"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
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--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Friday, August 1, 2008

Quick Aioli

While I was hanging out in the Sauces and Salsas section of the book making Tartar Sauce, I got to looking around, and wondered why I hadn't made more of the recipes back there. I love sauces, and in fact when I was working in the restaurants fancied myself something of a saucier, since I could whip up a beautiful batch of Hollandaise or an orange beurre blanc with my eyes closed.

A lot of the sauces in this section are perfect for beef, chicken or fish, but some of them are just brilliant with vegetables. Aioli is one of those sauces. It's all about the garlic, and I've made a blender version of it many times before--back in my early vegetarian days (and before I figured out what garlic does to your body odor). I made those aiolis following a recipe from one of the many Moosewood Cookbooks I had in my arsenal--Sundays at Moosewood, as I recall.

So I figured this recipe for Quick Aioli would be a piece of cake, and that it would be just the thing for the veggies I was determined to use before I got my next box of organic produce today:

Please note that the recipe on line calls for twice what the book does (actually it asks you to make two batches). So the idea is 1/4 cup of chopped garlic in a blender with 1 tsp. salt and 2 tbsp. of olive oil. You grind that up for two minutes, add your egg or two yolks, then start pouring the rest of your oil in slowly from the top. This is where the emulsification is supposed to happen, and the recipe says that this will produce something akin to mayonnaise.

Easy, right?


It didn't emulsify in the slightest, in fact it was broken, as you can see on the blender walls.

At this point I was thinking maybe I could fix it. Sauces will often break if there is too much fat in the mix, and you can sometimes save them if you whisk in a little warm water. So I did that, to no avail. Then I thought--well, I put in a whole egg instead of two yolks, and whenever I've made blender mayo I've always used just yolks--so maybe I should put in another yolk.

No help.

So here I decided that I must have screwed something up. Sometimes I eyeball measurements--I didn't actually fill a 1/4 cup measure with chopped garlic--I threw in what looked right. Were my eggs at exactly room temp? Maybe not quite. And maybe I didn't pour in the oil slowly enough.

So I poured Aoili #1 down the drain (goodbye, 1 cup of beautiful green extra virgin olive oil!) and determined to do it again, and do it right this time.

With Aioli #2, I followed the letter of the law, precisely. I measured out exactly 1/4 cup of chopped garlic (and was chagrined to see that it was about three times more than what I had estimated to be 1/4 cup earlier on). To blend the garlic, salt, and oil, I set the timer for exactly two minutes. My eggs were perfectly room temperature, and I only used the yolks. I measured out exactly 3/4 cup olive oil plus two tablespoons. And I poured that oil through the hole in the blender lid with excruciating slowness.

Readers, it was worse.

Look at that garbage in the blender. Look at it! Grrrr.

At this point (late in the evening, with two other diners waiting for me to finish my saucy experimentation) we decided that it would still taste garlicky, and who cares about appearances. I poured the aioli over both my grilled veggies and my hunk of toasted boule, and was satisfied that I would be able to terrorize my fellow karate students the next day with my fierce kicks AND my pungent aroma.

I still don't know what went wrong with this recipe, and I don't know whether to classify it under "cooking disasters" or "stupid recipes" (the former being disasters of MY making, the latter just being stupid recipes) so I think I'll put it under both.


John and Katie Flanagan said...

Teena had no trouble on this one, but it sound like you both followed the instructions.... I wonder if your eggs are a different size... Love the blog, by the way!

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

You know, somebody asked me if maybe the humidity was a factor...I just don't know! It's a mystery. But I haven't given up on this sauce and am thinking about trying it in a food processor, which has one of those pinholes through which you can pour oil at an extremely slow rate. I still think it must be my fault somehow, and the fact that Teena had no problem confirms it.

Thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading! :-)