Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Confessions: Short Cut Aioli

Confession #1: Some of my bloggy buddies describe me as a "foodie". I am not comfortable with this designation for the simple reason that it implies the sort of person who is snotty and smug about food, who looks down her nose at anyone who doesn't use all fresh and natural (and preferably) exotic ingredients at all times; a person who regards cooking and dining as an extreme sport and pities those who haven't the culinary skill or highly advanced taste buds that she so clearly does.

I'm not like that.

I love food. I love to talk about it, read about it, write about it. I love to cook it and I really love to eat it. But I'm not a foodie.

I'm not a gourmet, either. Here's how our friends at Houghton Mifflin define the term:
gour·met n. A connoisseur of fine food and drink.

[French, from Old French, alteration (influenced by gourmand, glutton) of groumet, servant, valet in charge of wines, from Middle English grom, boy, valet.]

Usage Note: A gourmet is a person with discriminating taste in food and wine, as is a gourmand. Because gourmand can also mean "one who enjoys food in great quantities" or even "a gluttonous eater," care should be taken to make clear its intended sense. An epicure is much the same as a gourmet, but the word may sometimes carry overtones of excessive refinement. This use of epicure is a misrepresentation of Epicurean philosophy, which, while it professed that pleasure was the highest good, was hardly given to excessive concern with food and drink.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Now it's true that owing to a past relationship with a very handsome oenophile, I can tell the difference between a Bordeaux, a Burgundy and a Rhone. I enjoy a nice glass of wine. But I'm also perfectly happy with our house wine, 3 Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's.

And yes, it's probably fair to say that I'm somewhat discriminating about food. Although, as I sat here trying to think up an example, I kept remembering the Velveeta and chili dip that we eat at Dave's when watching baseball games and thought, "Yeah, maybe not so much on the discriminating thing, either".

So I'm not a foodie, a gourmet, an epicure or even a gourmand (I'm drawn to the notion that a gourmand differs from a gourmet in being more focus on the pleasures of the table than parsing what's on it but the glutton connotation is repugnant. Gluttony is one of the worst of the deadly sins in my view; pigging out prohibits savoring and savoring leads to gratitude and gratitude leads on to other joyous things, like blessing and conviviality and satisfaction. Yeah, certainly not a gourmand).

I know people are exceeding fond of labels and there's not much one can do to prevent it. But my epitaph should read: "She liked to cook". That would be enough.

Confession #2) I am all about the short-cuts.

The day I discovered Martha Stewart's recipe for making pate brisee in a food processor was like Independence Day. No more fussing with a pastry cutter? Sign me up!

Last night, I took another short-cut, and it did what short-cuts do, get me quicker to the place I want to be. And because I can get there more quickly, I'll now go there more often. I'm talking about aiolï, people.

This might not even be a revelation to some. "Well, duh", could be the general response. But see, I used to make my aiolï with a mortar and pestle, just like it said in At Home in Provence. Because Pat Wells is not a fussy cook and if she made hers in a mortar and pestle then that must be the way it's to be done.

But it was hard. It was messy. (I couldn't ever do it without splashing vast quantities of olive oil everywhere. Eeww). And I was never particularly pleased with the results. Maybe just because I had such a bad attitude by the end of the experience that it jaded my taste buds.

Consequently, I only made aiolï once a year, to go with our Bastille Day boullaibaise and then it took me another 12 months to get over my irritation at the process.

Well, last night, when it was time to belly up to the mortar and pestle (a very nice marble one, too, which I like so much every other day of the year) and began reviewing the recipe with a cold clutch at my heart I thought, "Screw it. There's no reason I can't do this in a food processor".

So I did.

And it worked. It worked perfectly well. And the aiolï was one of the best I've ever made, thick and yellow, perfectly garlicky with a nice hint of the olive oil but not too olive oil-y. (My mortar/pestle version always seemed to be too much about the oil taste).

Not only was it spectacular on the soup, but The Child slathered it all over half a baguette and there weren't even any crumbs left when she was done. And now that I have made it easy on myself, there will always be aiolï, bestowing it's unction upon the lowliest of sandwiches or tarting up a simple soup. This makes me very happy.

Short-Cut Aiolï

6 fresh garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 t. fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 c. extra-virgin olive oil

Whiz the garlic and salt in a food processor until finely minced. Scrape the sides of the bowl

Add the egg yolks and whiz everything up again to combine and scrape the bowl again.

With the motor running, begin to drizzle in the oil, just a teaspoon or so at a time until it begins to incorporate into the egg-garlic mixture. When it starts to emulsify (you'll be able to tell because it will start looking like mayonnaise...which is what aiolï is, after all) gradually increase the stream of oil, pouring slowly and steadily into the mixture. When the last of the oil is in the food processor let it run just a few seconds longer to incorporate and stop the motor. The sauce should be thick and a sunny shade of yellow with no obvious oil slicks.

The sauce will keep, covered, in the fridge for a couple of days. Return to room temperature before serving.


Nicole said...

I think in French 'gourmand' is a little lighter than gluttonous -even if it did originally mean that. Like when it comes to chocolate I'm definitely gourmande but not at all gluttonous.

Anonymous said...

Hey there! heh heh, just popping in...oh my look at the time.
(dashes back to remedy blog label)

Lorraine said...

I fear, Nic, that it is a distinction I could only get away with in France. Where I do not live.

Hat, you just make me laugh and laugh and laugh...