man aioli

It’s Friday, lets talk food.

I have been a fan of food for a while.  Not only eating but also the preparation of food ever since my scouting days as the camp cook.  It is not enough for me to just enjoy something if that something speaks to me in a transcendental way, bugs me on a metaphorical level, or if I think it is an important thing for the benefit of God’s covenant family.  I want to know how to produce this thing so that it can be shared.   There has been a real boom in my exposure to recipes lately, mainly supplemented by my beloved wife being on bedrest for the past 8-weeks+.  During this period I have also become exposed to cable television and the Internet for the first time in a long time and this has encouraged me to cook and experiment.  I have recently discovered a great fondness for the aroma of olive oil hitting a warm pan – this smell is biblical.  And I have received the revelation of the condiment featured herein.

José Andrés, a master of Spanish cuisine and proponent of socialism, has enjoyed some recent popularity in the states and has shown the New York Times’ Mark Bittman how to make what he called “man aioli.” I like that name – It brings a sparkle to my eye and I don’t know what else to call it so like all good recipes, I stole it and tweeked it alittle so that I can reproduce it in my kitchen.  Our kitchen.  Aioli is of course Italian and is basically an emulsion.  Some would call it a mayonnaise.  But what sets man aioli apart is the lack of the addition of an egg.  Andrés insists, in his rather arrogant manner, that to add an egg is to make the whole process far to easy and compromise the final perfection of this very traditional condiment that is a dying art form. 

You must have a mortar & pestle. My sister from another mister, Micah the girl, got me one as a gift and I am so glad I didn’t toss it because I cherish it now.  Though, I wish it were a bit bigger and made out of volcanic stone like a molcajete.

Back to Bittman: although I think this was a case of gratuitous abuse of a gringo, Andrés has his guest spend a full thirty minutes mashing away at garling cloves under the Spanish sun, whilst gussling copious amounts of wine,  in a mortar with the periodic additon of the finest extra virgin olive oil (olive oil).  Not too much oil or the emulsion will break and your work is lost.  Thus rendering an extremeley powerful spread. A little goes a long way.  I think between the laborious attention to the pounding and the powerful flavor is were Andrés derives his name for the dressing.

Eley Aioli ~ come on, say it three times fast…I triple dog dare you

I’ll share with you my garlic prep technique.  I’ll grab the whole head and smash it against the board with the heel of my hand.  Not hard enough to break the whole thing apart, just hard enough to feel a few cloves loosen.  Then I just punch with my thumb to break a few cloves loose ‘paper’ and all.  I discard the really paper outer layer.  Now you have a sealed clove.  Lay it flat side down on your board and hover your knife over the clove with the blade facing away from you. Hold your free hand over the blade with your fingers straight out or splayed clear of the blade.  with your free hand, give the blade a bump or two with the heel of your hand until you wee the seal crack.  The clove should pop clean of the outer layer.  At this point I do a little knife work to make it easy on myself later on.  Unless I planning on slicing the garlic thin, I just use the knife to schmash the clove into a mince.  I could be a bit anal here and point out that crushing the cells of the garlice realeases more oils than cuttiing, but one could aregue that those oils are being mashed onto the board and we’re about to mash the garlic into a paste anyway.

Add the minced garlic to the mortar. I put a little kosher salt (salt that felt no pain when it was made) in to aid in the grindage.  You can also add pepper, parpika (pepper), or other dry spices but in honor of Andrés’ dogmatic enthuiasm I keep it minimal.  Start to pound and stir with the pestle.  Add some olive oil. Mash, pound , and stir. A touch more oil.  This can take as long as you like.  I tend to go for about 2-3 minutes until my man aioli is rendered to perfection.  The aroma is epiphanal. 

Smchear it on your bread for a sandwich. Or spread it onto toastable bread, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and parsley, pop under the broiler for a couple of minutes and enjoy the best garlic bread you’ve ever had.  Someone will get slapped.

Another slighty fancy alterantive that takes a bit of the bite out of the garlic is to roast the whole head in the oven first. 

I have been known to keep my man aioli, resting in the mortar, in the fridge for up to 24-hours.  It usually doesn’t last that long.



~ by Aaron W Eley on 4 April 2008.

One Response to “man aioli”

  1. Dude, I share the whole “big brother I never had” sentiment all the way, but I have to tell you that the “sister from another mister” label makes me a bit squiffy. I think it’s cause it rhymes.

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