What is Aioli and How Should I Use It?

flickr/muyyumIt's all over menus - aioli this, aioli that. In the past few years, aioli started to become all the rage in restaurants and it's still holding its ground today. But what exactly is aioli? So few people actually know, but love it anyway because it has the same endearing traits of mayonnaise - it's silky, indulgent texture adds depth to any burger or vegetable. But despite their many similarities, aioli is something entirely different from mayo, and it's time to understand why.

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Traditionally, aioli is made by using a mortar and pestle, although today most people use a bowl and whisk to get it done. In addition to the three main ingredients, Dijon mustard and lemon juice often find their way into the elegant sauce as well. The first step of making aioli is to mix together the garlic, egg yolk, Dijon, and lemon juice, and then slowly drizzle in the oil until a smooth, thick substance forms. Arm strength is key when making aioli, for the faster you whisk, the better emulsified it becomes.

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While the basic aioli recipe is all about garlic, many variations have been created throughout the condiment's history. The addition of smoky, adobo chipotle chiles make it the perfect condiment to a Latin American feast, while adding fresh herbs like chopped rosemary or oregano transform it from a mere cousin of mayonnaise to a sophisticated component of a seafood dish. Some chefs have even been known to play around with the types of oils to evoke differing tastes. Its versatility makes it a great addition to just about anything, which is why we see it in so many places. Here are some of my favorite ways to use aioli:

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Turkey burgers

The often bland flavor of a turkey burger is immediately elevated with the addition of a classic garlic or spicy aioli.

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French fries

The pairing of aioli and french fries is what makes french fries such a common standalone dish today. The best part? The fried starch goes well with just about any flavor of aioli, so it's a great way to play around with different versions.

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Aioli Recipe

A traditional French sauce, similar to a mayonnaise, that is made from garlic and olive oil.

INGREDIENTS
2 large egg yolks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice, preferably Meyer lemon juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the egg yolks and garlic. Process until light and smooth.

With the motor running, begin adding the oil through the feed tube in a very slow stream, just until the mixture begins to hold and thicken. Then, add the oil in a faster stream, making sure that it is continuously incorporated. Add the lemon juice and pulse just until blended in. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The mixture should be the consistency of a thick mayonnaise. If too thick, loosen with a bit of cold water. Serve immediately.

Recipe Details
Servings: 8

The uses of aioli go on and on, and as long as you know the basics of what it is and how to make it, the possibilities are endless. Paprika, saffron, lime - you name it, and you can probably make an aioli with it. With such flexibility and great flavor, it's no wonder aioli is so widely used in the culinary world today.

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-Anne Dolce, The Daily Meal