Skordalia is a thick puree (or sauce, dip, spread, etc.) favored in Greek cuisine and made by combining crushed garlic (a LOT of crushed garlic!) with a base – which may be a purée of potatoes, walnuts, almonds, or liquid-soaked stale bread — and then beating in olive oil to make a smooth emulsion. Vinegar is often added as well. Cooks in Macedonia, Ionian islands and Crete often add walnuts or almonds to mashed potatoes or soaked bread. Greek recipes from Asia Minor sometimes add pine nuts as well.
Skordalia has a long history, going all the way back to ancient Greece – Byzantine cookery was also full of recipes that employed garlic in sauces for meats, fishes and vegetables. The very oldest current cookbooks base skordalia on a combination of blanched almonds and mashed potatoes (which is what I use). All these combinations of garlic, bread and nuts owe a lot to Middle Ages recipes, where the use of vinegar is a tell-tale ingredient (in the original Middle Ages recipe, sour grape juice called Verjus would have been used instead).
As noted by Diane Kochilas: “Connoisseurs of skordalia know that a certain ritual is part and practice of its preparation. I will never forget once walking in on an old caterer friend who was making skordalia for a party—by hand, potato by potato, drop by drop of olive oil, pinch by pinch of salt, in a mortar, pounding each potato with the pestle with zenlike rhythm. To this day, the mortar and pestle are the best tools for making skordalia because they allow for the control of speed with which one breaks down the starch in the potatoes or bread that most commonly make up the base. A food processor’s blade is too swift and violent and results in a gummy skordalia.”
Skordalia is a great dip for pita chips or vegetables (cucumber slices, pepper strips, etc.) and is also fantastic as a sauce with seafood. I personally enjoy this as an alternative to hummus and hope you will give this classic, simple and delicious recipe a try, Citizens! Just be sure EVERYONE eats it, to spread the garlic love to all! 😉
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 medium potato (waxy variety such as Yukon Gold or Red Bliss)
2 1-inch thick slices white bread, crusts removed (day-old is best)
4 cloves of garlic
6 almonds, preferably Spanish with no skins, ground to a paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Ground white pepper to taste
Boil the potato whole until it is tender. (You need a potato about the size of a tennis ball or the equivalent.) Set potato aside to cool.
Peel garlic cloves and mash them with the side of a heavy chef’s knife or in a mortar and pestle. Sprinkle salt over the mashed garlic and continue to press until a paste has formed.
Peel and mash the potato. Add the garlic, lemon juice and vinegar.
Dip the bread, a slice at a time quickly into a bowl of water. Squeeze dry. Crumble bread into the potato mixture, stirring to blend. When you have a fairly smooth mixture, add to a mortar and pestle and begin to add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add pepper – the mixture should be very smooth.
Spoon into a shallow bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or as long as overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
Bring to room temperature for serving.