Why isn't my aioli delicious?
I have a recipe from Cook's Illustrated for Roasted Garlic Aioli, and somehow it's just...meh. It broke the first time I made it, but I had success this time, followed the directions carefully, etc.--it doesn't taste that strongly of garlic, despite a whole head in there, and it tastes a little sour, even though I used all fresh stuff and a good olive oil, as called for, that I use all the time, so I know I normally like the flavor. It's just not sweet and garlicky and lickable all on its own like good restaurant aioli. Any thoughts, hints, alternative recipes to share?
Ah, that might help! =P Though I think it's this recipe, because last time, even though it broke, the flavor didn't seem to be melding right before that. 1 1/2 tbs of lemon juice, 1 egg yolk (free range organic) whisked together with 1 whole head of garlic, pre-roasted until soft at 400 with a little olive oil. Then, a pinch or so of dry mustard, a little salt and pepper whisked in. Finally, the slow add of 3/4 cup EVOO, all whisked by hand. I did just remember that the recipe called for cayenne pepper, which I left out because I can't eat spicy, but I've never had a spicy classic aioli before and thought it was an odd addition. Then more salt and pepper to taste. But it tastes a little sour and blah. It's not awful, just not worth the arm-muscle burn.
Mine uses 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar for the acid, rather than lemon juice. Some of the lemons I've had lately have a strange flavor. don't know why, but that could be the problem.
In the interest of "science," here's my version:
makes 2 cups
1 tablespoon fine, dry, unflavored breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
6 garlic cloves, chopped
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Soak the breadcrumbs in 1 tablespoon of wine vinegar for 5 minutes, then squeeze the crumbs dry in the corner of a towel.
2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, chop the garlic, then add crumbs and combine with garlic to make a smooth paste. Add egg yolks, and all the other ingredients except the oil and combine. Scrape down sides. Now, with the motor running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream. When all the oil is in, you have aïoli. Voilà!!
I'm thinking that the aioli that you've had a liked at restaurants was based on manufactured mayonaisse which is totally different from a home made aioli in flavor. Maybe you can add a pinch of sugar or a little more oil. And to up the garlic flavor add some finely minced raw garlic.
A friend of mine who makes the most amazing aioli in the world never uses EVOO. She only uses canola oil or sometimes grapeseed oil. Her theory is that Olive Oil, while generally wonderful, is too strong for Aioli and you need a flavorless oil that will not overwhelm the aioli.
You probably have several problems. For one, I would ditch the Cook's Illustrated Recipe and get yourself a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her section on mayonnaise has never led me astray, from bringing back a broken sauce, to fixing one that's not flavored properly. Her aioli recipe is very different from the one you made, in part calling for the (raw) garlic to be pounded in a mortar with bread and vinegar until it forms a very smooth paste before proceeding, for instance.
From looking at your ingredients, I would say the sour was likely from your EVOO -- extra virgin olive oil (I'm assuming that's what you meant when you said you used a "good olive oil" ) has a very strong fruity flavor and can have bitter notes. My favorite homemade mayo recipes typically DON'T involve EVOO, as the strong flavor of the oil dominates the sauce. There is a time and a place for EVOO, and a time and a place for both regular olive oil and vegetable oil, and for vinaigrettes and aiolis, I prefer the latter. Sometimes, for these kinds of sauces/vinaigrettes, I will use a combination of EVOO and a lighter flavored oil, but in those cases, EVOO must be used carefully -- and you have to use your taste buds to determine when is too much Extra Virgin oil. My best french vinaigrette dressing is made with 100% vegetable oil.
The other potential culprit could be your garlic. Some garlic can have a bitter edge. Was it really fully roasted? I.e. roasted until it was like butter?
The third option is that you didn't salt enough.
If you want a less bitter sauce, I'd look first to your recipe. Make Julia's recipe for aioli and see if it meets your expectations. If you want to stick with your recipe, I'd look first to your oil, then to your garlic and last to your salt content.