Le Grand Aïoli. This classic dish is everything I love about summer dining in the South of France. A sophisticated take on a dipping platter with summer vegetables, seafood and a delicious homemade garlicky mayonnaise. Each individual ingredient shines beautifully and the presentation is artful yet casual. Perfect for a luxurious picnic or a long lunch outdoors accompanied by chilled glasses of Provençal Rosé.
L’Aïoli sauce for dipping
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 medium potatoes
- 8 tbsp of Olive Oil
Les Protéines / Proteins
- 4 eggs
- 2 lbs mussels (ask the fish counter to clean the mussels for you). You can also use frozen and defrost under running cold water before using
- 4 pieces of Cod (4–6 oz) Same here- frozen works, just let defrost before poaching
Les Légumes / Vegetables:
For 4 people
- 8 oz French Green Beans, fresh
- 8 new potatoes
- 6 oz Snow Peas
- 1 bunch of Carrots (the smaller the better – count about 2 small carrots per person)
- 1 bunch of broccoli
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 2 large artichokes
- 3 large beets
- 12 baby zucchini or 3 large zucchinis
- 8 radishes
Les Épices /Spices
(please note that the spices measurements don’t have to be exact – we are using the spices to flavor the broth that we are cooking the mussels/shrimp or cod in.)
- 1 whole head of garlic
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 2 pinches of anise
- 1 star anise
- 1 lemon
- 1 pinch coriander seeds
- 2 sprigs fresh basil
- small bunch fresh coriander
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 pinch Herbes de Provence (use thyme and oregano if you don’t have Herbes de Provence)
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 cup dry Rosé wine
- Olive oil
Peel 4 cloves of garlic. Put them in a small sauce pan with 2 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute. Strain the garlic and then put them back into the sauce pan with a fresh 2 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil. Strain and repeat 2 more times. **This is Le Chef’s tip for removing the bitterness from garlic – the end result is a garlic aïoli that tastes more sweet then acrid. Trust me, it is worth it!**
Mix the 2 egg yolks, 2 cooked potatoes (peeled) and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a food processor. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil little by little until the desired consistency is acheived. The sauce should resemble a thick mayonnaise. Set aside.
(I suggest preparing the vegetables the day before to save yourself the stress. The vegetables are just as good served chilled). For la Mise en Place (the set up) I like to put a pot on each burner and also prepare an ice bath for the vegetables to keep them crispy. (a large mixing bowl with cold water and ice works perfectly). You plunge the cooked vegetables into the ice bath and then remove them with tongs a few seconds later.
4 eggs hardboiled 8 minutes for a jammy yolk (or 10 minutes if you prefer your egg yolk more well done)
8 potatoes boiled until they are tender (you should be able to stick a knife in them easily) Start with cold water, enough to cover the potatoes, (always when cooking potatoes!) then bring to a boil and let simmer about 35 minutes.
Green beans – boil for 5 minutes then dip in your ice bath. Set aside.
Snow peas – boil for 3 minutes then plunge in the ice bath. Set aside
Carrots – peel and boil for 10 minutes then plunge in the ice bath. Set aside.
Broccoli – boil for 10 minutes then plunge in the ice bath. Set aside.
Cauliflower – chop the base off the head of cauliflower and then plunge the whole head (florets side down) in a sauce pan of boiling water – allow to cook for 10 minutes. It is much easier to remove the florets once the cauliflower is cooked. Game changer!
2 Artichokes – boil in water with slices of lemon for 10 minutes. remove.
3 large beets – boil for 3o minutes starting in cold water like with the potatoes.
12 baby zucchini – boil for 10 minutes. plunge in the ice bath.
8 radishes – clean and slice in half if they are the large, round radishes – leave whole if they are the small, French Radishes.
Milk poached Cod:
Bring 2 cups of Milk and 2 cups of Water to a slow simmer in a deep sauce pan. Add in 2 whole bay leaves, 2 garlic cloves skin on and 2 branches of thyme. Add the filets of Cod. Allow to simmer in the milk broth for about 8 minutes until done.
In a pot (a pasta pot works great for this!) heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Throw in 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, 2 branches of thyme (whole), 1 pinch of anise, 1 pinch of herbes de Provence. Sautée for a minute. Add the mussels. Pour in 1 cup of Rosé wine. Put the lid on the pot and allow to simmer for 5 minutes over medium high heat. Take the pot off the heat and set aside.
Bring 4 cups of water in a pot to boil with 1 pinch of anise, 1 pinch of saffron, 1 star anise, 1 bay leave, 3 slices of lemon, 1 pinch of coriander and a few basil leaves. Allow to simmer for 2 minutes then add shrimp (shells on). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove shrimp from boiling water and plunge in ice bath.
Assembling the Grand Aïoli.
Feel free to get creative! You can make one big platter, 2 medium sized platters (1 per couple – great for socially distanced get togethers) or individual plates. Arrange the vegetables and seafood to your liking. Serve the aïoli sauce on the side.
**note** there are MANY variations of the vegetables that are used in a Grand Aïoli. As it is a summer dish – my suggestion is to buy what is fresh and in season. Feel free to add or subtract vegetables based on what you love and what you can find. Your local farmer’s market is the perfect place to find seasonal vegetables for your Grand Aïoli!
Le Chef Sébastien uses the vegetables listed in the recipe in his Aïoli because they are also the ones his Grandmother uses at home in Toulon, France. Who am I to argue with tradition like that?
Keywords: grand aïoli, french cooking, milk poached Cod, steamed mussels, boiled shrimp, blanched vegetables