How do I love, thee, mayo?
Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth of the jar and the bread and the height
my laden knife can go
I love thee like a summer’s day –with picnics and turkey sandwiches
paired with avocado
Mayonnaise may just be the most under-rated item in the world of emulsified edibles. Think about all the things that taste better with mayo. From burger buns to casseroles, mayo adds that mysterious rich-and-creaminess to many things (often as a “secret” ingredient).
I should clarify that I’m talking about about Real mayonnaise, because I am a mayonnaise snob. I will not employ anything but 100 percent pure, unadulterated, full-fat, real mayonnaise in my kitchen. In fact, a sandwich delivered with Miracle Whip
might just get a knuckle sandwich in return.
claims the Oxford English Dictionary
credits mayonnaise’s American debut to an 1841 cookbook; I will check that fact in an 1800s-era White House cookbook that’s in the mail to me as I write.
Most agree that mayonnaise, not in the least by the very nature of its spelling, is French, although how and where it was first whipped into being remains in question. What isn’t questioned is the scarcity of clever quotes on the subject. The best one I’ve found offhand (and it will do quite nicely) comes from Ambrose Bierce
: “Mayonnaise: One of the sauces which serves the French in place of a state religion.” Which might explain a lot.
According to howstuffworks.com
, “Mayonnaise is made by combining lemon juice or vinegar with egg yolks. Eggs (containing the emulsifier lecithin) bind the ingredients together and prevent separation. Then, oil is added drop by drop as the mixture is rapidly whisked. Adding oil too quickly (or insufficient, rapid whisking) will keep the two liquids from combining (emulsifying). But, as the sauce begins to thicken, oil can be added more rapidly. Seasonings are whisked in after all of the oil has been added. Blenders, mixers and food processors make it easy to make homemade mayonnaise, which many gourmets feel is far superior in taste and consistency to commercial mayonnaise.”
Which leads to the next question: If two of my favorite recipes are made better by mayo, it is possible they could be made splendid by fresh, homemade mayo? Further, would these recipes be splendid enough to make all that extra effort worthwhile?
I may have to conduct an experiment to find out.
First, I’ll need a good recipe for mayonnaise. For that, I turn to my favorite Food Network chef and alchemist, Alton Brown. Following is a recipe of Alton’s from the Food Network. A word of caution before you embark on this endeavor — use the freshest, most disease-free eggs you can find when you make your own mayonnaise. Uncooked substances like egg yolks in mayo can have lots of nasty gastrointestinal side-effects.
* 1 egg yolk*
* 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
* 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
* 2 pinches sugar
* 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
* 1 cup oil, safflower or corn
In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolk and dry ingredients. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a separate bowl then thoroughly whisk half into the yolk mixture. Start whisking briskly, then start adding the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid seems to thicken and lighten a bit, (which means you’ve got an emulsion on your hands). Once you reach that point you can relax your arm a little (but just a little) and increase the oil flow to a constant (albeit thin) stream. Once half of the oil is in add the rest of the lemon juice mixture.
Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. Leave at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours then refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Mayonnaise is the base of a lot of great sauces, I hear. Once you’ve mastered this recipe, try adding herbs to the finished product – such as tarragon or fresh basil. Or mix it with chipotle sauce or zesty mustard. You might come up with a new twist on an old favorite that forever (or at least for lunch) changes the way you look at baloney sandwiches.