Mayonnaise

July 2, 2010

Mayo

At the urging of Ryan Adams, whose adventures in cooking through all of Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail: The Whole Beast are chronicled at Nose to Tail at Home, I submitted a proposal for a weekly feature at the now-defunct Eat Me Daily (EMD) blog. My idea was to show how easy it is to make ingredients you would normally buy at a supermarket. I had already written here about bacon and pickles, but my sample article was about making mayonnaise, inspired by my first attempt while constructing my homemade BLT.

My proposal was never evaluated; the editorial staff at EMD all moved on to more prestigious gigs (missed it by that much). So here, for your consideration, is the first article in my failed series:

I used to work in the convenience food industry, so I know how simple it is to make many of the products found on supermarket shelves. Take away the packaging, and what you’re left with is something you can make at home for less money and just a little time. I’ll show you how to make superior versions of supermarket standbys in your own kitchen.

Mayonnaise: More Than Just Sandwich Glue

Why bother to make mayonnaise? Because it’s more than just a condiment.

Most of us all grew up with Hellman’s (Best Foods west of the Rockies), and probably have a jar in the fridge. It’s a perfectly good product, worth having around for quick sandwich-making, but a bit on the bland side. If you really want to “bring out the best” for salads or sauces, then you need to make your own.

It couldn’t be easier; you only need five ingredients: an egg yolk, a cup of oil (preferably a neutral vegetable oil like canola or safflower), two teaspoons of lemon juice, a teaspoon of water, and half a teaspoon of salt. Everything should be at room temperature.

Whisk the yolk, water, lemon juice, and salt together in a large bowl.

While whisking the yolk mixture, add in a few drops of oil at a time until the emulsion forms. Keep whisking, and add the rest of the oil in a thin stream. Place something under the bowl (a dishtowel or potholder) to keep it from sliding as you whisk. The first time you try this you should whisk it by hand so you can get a feel for the process, but an immersion blender with a whisk attachment is a perfectly acceptable substitute. (You can still claim that you whisked it by hand, after all, a whisk and your hand were involved.)

In a few minutes you should have thick, creamy mayonnaise (and a very sore arm). Whisk in more water if you prefer a thinner texture.

If your mayonnaise never comes together or turns into a runny mess in the bowl, don’t panic — it’s merely broken, not ruined. To recover, add a teaspoon of water to a clean bowl and gradually start whisking in the broken mayo bit by bit until it re-emulsifies.

What To Do With It

If you treat your homemade mayo as an ingredient rather than a finished product, you can turn it into any number of sauces and garnishes by adding a few extra ingredients. If you start with olive oil and add a teaspoon of minced garlic to the yolk and liquid, you wind up with aioli. Add more lemon juice and some dill and you have a perfect sauce for salmon. Substitute tarragon for the dill and you have a base for chicken salad. Add more lemon juice and some minced shallot and you have a sauce for vegetables. Use lime juice instead of lemon and add minced chile pepper to make a killer sandwich spread. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Why bother to make mayonnaise? Because it’s more than convenient, it’s essential.

Just don’t get me started on Miracle Whip.

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