In culinary school, we had to whisk up aioli by hand. Chef made it look easy, but I learned that was pure deception. Olive oil is drizzled gradually into an egg yolk, while you get your upper body workout for the month – aka while you whisk the yolk and oil vigorously as if your life depends on it. If the oil is added too fast, the sauce breaks, meaning it separates. If it’s added too slow, your arm falls off and you have to call 911. Either way, no aioli. So it’s a balancing act while you somehow keep the bowl from skidding around the counter while you’re whisking and drizzling like a maniac.
There are a few tips that help, of course, like wrapping a damp towel around the base of the bowl to help hold it in place, and there are tricks to pulling a broken sauce back together. But seriously, I almost threw my trusty blender in the car one morning. I was going to cheat, and to hell with the consequences.
Of course, I didn’t do it. It’s crazy now, thinking back on those long months while I was in school, but I was intimidated by both chef and the owner of the school. It was hard to stand my ground in baggy black and white checked pants while shoving up the too-long sleeves of my chef’s jacket, and trying to straighten my reading glasses that were constantly twisting around my neck. It was hard to challenge authority when sweat was rolling down my face, and I felt ridiculous.
These days, I’m done with hard-core whisking. I suppose it’s good to have that hands on feel of coaxing an egg, garlic and olive oil into an emulsified, silky sauce. But you know what? I’m fine with throwing it all into the blender too. This recipe is for the food processor or blender, but if you want to feel a deep communion with your food by doing it by hand, have at it.
This little sauce is great on grilled shrimp or roast pork for the meat eaters at the table, or drizzled over grains, stirred into soup, or served with veggies for a dip.
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
- Preheat the oven to 450˚F, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place the red peppers on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until blackened and soft. Turn the peppers every 5 minutes. Wrap the roasted peppers in the foil for 5 minutes. Peel, remove the stems, and seeds.
- Throw the yolks, mustard, lemon juice, roasted peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a few times to pull the sauce together.
- Drizzle the oil into the sauce while whirling the sauce like crazy. The sauce should be thick and smooth.
- Add a pinch of salt if needed.