Grand Aioli is a pretty easy new year’s meal customary in France. I’m thinking not many have tried it around here. I’ve never had the tradition of serving corned beef and saurkraut for the new year. Since I learned about aioli, the colorful, varying textures and free-form style of the meal appeals to me more and really feels like a celebration.
A true Grand Aioli includes the garlic mayonnaise (“aioli”), and a lot of things to be eaten with it. It is customary to have boiled salt cod or other poached fish, boiled chunks of beef, chickpeas, hard boiled eggs, and lots of stewed/boiled vegetables including potatoes. You can see that this is a meal that gives you a lot of freedom. I decided to make a vegetarian version since I didn’t have any meat thawed, and I haven’t seen salt cod for sale here for several years. I served it with tofu. We definitely missed the meat and fish, but it was still beautiful, fun to eat, and satisfying.
To make the aioli, start with a fresh egg yolk and 4 or 5 cloves of garlic. Smash the garlic and egg yolk together in a bowl with a pounder or a mortar and pestle if you have one. Add about a half teaspoon of salt and blend well till it’s a thick paste. Now you can add a couple teaspoons of bread crumbs or mashed potatoes to help keep it thick. (This is optional.) Now, make an emulsion by adding a cup of good olive oil teaspoonful by teaspoonful, blending thoroughly after each addition. This can also be done in a blender or food processor, but I just use a bowl. It’s very important to add the oil slowly, especially at first.
When half the oil is added, stir in two teaspoons of lemon juice. As you proceed, you can add the oil a little faster, but always blend thoroughly after each addition. I have had a lot of trouble achieving an emulsion in the past. When that happens, you will have a curdled but delicious runny garlicy olive oil dip. This time I took a tip from a cookbook which said if it doesn’t form an emulsion, start again with a second egg yolk and add the broken sauce gradually as before. It worked beautifully.
The rest of the meal is whatever you have and choose to present. Boiled potatoes are sort of essential. Carrots and beets are great for their color and taste. I didn’t have green beans frozen (only canned), and I didn’t want the dull color. But steamed or quickly boiled green beans are traditional too, as are hard boiled eggs, cauliflower, celery and chickpeas. You will use your organizing skills in figuring out how to get all the items boiled just right and ready at the same time.
Arrange it all on a nice platter and pass with the aioli. Enjoy a glass of wine and some good bread!