AIOLI WITH STEAMED ASPARAGUS

by Sue
(New York)

Every summer, celebrate with a Grand Aioli.


What’s a Grand Aioli? Nothing more than a giant potluck, really. In Provence, whole towns come together to celebrate the various saints of the villages; a grand aioli might also be served in winter, for Christmas Eve or New Year’s.

Aioli (from the words ail – garlic – and oli, the Provencal word for oil) is both the sauce, and the celebration. T

raditionally, the women make the aioli sauce while the men prepare the rest of the feast. Fishermen bring their catch; farmers might contribute potatoes and vegetables, lamb and chicken. The village baker would bring some baguettes. The point is to use locally available products, and add whatever you enjoy.

The aioli itself — really a garlic mayonnaise — is the key, and its success depends on the very best olive oil.

FOR THE AIOLI:

1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and slightly crushed
2 egg yolks (at room temperature)
pinch coarse sea salt
2 cups extra virgin olive oil (at room temperature)
1-2 teaspoons water

In a marble mortar with a heavy pestle, pound the garlic and salt together into a paste. Add egg yolks and stir until they are light in color.

Slowly, drop by drop, begin to incorporate the olive oil, turning the pestle constantly. As the mixture begins to thicken, add the oil a little faster, always turning the pestle.

When it is quite thick (this could take up to 45 minutes!), add the water to loosen it. Continue mixing until the oil is completely mixed in. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

WHILE THE AIOLI IS CHILLING, MAKE THE ASPARAGUS: Trim 2 lbs of asparagus spears; if the stalks are thick, peel them with a vegetable peeler. In a large saucepan, bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil. Add a good sprinkling of salt, and the asparagus. Cover, and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately remove the asparagus and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Then, drain and dry the asparagus, and set out on a platter with the aioli sauce in a bowl for dipping.

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