Sometimes, you’ll be shocked to learn, I get a little delusional about what constitutes a sensible plan for entertaining guests at dinner. I’m particularly prone to such moments of overreach on weeknights, when everything seems to take a little longer than it should… or at least more time than I have time for. And yet… the siren song of Thursday night remains strong. Everyone’s always so busy–and in the summer, just plain GONE–that we’d never see anyone at all if we waited for a free Saturday night. At this point, then, I try to work in at least one weeknight dinner every couple of weeks.
So, it should be no surprise that I found myself slightly behind schedule and pissily having to rebeat my aïoli minutes before my guests were to arrive last Thursday at, oh, 7:45. It seemed like a good idea that morning, though,… make an aïoli, the garlicky Provencal mayonnaise of super deliciousness, and provide everyone with a variety of tasty things to dip in it. How much work could that be?
Rawther a lot, it turns out. Even though I elected not to produce the side of boiled beef or platters of escargot that are among the traditional aïoli accompaniments, I still found myself somewhat in the weeds with a roast chicken, baked cod, hard-boiled eggs, baby potatoes, roasted beets, green beans, chicken sausages, salumi, cocktail onions, and a variety of crudite all in various stages of (un)readyness by the time Mr. T came home from work.
He was, as is often the case, somewhat appalled when he came home to find me elbow deep in several different heaps of roughage, but our guests were–providentially–slightly late and when they did arrive, were gratifyingly hungry. All the same, I might save this particular dish for lazy weekends from now on. The whole production rather lends itself more to a languorous al fresco nibbling of tidbits cloaked in the rich and pungent sauce accompanied by copious amounts of decisively chilled white wine.
Yield: ~3 1/2 c (serves 6-8, depending on accompaniments)
12 plump cloves garlic
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 egg yolks
2 tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 c light peanut oil
1 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon
Peel the garlic and slice into whisper-thin batons. Combine in the bowl of a food processor with the salt, pepper, egg yolks and mustard. Process until completely smooth–you’ll need to scrape down the bowl a few times.
In a 2 cup liquid measure, combine the oils. With the motor on, slowly pour a very thin stream of oil into the food processor. The mixture should emulsify and come together into a thick, pale mass. As you pour, you may begin to add the oil a little more quickly. Adding all of the oil should take about a little under two minutes. Don’t let it go too long or the heat of the machine will cause the aïoli to break.
Pulse in the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon to taste. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Serve with a variety of vegetables, meats, and seafood prepared for dipping. Here’s what I prepared for six–that left not a whole lot of leftovers:
1 3 1/2lb roast chicken
1 lb cod filet
3/4 lb chicken sausage
6 oz salami
4 carrots, peeled & cut in batons
1 cucumber, scrubbed & cut in batons
4 ribs celery rinsed & cut in batons
4 tomatoes, cut in wedges
6 hard-boiled eggs, halved
6 small beets, roasted & cut in wedges
1 lb green beans, blanched
1 1/2 lbs baby potatoes, steamed & halved
8oz red radishes, halved
(If the aïoli should break, like mine did, start over in a clean bowl with one egg yolk, and gradually whisk the broken aïoli into the bowl by hand–a workout, but worth it.)