How to Make Le Grand Aioli
This easy-to-assemble seafood and vegetable platter is less a recipe than a lifestyle. The perfect dish for easy summer meals, le grand aioli, or aioli garni, is a Provençal dish that makes the most of the region’s bountiful seafood. While poached cod and steamed mussels are common, we chose pre-cooked seafood for simplicity. Improvise and include any seafood you like paired with the most beautiful vegetables you can find - cooked, raw, and pickled - and cut to finger-friendly sizes. The pleasure of this no-utensils dinner lies in grazing and dipping shrimp, blanched green beans, and potatoes in the pungent aioli and combining different flavors with each bite. Served cold, or at room temperature, it is an ideal dish to enjoy with chilled Provençal rosé wine and a group of friends and family. Scalable from a dinner for two to a feast for twenty, le grand aioli can become a new summer tradition at chez vous.
Improvisation is Encouraged
According to Larousse Gastronomique, “This dish, very popular in Provence, is composed of various ingredients, such as boiled cod, snails cooked in salt water, with fennel and onions stuck with a clove, boiled carrots, French beans, artichokes cooked in salt water, potatoes in jackets, hard-boiled eggs, etc., to which small octopi, boiled in salted water with herbs, are sometimes added. All these are arranged on a large dish and served with aioli. The preparation of this dish, says J.B. Reboul, one of the maîtres de cuisine in Provence, demands a great deal of artistic arrangement. Not all the ingredients which we have enumerated, however, are absolutely essential. There is no set rule on this point. One should proceed according to one’s tastes and the means at one’s disposal.”
The Elements of Le Grand Aioli
- Duck fat garlic confit aioli
- Pre-cooked shrimp with tails
- Lobster tails - steamed and served in the shell for color
- Pre-cooked octopus, seared with garlic or grilled to add flavor
- Baby or fingerling potatoes, boiled until tender in salt water
- Green beans or yellow wax beans - blanched
- Raw radishes, halved
- Carrots blanched and cut to bite-size
- Asparagus, grilled or blanched
- Hard-boiled quail eggs, halved and seasoned with salt, pepper, smoked paprika
- Mini peppers, halved
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Butter lettuce
- Persian cucumber spears, cut for serving
- Herbs - basil, parsley, dill
- Plentiful Provençal rosé wine, chilled
The vegetables can be blanched and boiled a day ahead and added to the platter cold. They should be crisp and never soft or overcooked. Be sure to salt the water so the vegetables are seasoned.
Thaw the shrimp and octopus ahead, if frozen, and pat dry. Arrange everything on a large platter or on a variety of plates. Sprinkle some salt on the raw vegetables, and include salt, pepper, piment d’Espelette, and olive oil on the table for individual seasoning. Bon appetit!