September 1, 2015

Lowcountry Aioli

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Try this deliciously elaborate, spicy aioli with seafood. It sure beats humdrum tartar sauce. South Carolina’s Lowcountry is a coastal region with its own distinctive cuisine. Adapted from The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life. The late, great Conroy was the author of The Prince of Tides.

       Aioli from South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Credit: Susan Sampson


1 plum tomato (4 oz/125 g), halved
4 oz (125 g) piece sweet onion (1/2 small), halved
1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded
habañero pepper, halved, seeded
2 tsp (10 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 cup (250 mL) mayonnaise
1 tsp (5 mL) white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 tsp (1 mL) or more kosher salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground black pepper

Place oven rack 1 tier above centre. Preheat oven to 450F (230C).

Place wire rack on baking sheet. Arrange tomato, onion, green pepper and habañero on rack. Brush with oil. Roast in preheated oven 20 to 30 minutes, until tender and slightly charred, transferring pieces to large fine-mesh sieve as they are ready. Cool to room temperature.

Add mayonnaise and vinegar to medium bowl. Skin, core and finely chop tomato; add to bowl. Finely chop onion; add to bowl. Skin and finely chop green pepper; add to bowl. Using fork, mash together 1/4 habañero, garlic and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt. Add to bowl. Add black pepper. Combine with fork. Finely chop and gradually add bits of remaining habañero, tasting for desired heat. (You’ll have some left over for other uses.) Adjust salt.

Use immediately. Or transfer to storage tub, cover and refrigerate.

Makes 1-3/4 cups (425 mL).

  • You can prepare this with store-bought mayonnaise (regular or “lite”), but homemade mayonnaise is way better. I use fabulous foolproof Minute Mayo, but sticklers may prefer to start with French Mayonnaise. (How to make the best homemade mayonnaise and aioli: Presto! Mayo in a Minute.) You may have to adjust the amount of vinegar, depending on the type and tanginess of the mayonnaise you choose.

Shopping Cart: Vidalia and walla wall are common varieties of sweet onions. If you can’t find a habañero, use a scotch bonnet.

Oh No: It is essential that the roasted vegetables be well drained, so they don’t make the aioli runny.

Make-Ahead: This aioli can be stored in the fridge up to 4 days.