we enjoyed fresh artichokes from a vegetable stand; so much better than the grocery store shipped in variety.

    What a spectacular view you have!

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  2. We have been living on artichokes lately (gotta get them while we can). This is so simple and delicious!

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  3. I love Aïoli!!! All the flavors of Provence in a plate with this wonderful sauce surrounded with its veggies followers. It's a must in the summer, when we go south to a camp site, we'll have an Aïoli for a light lunch break before going back to the beach and enjoy the sun... Ok now I'm longing for my summer vacations ;)

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  4. Wow, you do have a nice life. That pic of the storm in the distance is beautiful. I love inclement weather!

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  5. Just saw a bunch of artichokes at the market...might have to pick up a couple! thx

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  6. sounds so simple and delicious!

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  7. I loved reading about the name of your blog!

    While I won't be making the aioli (not a fan of mayo or eggs), I loved the inspiration you gave me. I had just looked at the artichoke in my crisper drawer and decided it would be lunch tomorrow. I've never made artichoke before so I wasn't sure how to prepare it. Any suggestions?

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  8. Thanks to you all, his post was was on FoodBuzz Top 9 for April 16.

    Oven Aversion, here is the low-down on getting a 'choke ready to eat. This is directly from Epicurious' Molly Stevens. Artichokes can be grilled, braised and fried, but I love them simply steamed. I find them to be more and more thornless every year, and on those that have less points, I often don't trim the leaves as directed below.

    Lay 1 artichoke on its side and cut off top third; cut off stem at base of artichoke. Using scissors, cut top 1/2 inch off each remaining leaf. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon, squeezing slightly to release juice. Repeat with remaining artichokes.

    Place rack on bottom of large pot. Add enough water just to touch rack. Bring to boil. Place artichokes on rack in pot. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and steam artichokes until tender, adding more water if necessary, about 30 minutes.

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