Although the ingredients are few and the flavor is bold, creating the perfect aioli dipping sauce requires patience, knowledge, and a delicate hand. The classic aioli is a mayonnaise-like condiment whipped up out of egg yolks, oil, and lemon juice together with garlic and a smidge of salt. Once the aioli has been created, it can be flavored with almost anything, including fresh or dried herbs, curries, and specialty oils such as sesame or truffle oil.
There are two schools of thought on the proper tools for making aioli. Old-school cooks insist nothing really works correctly except a mortar and pestle. This is used to smash the garlic and marry it to the salt, a necessary ingredient both because of flavor and because it contributes its sandpapery grain to help cream the garlic.
Cooks who haven’t been classically trained, or are just plain too busy to spend time if a shortcut will do, reach for a blender or food processor. These handy, little tools are capable of not only pureeing the garlic and salt but whisking in egg yolk and adding olive oil. Mortar-and-pestle cooks must whisk these things in by hand. The trick for those using appliances is that this work must be done at the lowest speed, and the ingredients must be added very slowly. Otherwise, the aioli is likely to separate.
Regardless of method, the next step to a perfect aioli dipping sauce incorporates lemon juice and just a little water, whisking all the while. If the aioli doesn’t have the right consistency, the cook can drizzle in a little more oil until the sauce is rich and velvety. Now, the kitchen fun begins.
Aioli dipping sauce can elevate all manner of munchies to haute cuisine. The humble artichoke becomes a queenly crown when bejeweled with a drizzle of sauce. Shrimp, crab, and shellfish celebrate the glory of aioli, as does chicken and even fried cheese.
Changing up the flavors is a snap with a little creativity. For those who like it hot, a couple of drops of tomato-based hot sauce will have tongues doing the cha-cha. As an alternative, more deeply flavored heat is easily added via a drop or two of Caribbean-inspired sauce that sings a fruit and ginger note.
Sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and marinated or dried olives turn the aioli dipping sauce Mediterranean. Carmelized ginger adds a snap for dipping skewered chicken or pork. Sneaking in a bit of marmalade or maple syrup makes an interesting accompaniment to pork loin or other pork dishes.