The first time I tried to make aioli (a.k.a. garlic mayonnaise), a couple of years ago, the mixture never thickened. I was left with a big, messy bowl of soupy, garlic-flavored egg yolk and oil and a heavy feeling of failure. But that earlier defeat only heightened my sense of triumph at creating a truly delicious, perfectly balanced, lemon aioli last weekend!
I had always suspected that my first attempt failed because I had not drizzled the oil in slowly enough to allow for the emulsion to form properly so this time I made sure to pour the oil into the food processor in a tiny, steady stream. Et voilą, a mere three minutes later — a lovely bowl of golden deliciousness.
I had planned to roast some beets and potatoes to dip in this dangerously addictive sauce and decided at the last minute to steam some asparagus, too, since the local offerings have been so tasty these last few weeks — my little way of tipping my hat to spring.
The combination of the sweet, earthy beets, crispy, salty potatoes and the fresh umami (which is Japanese for “pleasant savory taste”) of the asparagus with the lemon aioli is, well, awesome.
While none of these components is particularly time-consuming or challenging to assemble, there is a fair amount of slicing and dicing involved, as well as some roasting time. But you could easily just do one or two of the veggies with the aioli if you’re in a rush.
Next: The recipe
Lemon Aioli With Roasted Beets, Perfect Oven Fries & Steamed Asparagus
For the aioli:
1. Begin by roasting the beets. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the scrubbed, trimmed beets in a generous pouch of tinfoil, drizzle them with olive oil and fold the foil over them to form a neat, enclosed little package. Place the package on a baking sheet (preferably one you do not care overmuch about as it may end up getting some charred beet juice baked on to it — another reason not to skimp with the tinfoil — I actually used two layers this time around), place it on the rack and bake for 40-60 minutes, until the beets are tender when poked with a fork. When they’re done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool, then slip the skins off with your fingers or a knife and slice them into rounds (or whatever shape appeals to you.)
2. Once the beets are in the oven, it’s time to turn your attention to the oven fries. Follow this recipe — it’s from “Cook’s Illustrated” and it never fails to produce the most perfect oven fries you could imagine.
Toss the garlic cloves, mustard and egg yolks into the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth. With the motor running, begin to pour in the oil in a steady, thin stream — resist the temptation to pour it in quickly — the slow, steady addition is essential to allowing the emulsion to form. Continue to pour until all the oil has been added. You should see the mixture “gel” and become mayo-like during the process. Add white pepper and salt to taste and pulse a few times to incorporate the seasonings. Remove the aioli from the bowl, place it in a glass container with an airtight lid and put it in the fridge while you get the rest of the meal ready.
* Please note that since aioli contains raw egg, you should not feed it to infants, the elderly or anyone with a compromised immune system due to the risk of salmonella. Also, you should keep it refrigerated and plan to use it up quickly.
4. Place an inch or two of water in the bottom of a steamer pot and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus (heads up) to the pot and steam for 2-3 minutes, just until bright green and slightly tender. While they’re steaming, prepare a bowl of ice water that is large enough to hold all the asparagus. Once the asparagus are done, remove them from the steamer and plunge them into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Then drain and gently pat dry with a kitchen towel.
5. Arrange the oven fries, beet slices and asparagus spears on a platter and serve with the lemon aioli.
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