Sunday, June 01, 2008

Agony with Aioli: Four Failed Attempts

I just wasted two cups of EVOO, four eggs, and 18 cloves of garlic and all I've got to show for it is an elevated blood pressure. If any of you can point out where I went wrong, I'd certainly appreciate it (as will other readers). This confession won't impress most chefs, but I hope that other foodies will benefit from my mistakes.It all started with Karen cooking up zucchini fritters (from a low-carb recipe). It included a recipe for garlic aioli dip. Since the baby kept diverting Karen from the kitchen, I volunteered to make the aioli, figuring that slowly drizzling olive oil into egg yolks couldn't be that hard.

With the first attempt, I put two egg yolks in the blender with six cloves of minced garlic (salt/pepper) and beat it up real good. Then, slowly drizzled a cup of olive oil in with the motor running. After a minute or two, all I had was soup, no mayonnaisey fluff. Grrrr.

Karen said that I should try again with the food processor and we both reckoned that we didn't need a whole recipe. So, I took out the cuise (pronounced: kweeze) and halfed the ingredients. Right off the bat, the s-blade in the food-pro would not touch the yolk/garlic. They just lay below the spinning blade. Grrrrr. I took the stuff out and put it into the smaller bowl that came with the same machine. Same result. No contact with the blade. Obviously, I wasn't using enough product. Maybe adding the olive oil would help. Half a cup later, all I had was soup.

Karen volunteered to make it in a bowl with a whisk. New egg and garlic. She beat it while I drizzed the EVOO. Then we switched until our arms were tired. Again, no fluff. We were both livid and needed to take a breath and walk away.

I tried the blender again, with the half proportions. At first the stuff started to turn a lighter shade of yellow and it was thickening and then it just turned into two layers with the oil whirling around on top of the egg/garlic... face turning red, curse words, but luckily no appliances got thrown through any windows. Instead, we both had a cold beer and pulled out a jar of mayo and said FUCK IT.

Now that I have some hindsight, I'm sure there's a logical explanation, but I'm still too mad to see straight. So, I'm turning to my online commisserators. Whats the lesson here?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. sounds frustrating--a couple of guesses you may have already thought of--
    1. ingredients need to be at room temp (esp the egg)
    2.there is usually an acid combined with the yolks to start, ie vinegar and/or lemon juice
    3. slow and steady w/ the oil, a tablespoon at a time while blending--wait for it to emulsify before adding the oil in a slow stream
    4. once thickened, add the rest of your acid
    I hope this helps. I've made a lot of mayo milk shakes too.

  3. Temperature is an interesting variable. Yesterday was HOT, making the oil really warm, but he eggs were plucked from the fridge and straight into the whisking. The recipe called for lemon juice, but it was to be added at the end. Hmmm... Still not convinced that this wasn't a supernatural vexing akin to the trials of Job. Keep the suggestions coming.

  4. I modified the lemon juice thing b/c I noticed you were using a blender. You are right--usually, when making aioli, lemon juice is added at the end to thin the aioli-- not half up front and half at the end like when making mayo. But, I have noticed that when using a blender for aioli and not a wooden spoon, the EVOO can become bitter from being overworked in the blender. Adding a lemon juice up front is a preventative. But, you really can't discount the alignment of the solar system and Biblical curses when making this stuff.

  5. I can identify with this. I had had one success only before. I heard the best way to make aioli is with a mortar and pestle (Zuni Cafe). It could be a two person team and takes about 45 minutes to complete. Lydia from Perfect pantry just had a post about it. Patience...grasshopper...

  6. Forgot to post the link :

  7. I've got a big ol' mortar and pestle, but 45 MINUTES!!!! Awwww hell nawww!

    Okay, minor tantrum spillover from my bad break-up with the one called aioli. Mmmmm, I guess I want the one I can't have.

    Seriously though, I used EVOO. Maybe I should just used veg or grapeseed, etc. Still welcoming plausible explanations to this little riddle.

  8. I would second Genevelyn's comments, and add that the wisk and containers need to be free of any moisture (clean right befor using with vinegar and salt rub on a paper towel)
    also adding an emulsifier such as mustard makes it go a little easier.
    I like to make mine with a hand blender 2 egg yolks room temp, lime juice and mustard and oil slowly added (actually doesn't have to be super slow). Once it gets going I add the garlic and salt and continue to add the oil.

  9. ummm I am lost... but i do like the part where you crack open beers and say fuck it!!

  10. I have no advice, but can definitely empathize with you. This is the type of thing that could easily happen to me.

  11. Salt?

    Ruhlman may help.. I use the Penelope Casas aioli formulation..

  12. Anonymous10:56 AM

    You can use a blender, but the garlic must be prepared in the mortar and pestle. It should be crushed to a paste, not minced. That should make the difference for you, as it will bind better with the egg and oil.

  13. Smooth out the garlic first. Got it (although I'm pretty sure the blender accomplished that, but not the foodpro or the whisk, doh!). Maybe even add it after the oil starts to whip in AND I'd even get a chance to take my own advice and use the hand blender (thx bacongrease). I'm seriously thinking of attempting it again tonight.

    That Ruhlman post is very pretty. Is the mayo process exactly the same as aioli? Is this debate making anyone else hungry? I'm bout ready for a BLT with aioli (that rhymes - morningstar farms bacon, of course).

  14. Wow. I've never tried aioli. The closest I got was a balsamic salad dressing when I went to the Boar's Head cooking class. And it took forever with a whisk! We used an egg yolk and slowly whisked in the evoo (two person job!) and then slowly added the vinegar. I've tried it a couple of times at home. I have this big whisk with another round whisk-like ball inside it and then a ball bearing inside of that. I found it at The Compleat Gourmet in Carytown. Best whisk I have ever had. Don't give up, once you get it right, you have bragging rights!

  15. Realized I needed some aioli for a dish this weekend. Rushed here to reread this post. Nope, not going to do. Need to practice this, not for whipping out with guests coming. Picked up some garlic aioli at Fresh Market. Unloading groceries at home spotted the expiration date - 5 days ago. Damn. It's a long drive from Battery Park back to Fresh Market, especially with $140 a barrel oil. Called first. They pulled all the aioli and found one that hadn't expired. Drove back out and got it. So, all told - time, energy, gas, aggravation - shoulda made it myself.


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