Lulu’s Aioli Secret
by Kermit Lynch
Lulu is Lulu Peyraud of Domaine Tempier. Aioli is the garlicky mayonnaise of Provence, but the word aioli can also refer to the mayonnaise and all the assorted goodies onto which the people of Provence traditionally heap it: sweet potato, carrots, artichokes, hard-boiled egg, sea snails, salt cod, octopus stew, garden tomatoes, beets, and so on. For grand occasions when guests are numerous (the end-of-harvest celebration, for example), Lulu always serves bouillabaisse or a grand aioli.
For some reason bouillabaisse and aioli have taken on some sort of spiritual significance to me. When I eat them, I satisfy more than one kind of hunger.
Why then did the aioli gods turn on me? For years my aiolis fell apart no matter how careful I was! Drop by excruciating drop I would add the olive oil, turning all the while until my arm wanted to fall off, 15, 20 minutes, and then in a matter of seconds my precious aioli would separate into an unappetizing glop of olive oil and raw egg. In frustration I finally tried to make it in a blender. Even that fell apart!
So I sat down with Lulu, mortar and pestle, garlic, egg yolk, and olive oil, and asked her to show me how it is done.
“You add a little salt first to help grind the garlic to a paste, then the egg yolk, then you start in the olive oil. It’s easy.” She said.
Folks, that is exactly how I always did it, so I insisted she demonstrate.
All, first, there was no drip-drip-drip. Lulu splashed in a healthy glug of oil and turned it with the pestle until it firmed up, then glug-glug, another pour. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Surely it was bound to unbind.
But, to hurry along… Lulu did have a step she hadn’t mentioned. When her aioli began to thicken too much, she aded a spoonful of tepid water. Since learning the tepid-water trick I haven’t lost a single aioli and my life is more meaningful. But why had no one ever explained that you don’t want your aioli to get too thick? I always thought that was the goal.
Surprisingly, Lulu serves not rosé, but red wine with aioli. Soul food, soul wine. A young, cool red. The 1986 works; the 1985 is already too evolved for an aioli. Save it or an older Tempier for the cheese platter, when the aioli is finito.
[From the December 1989 Newsletter]