Feb 12, 2013

Fire Roasted Red Pepper Aïoli

Aioli sounds Hawaiian, but it isn't. Actually aioli is a traditional condiment from a region in southeastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. This is olive oil country, and this classic sauce is typically made with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and egg yolks. It's basically a garlic mayonnaise. 
Fire Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
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Cooks have been changing the flavor and color of the basic recipe by adding other ingredients to create their own spin on aioli, example: chipotle aioli, lemon aioli, whole grain mustard aioli, chive aioli, basil aioli, etc. etc., but my favorite aioli is "Fire Roasted Red Pepper Aioli". There's something about the roasted flavor of sweet red peppers and garlic, and the beautiful creamy salmon color the peppers add. It's very easy to roast red peppers at home, but if you don't want to bother with it, you can buy roasted red peppers in a jar. I like to roast my own, because it makes my kitchen smell good and I think the sauce tastes better. 

Once the sauce is made, you can use it as a dip for boiled artichoke leaves or as a spread on fried green tomatoes (my southern roots), on mahi mahi fish sandwiches or fish tacos, or on crispy crab cakes instead of tartar sauce, spread on toasted baguette slices as a snack, over boiled parsley potatoes, with grilled lamb or steak, along side raw or steamed vegetables as an appetizer, on top of a meat loaf sandwich, and it's even great served with scrambled or poached eggs. 

It's a good idea to eat aioli with close friends because the garlicky aroma will follow you around for a few days, but that never really bothered me, all of my friends love garlic.

Fire Roasted Red Pepper Aïoli
This aioli sauce is similar to a French red pepper rouille sauce (pronounced roo-EE). The word means "rust" in French, a reference to its color. Like aioli, rouille is also a Provençal sauce, with roasted red peppers, crumbled saffron threads, anchovies, cayenne pepper, fresh bread crumbs, and red wine vinegar, all blended together and served for fish dishes, fish soup and bouillabaisse. My aioli is simpler to make and can be used with a wider variety of dishes. I think you will like it, but feel free to vary the recipe to your taste.

1 large red bell pepper, roasted and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/3 cup mayonnaise (If you are a purest, or live in France, you will probably make your own mayonnaise from scratch with olive oil, egg yokes, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard, but store bought works fine for me, and is much easier)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, if you want the sauce to be a little spicy)

Fire Roasted Red Pepper
The simplest way to roast a red bell pepper is to turn your oven broiler to high and place an oven rack 4 to 6 inches below the heating element. Place a small piece of foil on the rack and top with the red pepper. Broil until charred on all sides, turning with tongs.

Place the charred pepper on your kitchen counter and fold the foil over it creating an air tight seal. This keeps the heat in and actually steams the blackened skin so it's easy to remove. When the pepper is cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes, remove blackened outer skin, veins, and seeds, but don't rinse the pepper in water. I like to leave a little of the black skin on the roasted pepper, it adds a lot of flavor to the sauce. Chop the roasted pepper into chunks.
Three Cloves of Roasted Garlic

Roasting the garlic makes it milder and sweeter. Place garlic cloves in a frying pan (I use my iron fry pan) over medium heat, and roast, without pressing, until just browned on all sides. Remove garlic cloves and set aside. When cool enough to handle, peel garlic.

In the bowl of a food processor, purée the peeled roasted garlic. Add the red pepper chunks and blend until almost smooth. Add mayonnaise and olive oil, and cayenne pepper, if using, salt, and pepper to taste; pulse to combine. Transfer the aioli to a small bowl. (The aioli can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Note: If you want the sauce to be a bit more sour, add a little lemon juice and or capers. Makes about 1 cup.

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