19 April 2009

Mayonnaise. The real thing.

Mayo. Who doesn't love it? The best flavor enhancer I can think of - deviled eggs, ham, salad, fondue, sandwiches, cooked vegetables all taste much better with a glob of the white stuff.

And it's a very versatile base for other sauces: add some simple ingredients and there's a whole new world of exiting variations. For example, add some garlic and you have aioli, add ketchup and cognac and there you have a simple Russian dressing (salsa golf as the South Americans call it). Or capers and gherkins and you get remoulade. The possibilities are endless and I'm showing you some of the more exiting fondue sauces in the future.

Just like pesto, I especially like the stuff made from scratch. And it's not that hard as you might think. Just some basic physics. Here we go:


1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon mustard (I prefer Dijon)
salt and pepper
ca. 1 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil - it will taste too bitter)
juice of 1/2 lemon (amount depending to taste and desired consistency)

First of all, separate the egg yolk from the white. Put the yolk in a bowl, add mustard, salt and pepper and leave it there for at least 15 minutes (you should definitively cover it if you have cats...). Meanwhile, freeze the egg white in a big ice cube tray - you can use it later for an angel food cake, a pavlova or macarons.

Why would you leave the egg yolk on the kitchen counter? To get an emulsion (i.e., water and oil not acting like they hate each other), all ingredients must have the same temperature. As I keep eggs and mustard in the fridge but the oil in a regular shelf, the oil will be much warmer than the rest. So, an emulsion would be rather unlikely.

Why add mustard? First of all, it tastes good. But in chemical terms - just like egg yolks - mustard contains substances that help building an emulsion (they are called emulgators). The more emulgators, the more likely you will get a good mayonnaise.

Get out your favorite whisk and stir the yolks and the mustard. It should now look like a uniform mass. Add ONE DROP of oil and stir until you see no more traces of the oil. Add some more drops and stir until you can't see the oil no more. Repeat. And gradually increase the amount of oil, just be sure to stir until you have a homogeneous mass before adding more oil.

If you find that the stirring gets harder, add some lemon juice (but not together with oil - you want to keep them separate). You will see that the mayo will get softer and a bit whiter. Give it a taste. If it tastes good, you're done!

Why lemon juice? Well, of course it tastes good - otherwise the mayonnaise would taste just like the oil you used. As as an emulsion consists of oil and water, you'll have to add something watery to all that oil. Otherwise, the emulsion will break.

Add more oil if you like to have more mayonnaise - one single egg yolk can take 2 cups of oil easily. Just add enough lemon juice.

So, what do you do if the emulsion breaks anyway? (You'll notice if the mix is more liquid, looking like oil with yellow specks.) Take a second egg yolk and let it get to room temperature (no need to add more mustard or salt). Do as if the broken mayonnaise was just oil, add one drop and stir... go on until you have a creamy mayonnaise and you have used up all the oily stuff.

One more thing: this contains raw eggs. If you are pregnant, have very small kids or if you have a weak immune system, you should not eat raw eggs. But there's a solution: Follow the recipe as above, only use a cooked egg yolk. The mayo will not be as velvety, but delicious nevertheless.


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