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A Treatise on Mayonnaise

I’ve always been a fan of mayonnaise.  Most of my experience with it was with the jarred variety: Hellmans first, now Duke’s.  I like the additional tang of Duke’s mayonnaise, and it’s my go-to for general sandwich making.

Recently, however, I’ve been making mayonnaise at home – it’s not as hard as it sounds.  If you can get yourself over the raw egg hurdle and can operate either a blender or whisk, it’s actually quite easy.  While I usually like to avoid recipes and encourage creativity in the kitchen, the egg yolk has a limit to how much fat can be incorporated until the sauce “breaks” (more on that later), so I will give you the basic elements.  The recipe starts with 2 egg yolks and 1.5 cups of the oil of your choice.  To make the standard recipe, you’ll also need a splash of a vinegar or acid (white vinegar, champagne vinegar, or lemon all work well), a small amount of prepared dijon mustard or dry mustard powder, and some cayenne if you like spice.  Mix the egg yolks with everything but the oil, then slowly drizzle the oil in as you stir vigorously.  The same process applies with a blender – all ingredients except the oil are blended first, then the oil is drizzled in as the blender spins.  Not too difficult, eh?

I like two things most about homemade mayonnaise: it’s a culinary blank slate, with endless variations possible, and it’s a versatile player in the kitchen.  Other variations?  Any chopped herb you can think of; pureed and roasted garlic or tomatoes;  pesto or other herb paste; wasabi or curry paste; capers or chopped pickles; chili or curry powder; or different oils can all be used to alter the taste to your liking.  These are best added after you finish the sauce.  Chicken or tuna salad both turn from the mundane to the special with homemade mayonnaise.  Buy tuna that’s packed in oil and use that oil in making your mayonnaise, which will give additional depth to the salad.  It’s a great sauce for poached fish or chicken and can also stand up to grilled fish with the right additions.  It’s a great dip for vegetables, chips, or fries.  What can’t it do?

If pour the oil in too quickly, your emulsification will break – the oil will separate from the yolk.  There are several ways to fix this, both preemptively and once it has happened.  Using a bit of prepared mustard will help the yolk and the oil mix better and stay emulsified.  If the sauce breaks despite this, take a small amount into another bowl, mix with a few drops of water, and whisk vigorously until the emulsion reforms.  Add more of the broken sauce, and whisk again until it comes back together.  Keep doing this until you have mixed it back together.  Don’t get discouraged if this happens.

If you made it this far and still think you need a recipe, try this.  I won’t judge you (too much).  For more info, you can also go here.

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