If you love garlic dips and sauces, or French food served family style, such as
Grand Aioli image source By Magali
What is Le Grand Aioli?
No doubt, you are already familiar with Aioli, a garlic and oil condiment from the Mediterranean region that can be used as a sauce or dip, made similarly to mayonnaise.
The word “aioli,” is a compound word that actually means “garlic oil” in Catalan and Provencal; two closely related romance languages spoken in parts of France and Spain.
But Aioli is not only a dip and sauce; it’s also a crucial element in a traditional meal from the south of France.
This French Aioli meal is called “Le Grand Aioli,” French for “The big aioli.”
It’s a lesser-known French platter from Provençe, loaded with vegetables and seafood, centred around a garlicky French aioli sauce used as a dip and condiment.
It can be prepared in advance, and served at room temperature, making it perfect for picnics, potlucks, dinner parties, or family dinners.
The Aioli meal is not well known in other parts of France.
I first tried le Grand Aioli when our family of five lived in the Provence region of France for 4 years, where it’s very well-known, and very popular.
When we moved to Montpellier, just a few hours west of Provence, I learned that although aioli sauce is well known, the aioli meal itself is relatively unknown outside of the Provence region.
There are actually many regional French dishes not well known outside of their own region.
How is le grand aioli served and eaten?
Le grand Aioli is served family style and shared among several people.
Guests gather around a large communal platter while sipping on a glass of rosé or white wine.
The Aioli platter usually includes a variety of beautifully arranged boiled vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, and seafood that are then dipped into the star of the show, the French aioli sauce.
Think Greek Tzatziki dipping sauce served with pita bread or as a condiment for grilled meat or vegetables.
The recipe for the aioli dip and ingredients for the platter can easily be converted into a vegetarian or vegan-friendly French meal too. Just omit the seafood.
When and on what occasions do you serve le grand aioli in France?
Traditionally, le grand aïoli is served in France for family celebrations, festivals, or just because on weekends.
But some South of France families also serve le grand Aioli for the Christmas or Christmas Eve meal.
Le grand aioli vs pot of feu
Le Grand Aioli shares some similarities with another French dish called “pot au feu” (pot on the fire).
Pot au feu is a dish of slowly boiled meat (usually beef), vegetables, carrots, onions, celery, leeks, onions, and turnips.
Dijon mustard and cornichons are often served alongside the dish.
In short, both dishes involve boiling ingredients and serving a side sauce to create a hearty meal for sharing with others.
Why is it called Le grand aioli?
It’s called Le Grand Aioli “The Big Aioli,” because of its scale, which is a larger version of the single serving aïoli dish, sometimes called “l’aïoli garni”(Garnished Aioli) or simply “aïoli.”
You can find single-serving aioli dishes on some restaurant menus, especially in Marseille and the Provence area.
Easy Aioli recipe for the grand aioli menu
In general, a French Aioli is made from a base of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and sometimes eggs, and dijon mustard.
Other traditional aioli sauces, such as Spanish or Catalan Aioli, may use slightly different ingredients.
For example, Catalan Aioli may include roasted red peppers, while Spanish Aioli may include saffron or smoked paprika (pimentón).
These other versions of Aioli never contain mustard, and many do not include eggs either. Adding eggs makes the aioli more of a garlic mayonnaise that’s made with olive oil instead of neutral oil.
Aioli sauce recipe (serves about 6 people)
- 3 or 4 raw garlic cloves
- 100 ml of olive oil (about 1/2 cup) – you can adjust the amount to the thickness you like.
- 2 egg yolk
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Salt & pepper
- Optional: a dash of dijon.
Aioli dip directions:
First, crush the raw garlic in a mortar into a smooth paste.
Next, add a pinch of salt, egg yolks and a squeeze of lemon juice to the mortar. You can add a dash of dijon mustard if you like.
Now, slowly drizzle the olive oil so that it slowly trickles into the garlicky aioli paste while vigorously whisking everything together in the same direction until it becomes thick and creamy like mayonnaise but firmer.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Some French home chefs like to add Dijon mustard; others like to omit the eggs. If making a vegan version, omit the egg which result in a slightly flatter aioli dip but equally delicious.
You can also use a mixer if you’re lazy, but purists say the finished Aioli is not as good.
I wrote up a whole post about French mayonnaise recipes and French aioli here.
What are the main ingredients for le grand aioli platter?
Boiled eggs, and boiled potatoes are a staple on the grand aioli platter.
However, for the other aioli platter ingredients, you can mix and match a variety of seafood, and boiled vegetables but grilled, steamed, and some raw veggies are ok too.
Here’s a pick list of ideas to include on your aioli platter.
Seafood for le grand Aioli
- Cod fillet – in France, it’s usually boiled salt cod that’s been desalted
- Boiled white fish
- Gambas and or shrimp
- Whelks, a type of sea snail also known as Buccinum undatum
- Sardines from a tin
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Or hard-boiled quail eggs
Boiled, steamed or grilled vegetables
- Green beans
- Artichoke halves
- Raw sweet peppers
- Small fresh tomatoes such as cherry tomatoes
- Small boiled potatoes
- Or boiled fingerling potatoes
- Sliced lemons for guests to squeeze over their plates.
Some less popular ingredients include stewed beef or boiled chicken.
Origins of le grand aioli
Aioli has been a part of traditional Provençal cuisine for generations, but its origins are unclear.
It may have started as a peasant dish in the Marseille and Provence region, where people would prepare it during the summer months when vegetables were abundant.
How to use Aioli: 19 surprising uses for Aioli to jazz up your meals
For the grand aioli meal, the French Aioli condiment is used like a garlic dip. But you can also use Aioli in various ways, similar to butter or mayonnaise.
Here are a few examples.
- Aioli dip goes great with French fries. In France, mayonnaise is the main condiment eaten with fries.
- Garlicky Aioli is excellent to eat with sweet potato fries.
- Serve Aioli dip alongside a platter of crunchy fresh vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli and
- Spread Aioli on sandwiches in place of classic mayonnaise.
- Use Aioli in your grilled cheese sandwich
- Use Aioli as a topping for baked potatoes.
- Spread it on corn instead of butter
- Coat Aioli on chicken before baking
- Serve alongside meatballs for people to dip.
- Serve aioli sauce alongside fish and chips instead of tartar sauce.
- Serve alongside French baguettes as a spread for bread.
- Serve alongside cocktail shrimp.
- Use aioli sauce to make a garlicky and creamy potato salad
- Instead of blue cheese dressing for buffalo wings, serve aioli sauce.
- French Aioli can also be thinned out, used as a sauce to accompany other dishes, and drizzled over grilled meats, seafood, or roasted vegetables.
- Thin out the Aioli as a salad dressing instead of Ceasar salad dressing.
- Spice up the Aioli with sriracha to make a spicy aioli dip.
- Add some basil to make a basil pesto sauce for pasta.
- Add some
truffleoil to make a truffleaioli sauce.
Wrapping up le grand Aioli
Whether you’re enjoying le grand aioli as part of a big feast or as a quick and easy weekend dinner, this healthy and filling French dish is perfect for sharing with friends and family.
It not only showcases fresh and flavorful ingredients but also its rich French culinary heritage.