Grand aïoli

Cod with vegetables and garlic mayonnaise

This dish is one of the wonderful contributions of Provence to the French culinary repertoire. It is typically made with salt cod and features a very broad range of accompanying vegetables — which are chosen according to the season, availability, and the desires of the cook — as well as hard-boiled eggs, sea snails on occasion, and always the incredibly pungent garlic mayo.

In this simplified version, fresh cod replaces salt cod (which needs to be soaked for 24 hours before cooking). The veggies shown in the photo may be replaced with whatever’s in season in your part of the world. Regular visitors to an aïoli platter include, in addition to those pictured, green beans, beets, artichokes, cauliflower, broccoli, finocchio, winkles (bigorneaux, or small sea snails), whelks (bulots, or large sea snails), baby squid, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some others.

This dish should be served at room temperature. For best results, do not refrigerate the ingredients once they have been cooked.

1 pound (500 g.) fresh cod fillets
1/2 cup dried chick peas
large pinch of sea salt
1 cup aïoli sauce

4 medium potatoes
1/2 pound (250 g.) carrots
1/2 pound (250 g.) asparagus

6 cherry tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes
2 free-range eggs

Have your fishmonger remove the skin from the cod fillets. Refrigerate.

Prepare the chick peas: Heat 2 cups water to boiling. Place the chickpeas in a separate saucepan. Pour the boiling water over the chick peas. Allow to soak for one hour. Now boil the chick peas until they are tender, about another hour. Add the sea salt. Allow to cool. Drain and set aside.

While the chick peas are soaking, make the aïoli sauce. Set aside.

When the chick peas and the sauce are ready, prepare the other ingredients.

Peel and boil or steam the potatoes until they are just tender. Do the same with the carrots. Set aside.

Trim the ends of the asparagus, rinse and steam until just tender. Set aside.

Rinse the tomatoes, slice and set aside.

Boil the eggs as follows: Place them in a pot of cold water, enough to cover the eggs. Bring to a boil and allow to cook for exactly 5 minutes. Remove from heat, throw off the hot water and cover the eggs with cold running water. Repeat. Allow the eggs to cool for at least 5 minutes before attempting to peel them. This method should produce eggs that are easy to peel, with bright orange centers. Please note: Wait until the last minute before cutting the eggs in half.

Steam the cod until it is just tender. Set aside. This should be done shortly before serving. The cod may be served still warm or at room temperature.

When ready to serve, assemble all the ingredients on a platter, with a bowl of aïoli sauce in the center. Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main dish.

* Chosen by FrenchEntré to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine

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2 Responses to Grand aïoli

  1. Ann says:

    Yum! One of my favorite things to eat. Chick peas are a brilliant addition!

    • Meg says:

      Thanks, Ann. I’ve found myself making chick peas quite a lot this summer — and not just because I’ve had vegan and vegetarian visitors, but also because they’re so good!

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