Disclaimer: I fudge a lot of terms in here. This leaves the window open for fancy-schmancy purists and obnoxious know-it-alls to come in and say, “That mayonnaise you threw some garlic into ISN’T a TRUE aioli.”
The difference between mayo and aioli (excluding the garlic) is that true aioli is made with extra virgin olive oil, while mayo is made with canola (or, arguably grapeseed or WHATEVER) oil. The other difference is that aioli receives a smashed clove of garlic, which is fantastic.
In the spirit of making cooking accessible to those of us who aren’t classically trained in the culinary arts, here’s your guide to guerrilla aioli.
Well, think of guerrilla warfare. Guerrillas, at least in the sense I think of, worked with limited resources (just what they had available). Working with limited resources necessitated creativity! It also meant have a cavalier, risk-takers’ attitude toward their “work.”
Sure, some know-it-all English sergeant could’ve seen American militias during The Revolutionary War and haughtily exclaimed, “Verily, ’tis no TRUE formation for honorable soldiers to take! And they wear not even the brightest of reds, as we proud soldiers of the queen do!”
I think we never heard back from that guy because he went down in a hail of gunfire that seemed magically to appear from the trees and shrubs. C’est la vie!
The following won’t be SO much of a recipe (although, there will be a recipe) as a philosophy on how to make delicious sauces.
For one insight, you could see my deliciously easy recipe for Chipotle Crema.
For another, and an eerily similar one, you could check out my easy recipe for THE BEST Sriracha Aioli you’ve ever tasted.
And for yet another, you could peruse the recipe for basil-red pepper aioli included in my patatas bravas recipe (the one pictured INCLUDES the lemon juice, roasted red pepper, and fresh basil).
All of these would give you terrific insight into how fun, simple, and creative making delectable sauces can truly be. And, I promise you this, these sauces will impress 85% (of your non-know-it-all) guests. The rest will gobble up whatever you served and refuse to praise you.
Haters gon’ hate.
Without further adieu…
The essential food hacks:
-A fatty base allows for not only an unctuous experience, but also the transfer of flavors throughout the sauce;
–Fresh herbs and citrus serve to brighten the sauce and create a dynamic flavor profile;
–Utilizing regional ingredients that relate to the dish you are serving creates a cohesive and relevant final product;
-A $2 condiment bottle (I get mine at Winco) allows one to be creative in the visual presentation of their dish.
The above hacks essentially define my philosophy. You’ll need a fatty base, but there is a solid chance one exists in your fridge (mayonnaise, full-fat Greek yogurt [adding acidity, too], a variety of oils [especially olive oil], etc.).
Depending on the cuisine being served, or the sauce you are attempting to create, you’ll want fresh herbs and/or acid (especially citrus). For this, you must think of the REGION your dish is coming from. If you’re making something continental (i.e. European), herbs might include basil or thyme. If you’re crafting something Indian or Southwest -inspired, one would do well to remember coriander or cumin as essential spices. Lime juice probably appears in those particular contexts, but not in French or Italian cuisine. BE THOUGHTFUL! You’ll want flavors that naturally compliment your meal.
Converseley, if you’re serving something especially spicy to begin with, your sauce may want to provide cooling and relief. Don’t make it overly spicy (cayenne, chipotle, hot paprika, etc.), allowing the fattiness to provide relief from the dish’s heat (avocado is great for this), while the acidity of lime or lemon juice provides your palette relief from an overly salt-heavy dish like enchiladas or fried potatoes.
Finally, think about what else might add bold flavor to your sauce. It’s OKAY if your sauce or crema or whatever turns out a little too bold; you shouldn’t be drenching your food in it. It’s an accoutrement, not the star of the show.
So… here’s the ugly baby we created the other night.
To the trained eye, this combination of ingredients probably looks pretty bizarre.
We were attempting to make a PESTO AIOLI. Typically, it would’ve gone like this: make the pesto (roasted pine nuts, fresh basil, parmesan, red wine vinegar, EVOO, raw garlic). We didn’t have any pine nuts (that weren’t terribly expired). So we used almonds! In fact, we tossed them into the Food Ninja raw (roasted probably would’ve even provided further depth of flavor; for us, it was more about thickening the sauce and staying true to having a nut presence).
THEN, we would simply add that pesto to prepared mayo and… presto! Pesto aioli. Perfect on sandwiches, portabella burgers, dipping fries, topping tapas, adorning plates, etc.
We were almost out of mayo! Sooooooo, we used the mayo we had and substituted a little Greek yogurt to help keep a creamy consistency.
The results were FANTASTIC! My one critique is that it came out a little runny (blame it on the Greeks?), but the flavors were gorgeous.
I wish I’d taken a picture, but here’s what we did with it, to jaw-dropping results:
-Cut a generous slab or my FIL’s homemade sourdough (yeah, he uses his own starter);
-Top it with said “Pesto” “aioli”;
-Top THAT with thick slices of fresh tomatoes from his garden sprinkled with just a little salt.
My dear gastropods, that was culinary perfection in few bites. Lovely bites. Darn-near PERFECT bites.
I suppose my main point here is that one should not hesitate to experiment. Your final product may result in an element that is less-than-perfect (as in the consistency of that pesto aioli), but your flavors may be spot on. AND, there are ways around the less-than-perfect parts (i.e. chilling it in the freezer for a bit, thus helping the sauce to congeal and be less runny).
If you have a moment, SOUND OFF on your favorite sauces, creams and cremas, coulis, aiolis, flavored mayos, and things that generally serve as the icing on the cake for your favorite dishes. Let’s hear it!
Excelsior, aspiring chef!