Mayonnaise. It’s a component in so many things- deviled eggs, all sorts of not-salad salad sandwiches (chicken, tuna, etc.), dressings, sauces, and apparently Ina Garten’s pesto recipe (thanks Anne!). It’s creamy and mild. Who doesn’t love mayo?
I don’t. I’ve never liked it. I’ve never liked the way it coats my mouth as I eat it, the way it jiggles, the eggy aftertaste. I’ve also never liked ketchup, which is a whole different story. Sufficient to say, I’m generally not condiment friendly.
But I love aioli. And I can hear those among you who are familiar with food exclaiming, “Aioli? It’s just flavored mayonnaise”. And you’re correct. But for whatever reason, aioli is different to me. Perhaps it’s that I make it by hand, so it’s looser than mayonnaise and doesn’t have the same jiggle factor. Perhaps the flavorings (generally garlic) cover up the eggy aftertaste. Or perhaps all the whisking makes me hungry. But regardless of the reason, I love aioli, and mostly eat it at home. And aioli is best consumed with fries.
The tension inherent there, that I prefer to make my aioli and eat it with fries, is that frying fries at home is a headache. Everything smells of oil, it splatters everywhere, and I have to monitor the temperature pretty closely. I’ve done it, but only once or twice. And there’s the fact that the fries are not any better than those you can find in a restaurant. And there’s the whole issue of whatever metric you’re using to determine the nutritional value of the food you consume, you’re getting a lot of oil by deep frying fries and dipping them in an oil-egg emulsion. I want to be clear that I will still eat fries and aioli with this information on hand. But that pushes it out of a regular treat and into a “sometimes” food.
The best compromise I’ve found is to bake my fries, which requires a bit of technique. If you just throw strips of potato (or sweet potato, as is the case here) into a hot oven, by the time the middle cooks through the whole thing is a soggy mess. Those fries are not worthy of the term fries, much less to be dipped in aioli. But if you boil the fries first, the middles are cooked through before they are baked. And then you can take them for a jaunt in a hot oven, where they’ll get delightfully crispy. They may not be as addictive as hot fries doused in salt straight out of the fryer, but they are still very good. And I’m a firm believer that compromise is one of the keys to a good life.
Baked Sweet Potato Fries
2 large sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch batons
2 tablespoons olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water and add the sweet potatoes. Boil for 8 minutes, until the batons are tender. Drain. Let the sweet potatoes dry. (I used a cooling rack laid over a cookie sheet.)
When the sweet potatoes are dry preheat the oven to 450. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake, tossing the sweet potatoes with a spatula once, until crispy, between 30 and 40 minutes.
The first step to making a successful aioli is to not be afraid of the aioli. My very unscientific survey has revealed that aioli can smell fear, and if you go into it thinking it will break it most certainly will. I’ve had the best luck while making aioli using a small bowl and a small whisk. If your bowl moves around a lot, it might be a good idea to place the bowl on top of a damp towel to stabilize it. Make sure to pour the oil slowly- it’s better to go too slow than too fast. And finally, if you get tired, you can stop pouring the oil for a bit, but don’t stop whisking.
2 tablespoons miso
2 teaspoons water
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup canola oil
Meanwhile make the aioli. In a small bowl combine the miso and the water and whisk (making sure to use a whisk, and not a fork) well until it creates a smooth paste. Add in the egg yolk, and whisk until combined. Combine the two oils into a container that can easily be poured, like a liquid measuring cup with a spout or lip. And then whisk the egg yolk while slowly pouring in the oil in a thin stream.
Be sure to keep whisking, and to pour the oil very slowly. The oil may look like it’s not combining at first, but if you stop pouring the oil and keep whisking it will. Whisk continuously while streaming in the oil, and once it’s all added in whisk until you have a smooth mass. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (adding a drop of vinegar, or a hint of salt, for instance, if you think the aioli needs it).
If you’d like a thicker, more mayonnaise-y aioli, you could whisk in more oil into your aioli.