Ugh, artichokes. At some point, I espoused my philosophy–“Artichokes: Not Worth It”–and then slightly changed my tune when I stuffed them with breadcrumbs and cheese and baked them. That was in 2013. Now it’s 2015, and here I am in the kitchen with four artichokes that I bought at the West Hollywood Farmer’s market (sadly my CSA is taking a break) and I’m acting all cocky, like: “I can tackle these, no problem.” The goal is to trim them down so I can slice them and fry them in olive oil. I don’t know where I go wrong, but before I know it, my cutting board looks like this….
Jimmy Fallon likens it to pus. Last night at dinner, the idea of it made Craig’s cousin Katie scrunch up her face in disgust. And me? I used to have nightmares about this female camp counsellor with a hairy lip who ate an egg salad sandwich with dabs of mayo stuck all along the perimeter of her lips. Just thinking about it now makes me cry a little on the inside.
What is it about mayonnaise that provokes such disgust and fear in so many people? And what can they do to get over it? Allow me to speak from personal experience.
Infomercials rarely inspire awe, and yet I vividly remember watching a commercial for a handblender–this was back in the 90s, I think–that showed a glass jar filled with eggs and oil; then the hand blender plunged in, the host pressed a button, and magically it became mayonnaise. It was like watching a David Copperfield special only better: while I couldn’t make the Statue of Liberty disappear, I could buy a handblender and make mayonnaise in a jar. The only catch: I hated mayonnaise. So a handblender I didn’t buy.
I promised I was done with my trip to Barcelona, but–as often happens when I travel abroad–I came home eager to cook my trip. Of all the things we ate during our ten days there, two dishes were immediate candidates for the Amateur Gourmet treatment: frittata & aioli.
The other night I made a stew (post to come later in the week) but I started too late: it wouldn’t be ready until 10:30. “10:30?” yelped Craig. “But I’m starving.” It was 8 when he said this.
I sprung to action. In a plastic bag on the table was a head of purple cauliflower I bought at the farmer’s market on Friday. It cost $3. I cut it into bite-size pieces and put it on a platter. Then I made aioli.
Well, to be honest, I made two bad attempts at aioli and then I finally–thank the Lord–made aioli. Here’s the technique I perfected:
Take a egg yolk and put it in a BIG bowl. Take a clove of garlic and put it through a garlic press. I almost never use a garlic press, but for aioli it works better (at least based on my attempts) because the garlic gets pulverized. Put the garlic in the bowl with the yolk, add some salt and pepper, and then grab a whisk. Here’s where it gets tricky. Whisk all of that together and then, as carefully as you can, put one single drop of olive oil in the bowl. Whisk that in. Then do another drop. Whisk again. Go drop by drop and the aioli will stay thick. You want it to look like mayo: if it breaks down into oil and solids you’ve messed up. But my third try rewarded my patience: I went drop by drop and then I advanced to the barest trickle. Eventually I had the aioli you see above and it was terrific.
So as your loved ones get cranky next time you’re cooking, whip up some aioli and have a purple cauliflower ready. To quote Escoffier, “You can never go wrong with purple cauliflower and aioli. Bitch.”