When I lived in San Francisco, we used to joke (lovingly) that whenever we went to Zuni Café, that there would be at least three things on the menu that you had to ask the server what they were. On the other hand, I think if you asked ten people in Paris what aillade is, ten out of ten wouldn’t know either. Unless they were from the Languedoc, where aillade is from.
I had made plans to cook up a simple pot of beans when I noticed a few knobby jarrets de porc demi-sel, salted-cured pork knuckles, at the charcuterie stand at the market, so I picked up a trio to make pork and beans. I’ll get to that recipe in a few days or so, but for now, I want to share this lovely aillade before another minute passes, which has a distinctive nuttiness of pistachios with a persuasive hit of garlic, suspended in a generous pool of good olive oil.
I had some lovely Iranian pistachios on hand, which don’t have that thin papery skin on them, and are usually reserved for special uses, where you want each pistachio to look pristine (such as on top of a chocolate dessert), but to heck with it, I was ready to make aillade, to heck with the cost.
I opened my copy of The Zuni Café Cookbook and using the sage advice from the author, the late Chef (and occasional co-worker) Judy Rodgers, I warmed some pistachios, just enough to encourage them to soon release their precious oil, but not enough to toast them through, which would cause them to lose their color. (And appeal.)
Using a chef knife, I ran the knife over them a few times to break them up, checking for any “clunkers” along the way. (If you’ve ever tasted a bad nut, you know how important it is to take a moment and inspect the nuts you’re putting into anything.) Then I pounded up the precious green beauties in my mortar and pestle with garlic, a bit of salt, and a dash of eau-de-vie, with a swipe of tangerine zest added at the end. I made a double batch, which I was glad I did, because I kept sticking my finger – um, I mean – sticking my clean spoon in, (and yes, a clean, new one each time – I swear), because I couldn’t stop taste-testing it.
While the nutty aillade went nicely with the beans, swirled over the top, not enough to fully disperse, but enough to provide a nutty, garlicky contrast to the silky beans. However it was even better the next day on some pork chops that I fried up for lunch. The good news is that you can use any shelled, unsalted pistachios to make aillade, or use another nut, such as hazelnuts or walnuts. Although I have to say, there’s something especially good – and extra special – about it when made with pistachios.
Related Posts and Links
Garlic and Walnut Sauce/Sauce aillade (La Varenne)
Grilled Red Onion Salad with Hazelnut Aillade (Gourmet Traveller)