l’expérience: aïoli

Is it possible to have a spiritual kind of experience with food? Apparently, it is.

I woke up with the desire, no, the need, to make aioli. It has been on my 101 bucket list and I often shy away from it because I’ve heard that it so often breaks but when I saw the fresh eggs sitting on the counter that I’d collected from the coop yesterday morning, it seemed the perfect occasion to grab all the ingredients and try. Even if my trying ended in having to make another attempt, another day. Out came the mortar, pestle, the lemon half from the back of the fridge, sel de Guérande from my most recent visit with Jérémy and a bottle of wine just to be sure I could remain good spirited if things went south.

After removing the papers and centres of the garlic, I sliced them and threw them in my mortar with a generous pinch of coarse salt and began the process of breaking down the garlic until it became a sticky, gooey paste. Once it was in the form of a paste I added the room temperature egg yolk fresh from yesterdays egg collection and rolled it around with the pestle until it was fully incorporated, before adding a teaspoon or two of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the paste.

Then comes the long, loving part of adding very slowly (almost at a drip-like pace) somewhere between a quarter and a half cup of extra virgin olive oil, ever stirring. Stir, stir and stir some more until your arms are tired, you’re switching arms, sipping wine and wondering if you’ve made some huge error until finally it begins to pull away from the sides of the mortar. Once it’s nicely thick, have a taste. I used pieces of my stale sourdough before finally caving and using some fresh sourdough to sop up the bits on the sides of the mortar that were making a mess of the sides of my loved piece of equipment, or pushing down the sauce on the pestle so it would be “better incorporated.” In other words, I couldn’t keep from dipping into the creamy sauce.

I made those awful noises you hear on the food network of people so proud of what they made but this wasn’t for effect, I was alone in the house and I literally couldn’t help myself from feeling a strong reaction to the goodness of this tangy flavour. Now as I sit, writting it’s like the feeling of the breeze coming in from the window is some heavenly breeze after such a magnificent experience. I guess this is just one more thing to check off the bucket list, I only hope that I won’t tarry to do it again soon!

To celebrate, cod with some fresh flavourful vegetables to make a provençal meal! Vive la France!

(For the late lunch I dredged the cod fillet with a little flour, salt and pepper and on a medium high heat seared the fish for three minutes on each side in an oiled pan so it was just barely cooked and oh so juicy and succulent!)

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