A classic aioli starts with pounding garlic with a mortar and pestle until the cloves nearly dissolve to a soft, pungent paste, then dribbling in good Provençal olive oil, drop by greenish drop, until the whole thing emulsifies into a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce.
It looks silky and smooth, but it packs a wallop on the palate, especially if you use all three garlic cloves.
In Provence, aioli is typically served with a mix of raw and boiled vegetables, and sometimes fillets of poached fish, but I love it smeared over pieces of ripped-up baguette, savoring the way its pungent unctuousness contrasts with the mild bread.
You get a similar flavor contrast dolloping aioli over the jammy yolks of not-quite-hard-cooked eggs. It’s a play on the classic French appetizer oeufs à la mayonnaise.
Capers make for a bright and saline garnish here, but any number of salty things could also work—salmon roe, chopped pickled peppers, sliced olives or cornichons, or anchovies orbits of sardine.
Serve these with drinks at the aperitif hour, as an appetizer with a ruffle of green salad on the plate, or even with bacon for brunch.
Aioli: You can make the aioli (without the garnish) up to 1 week in advance. Store it, covered, in the refrigerator.
Eggs: You can cook the eggs up to 3 days in advance. Peel and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator.
SERVES 4 TO 6
FOR THE AIOLI
1 to 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (or for a mellower flavor, substitute ¼ cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed, for some of the olive oil)
FOR THE EGGS
12 large eggs
FOR THE GARNISH
Capers, anchovies, salmon roe, olives, slices of cornichons, or bits of sardines
Make the aioli:
Combine the garlic, lemon juice, and salt in a blender or food processor and let the mixture sit for a minute or two to mellow the garlic. Then add the egg and egg yolk and blend until combined. With the machine running, drizzle in the oil in a thin, steady stream. Start dribbling the oil in slowly, then more quickly as the emulsion takes hold after 20 to 30 seconds. The whole thing should be completed quickly, in under a minute. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice and/or salt if necessary. The consistency should be that of a light mayonnaise; it will thicken in the fridge. (For more tips, see the mayonnaise recipe on this page).
You can also use a mortar and pestle if you like, pounding the garlic, lemon juice, salt, egg, and egg yolk and then pounding in the slow stream of oil. The consistency will be slightly thicker than that from the blender because there will be less air whipped in.
Cook the eggs: Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover them with cold water. Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. The second you see big bubbles forming, take the pan off the heat and cover it. Let it sit for 8 to 9 minutes (8 minutes gives you jammy, barely set yolks; 9 minutes gives you creamy yolks).
Meanwhile, fill a bowl with water and ice and set it aside.
Uncover the saucepan and use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice water. When they are cool enough to handle, crack the eggs all over and peel away the shells. Halve the eggs and arrange them on a platter. Dollop with the aioli and sprinkle with capers or other garnishes.