Oh Aioli!

The Fearless Cooking Club challenge for March are eggs. Eggs are so spring-like and so versatile. You can use just the yolk, the whites or both. Eggs can be whipped, sautéed, baked, scrambled, fried, poached, boiled, and emulsified and be put into almost any dish. And eggs are everywhere these days. The March edition of Cooking Light  focused on comfort foods had a fried egg on top of many recipes. And on Worst Cooks in America, Chef Anne Burrell had the contestants pattern a diner dish she made with French Fries a cheese sauce and a fried egg atop.

Last summer I was was watching From Spain with Love  on The Cooking Channel when I saw a chef make garlic mayonnaise with an immersion blender. The concoction was whipped together in less than a minute. I was flabbergasted that this blender could be used for more than pureeing soup in a pot. So I knew I had to have one.

I did get an immersion blender for Christmas and I love it. And because my inspiration was aioli I had to make it for this egg challenge. Aioli  (alhòli) comes from Provençal alh ‘garlic’ (< Latin allium) + òli ‘oil’ (< Latin oleum) = garlic oil.

As with my last challenge of making macarons which had four ingredients, the key was to master the technique for a fabulous end product; aioli is the same, all about technique.

I scoured cookbooks and websites on how to make aioli and oh my goodness there are a lot of versions. As a result I went through a lot of garlic, olive oil and eggs. I bet I made 5-6 batches of aioli.

I started with Julia Child Mastering the Art of French Cooking I and II. Julia had several aioli recipe versions which were all to be whipped by hand. She started with a piece of stale bread soaked in milk and combined the garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle. She then added the eggs and hand whipped all the while slowly drizzing in 1 -1 1/2 cups of olive oil.

Then I moved onto the internet and watched videos of hand whipping and immersion blender techniques of making aioli. I took the techniques from each chef and incorporated them into what would work for me. Finally, I found the recipe that tasted the best and would allow me to use my immersion blender.  The Wishful Chef Homemade Garlic Mayonnaise recipe was perfect and the right combination for me.

Patty’s Points on Technique:

1. Eggs. Okay yes mayonnaise uses raw egg yolks at room temperature. If you are squeamish make sure you: a) buy fresh eggs, b) wash the exterior shell, and c) coddle the egg. To coddle an egg for this recipe you place the whole egg in shell into a pot of boiling water for one minute. Remove the egg, crack  and separate the yolk from the partially cooked white.

2. Oil. Most of the recipes I read said not to use extra virgin olive oil but you use regular olive oil. Many recipes also advised to use two kinds of oil, like olive oil with cannola or grape seed oil to temper the strong taste of olive oil.

3. Garlic. The garlic clove must be minced and mashed into a past with the salt to extract the garlic oils. I saw techniques using a good chopping knife or a mortar and pestle. I used the knife method and it took awhile to mash it into a paste. I will probably invest in a mortar and pestle because it probably would’ve been easier.

4. Temperature. All the ingredients must be at room temperature or slightly warmed for the emulsion of liquid to mayonnaise to occur.

5. Taste. The unfortunate part of making mayonnaise is that you really can’t tell what it tastes like until it is completed. My second batch had great texture, but it tasted bad so I threw it out. I made a cilantro aioli (in the picture above) that called for 1/4 cup of lime juice. That much lime juice overpowered the recipe and gave it a harsh taste. I couldn’t taste the garlic, oil or cilantro.

6. Serving. This was probably my biggest challenge. I made a condiment and what do I serve it with? Below is a picture of my first batch which tasted good but was really runny. I served it with asparagus and panko crusted shrimp. Julia Child served aioli by placing it into a Garlic Soup or a Fish Stew. The Fish Stew was very good, the Garlic Soup was a little too thin of a broth for my tastes. I’ve also seen recipes that put it on sandwiches, just like any old mayonnaise, but more flavorful.

Today I may serve my aioli with a vegetable or sweet potato chips as in the picture above or with some fresh asparagus and just use it as a dip.

Fearless but exhausted over making mayonnaise.

My next post will be the pictures of the Fearless Cookers dishes at the Eggs-travaganza Dinner.

Paella Paella

I never had so much fun in my own backyard as I did with the August 2011 edition of The Fearless Cooking Club. We celebrated the Spanish culture and the heat of the summer by making paella.

Before diving into the education of paella, we made sangria, also a Spanish party ingredient.

So the Fearless Cooks watched the Alton Brown video on how to make Paella from his Food Network show Good Eats. I am a big fan of Alton Brown as he mixes chemistry with how-to humor.  Here he is viewing saffron under the microscope.

To summarize, paella in the Spanish culture, is the pan and the dish. It comes from the Roman and Moor influences.  Paella is an outdoor cooking event perfect for a sunny summer day.

My husband also watched the video and decided that our fire pit would be the perfect place to make the paella.

 The pan is flat and is ideally cooked over charcoal grill. The rice is a shorter grain. I discovered on the video that the Bomba rice I chose is a “boutique” Spanish variety of rice.

Paella is a great group event to watch step by step with each ingredient added to the pan. First, we heat the olive oil in the pan.

Next, we added boneless chicken thighs browning 5 minutes on each side.

After each ingredient is cooked in the center of the pan, it gets pushed to the outer edges.

 Breaking from Alton’s recipe, we added fresh chorizo, then peppers with garlic. We skipped the green beans and added chopped onions instead; then the crushed tomatoes.

The star of the dish, of course, is the rice, added in the center and cooked in the juices for 2-3 minutes then evenly distributed throughout the pan.

Hot chicken broth is added directly onto the rice, using a tea kettle. Every 10 minutes, we checked the rice and added more broth, keeping the rice moist.

We had shrimp for the paella, but grilled it separately and not until the paella was near completion.

The dish was done when the rice was cooked through by tasting the rice, which took about 30 minutes.

The guys thought the paella was great. It felt a little like camping.

The Fearless Cooks toasted to our accomplishment.

For dessert we had a fruit tart and Char made flan, a Tyler Florence recipe.  We also celebrated my birthday which made the day all the sweeter.

The inspiration for making a Spanish dish came from my daughter, who is currently in Spain with her classmates and youth from all over the world. They are gathering in Madrid this next week to celebrate their faith at World Youth Day. Salud!