It seems nearly three million years ago, but when I was 18 years old, I spent part of the summer after graduating from high school as an exchange student in France. The experience was less about learning the language — of which I had rudimentary basics from a high school student’s point of view — and more about summer life in France. The family I lived with owned a home on the Côte d’Azur and life there was easy going. Even as an 18 year old, I could see the value in the relaxed way the adults had when entertaining. One memorable meal was a Grand Aioli, a platter of blanched vegetables, shrimp, and hard boiled eggs which everyone dragged through a creamy, garlicky aioli sauce. We sipped rosé, ate with our fingers, and spoke about the world. Dinner was leisurely and all about enjoying the conversation and the sounds of the sea.
Prepare Grand Aioli several hours before and chill until ready to serve. There are two keys to this version which prevent the sauce from breaking while keeping to the classic. First, prepare aioli with a whole egg to bind the sauce. Second, use a more stable oil for the first part of sauce preparation, like grape seed oil. Finish by hand whisking extra virgin olive oil to get the classic flavor profile.
Grand Aioli Platter Recipe
1 pound baby purple potatoes
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
3 eggs, hard boiled for 10 minutes, peeled and halved
10 ounces large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left on
2 heads baby lettuce, cut into 1/8ths
3 Persian cucumbers, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
1 bunch small radishes, cleaned and trimmed
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
Prepare ice water bath in large bowl to blanche and cool vegetables.
Place potatoes in medium pot and cover with cold water. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer potatoes to ice water bath with slotted spoon and chill for about 5 minutes. Pat dry.
In another medium pot, bring water to boil. Add green beans and cook on medium simmer for 3 minutes until crisp tender. Using slotted spoon, transfer beans to ice water bath. Chill about 5 minutes, remove and pat dry.
Bring water from green bean pot to boil. Place eggs on long handled spoon and lower gently into water. Cook for 10 minutes. Transfer eggs to ice water bath. Peel before serving and slice in half lengthwise.
Bring water in pot to boil and add shrimp, simmering until it turns pink, about 4 minutes. Transfer to ice water bath with slotted spoon and chill for 5 minutes. Remove and pat dry.
To serve, arrange vegetables, shrimp and eggs on platter. Spoon enough aioli to serve into small bowl. The remainder can be stored as per below.
1 large egg
6 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place egg, chopped garlic, and lemon juice in immersion blender cup. Pour grape seed oil on top of ingredients and let settle for 15 seconds. Blend with immersion blender for about 15 seconds, or until ingredients are emulsified. Do not over blend.
Scrape egg mixture into a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle olive oil into mixture and whisking constantly, incorporate olive oil into egg mixture, making sure all oil is absorbed before adding more. Salt and pepper to taste. Will keep refrigerated in covered container for two weeks.
Prep Note: whipping up aioli doesn’t have to wear out your arm muscles by whisking every droplet of an entire cup of olive oil into the egg-lemon juice-garlic mixture. By beginning with a more stable oil like grape seed oil, there will be less chance the emulsion will break. Regular olive oil will react the same way, but reserve the extra virgin olive oil for adding that bite of flavor to the sauce.
And as to using a whole egg, the recipes go both ways. Traditionalists insist it is not a classic aioli if there is any egg at all, realists, including many restaurants these days, believe in the egg’s binding benefits.
*Aioli adapted from SeriousEats.com