Monday, June 30, 2008
le grand aioli
Sounds so chic, non? I actually can't think of anything less glamorous than mayonnaise, but somehow the French manage to even make condiments sophisticated.
Saturday night we had our friends Martha, Jo, and Mike over for a grand aioli, a family-style feast of fish, bread, eggs, and vegetables, all of which can be topped with the centerpiece of the spread: aioli, a garlicky mayonnaise. Jacques Pepin says he can't think of another dish that lends itself better to a party. And I do whatever Jacques says. Plus, Dan's been itching to make homemade mayo lately, so what better way to use it?
Le Grand Aioli:
Roasted curried chickpeas
Paloma cocktails (recipe coming soon)
Strawberry-almond yogurt cake with whipped cream
Assembling the spread really couldn't be easier. There's not much cooking involved and the prep is minimal, even though there are a lot of different components going on. In addition to hard boiled eggs and grilled cod, I served raw veggies (cherry tomatoes, fennel, radishes) and cooked veggies (asparagus, green beans, and new potatoes) and a sliced baguette. For the cooked vegetables, blanch them in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, then dump them into a bowl of ice water until they cool. I boiled the new potatoes and tossed them in a little olive oil, salt, and red wine vinegar, but you could also serve them plain at room temperature. If you time it right, you can prepare all of the cooked ingredients in the same large pot of boiling water, just use tongs to remove each ingredient from the pot before adding the next one.
Once you've made homemade aioli (or plain mayo, if you omit the garlic) you'll never go back to the jarred stuff. I'll admit, Miracle Whip is great on a turkey sandwich, but this is a whole other animal. And watching the oil and egg yolk emulsify is fun in a science experiment-y kind of way. Dan made plain and basil-flavored, and I preferred the basil with the grand aioli. All of the other parts of the meal are cooked so simply; the addition of herbs made everything a bit more flavorful.
(Serves 6 to 8 people)
1/2 clove of garlic, minced
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/2 cup basil (or any other herb)
If using the basil, combine it and the oil in a food processor. Process until the basil is in small bits. Place the egg yolk and mustard in a bowl and whisk. Start to add the oil very slowly, first a few drops at a time, then in a long, thin drizzle. As you whisk, it will begin to emulsify. Once you've blended in about a half cup of oil, you can add the rest faster. Add the garlic, lemon juice, and then add salt and pepper to taste.
Strawberry-almond yogurt cake
This summery confection is a twist on Orangette's gâteau au yaourt à la fraise, French-style yogurt cake with strawberries. I basically stuck to the recipe as written, but amped up the almond component of the cake with almond extract, which made it extra fragrant. Serve with sweetened whipped cream, extra berries, and toasted sliced almonds (which, as you can see below, I forgot).
(Serves 6 to 8 people)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds (about 1 cup slivered almonds, ground in a food processor)
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. almond extract
2 handfuls quartered strawberries (or frozen whole berries)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, oil, eggs, and extract. Stir until blended together. Stir in the dry ingredients. Pour two-thirds of the batter into a greased 8-inch pan. Scatter the strawberries on top of the batter layer as evenly as possible. Top the berries with the remaining batter. Don't worry if a few berries peek out. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes; the cake should be golden brown when done. Let cool and then remove the cake from its pan, turning it upside down onto a plate.